Dana Bubulj: Sculpture, Film, Shadows, Art

Their work, words and wonder

Game Mini Review Roundup

Hi All, Taking a break from the #sheltercenturion before Webster and I revisit them properly. But thank you all so much for donating – as of this post, we have raised over £500. I’ll do a proper write up of that shortly, until then you get a random roundup of various games I’ve been messing with recently, from Humble Bundles and elsewhere, on Phones and PC.
Read the rest of this entry »

Shelter Centurion Rides Again

image

Day Two of the shelter centurion is about to commence! Will concentrate on completing pieces rather than interweb for the moment. We’re at  practically fifty and James will be, due to the inexorable nature of geography, heading out of the dark metropolis in the eve.
Last (night) we crashed out at fiveish after about 13-15 hours. That’s a going rate of roughly (too long)!

See you on the flipside, and if you haven’t but can, so consider donating!

Shelter Centurion Pt 2

Well, we are 27 in. This is not necessarily the schedule we were planning, but what’s a fundraising challenge without any challenge?

The Fantastic James Webster has been posting quick shots of the finished cards, which you can find at his blog, so I thought I’d take a different tac and comment on the ones I find the most successful as pairs. (also my favourite images/text).

Obligatory Poem About Writing A Poem

I’m sorry.
I’m really sorry.
This process just isn’t that interesting,
like, I write down words on paper.
It’s hardly rocket science is it.
This was a really poorly conceived idea
and I’m absolutely not sure why I tried
it and oh gods I hate myself right now
I’m a fucking failure oh gods why why why
why why why why why why
WHY WHY WHY WHY WHYYYY!?!?!!!!!
Ahem, here is a story about a dragon.
Once upon a time, there was a little dragon.
Their name was the same as your name.
This is to engender sympathy from you, the reader.
A lot of their interests were the same as a lot of your interests. This is also to encourage you to identify with the dragon.
Like you, the dragon was totally alone.
Like you, the dragon had wings.
The dragon stretched his wings and laid waste to the kingdom cos kingdoms are for losers and neither you nor the dragon are a loser.
The dragon made the world what they wanted it to be: which is ‘on fire’.
There is a moral here.

Obligatory Poem About Writing Poetry

Second Star to the Left

“Second star on the left” he said
But the sky was so full of stars
And I’ve always been dyspraxic
(he didn’t understand the word)

I carried straight on til morning
I carried on longer still
I sank my teeth into my happy thoughts
And flew far beyond the stars.

I learnt to sail using Pyxis
I learnt to hunt from Orion
I lost my hand to a crocked star gone nova
I replaced it with a grappling hook.

I made a map of the heavens
And bombed Never Neverland from orbit

I am the girl the Lost Boys lost
But you can call me Captain Wendy

Second Star to the Right [Dana Bubulj James Webster]

Bees

He collects the honey from the bees
Just like he always does

He wears no mask
He wants them to see his face

He uses no smoke
He wants them cogent and clear

He is naked
He wants them to see their target

They sting him
They sting him everywhere
He is a cloud of buzzing, stripy pain

When they disperse
He wakes clutching a small jar of honey
His skin swelling up in swirled scripts

He spends the day reading the poems
The bees wrote in venom across his cells
A lot of the words begin with B.

He doesn’t mind.

Bees [Dana Bubulj James Webster]

I choose you

I burnt the village to the ground when I left
That’s why they call me Ash.

I don’t miss it much, my home was always the smell of sulphur
The flicker, drip and splutter of thick wax candles
The belch of flame from impish throats
And the pentagram fields of battle.

After the auguries, they tattooed my body with protective runes at birth
I summoned my first imp when I was three
My tongue bloody from the inhuman verbs
I murdered my father on my 8th birthday – it was easy.

And once my demons and I have claimed all 8 of the badges of hell
From the hunched overlords and their fattened incubi
I shall open up this earth
And drink it dry.

I choose you [Dana Bubulj James Webster]

 

Favourite poems/images that aren’t necessarily matched by other side in greatness:

Black Dog [Dana Bubulj James Webster]

Things That Are Orange

The fingerprints of god
Left in juice on a tree

The hatchet, just after
When it catches the light just right

The kraken when it rises
And the hysteria tears at our eyes

Rabbits caught by their own lust
And turned to furious, fucking, orange stone.

Your own face.

Everything that burns brightly
But never knows why.

Everything.
Everything.

Everything is orange now.
You hate orange.

Go on, call him,
Sob down the phone.
He too is orange.

 

And ever onwards!

 

 

 

Shelter Centurion Pt 1

Well, the Poetry Art Centurion has started (Donation link here)

Below’s a picture of the first ten/eleven completed pieces, with both images and poems.

People have been fabulous thusfar, providing prompts and donations – we’ve already hit £300, which is absolutely fantastic.

20150516_181116

This is going to be a long day, but definitely one that’s inspiring us – words are getting more surreal, pictures looser. It’s definitely a project we can be proud of. I’ll post a collection of the full images/ text later, though I believe we’re updating the Facebook event page quite frequently.

Right, back to the drawing board!

Poetry-Art Charity Centurion

In lieu of dusting this blog off, I’ve instead got some news to paraphrase from the lovely James Webster:-

With Britain in the grips of a housing crisis (not enough homes being built, ever-increasing numbers of homeless households, both house and rent prices spiralling up out of reach) and with a government promising further cuts to vital services, we wanted to do something to help.

As an artist and writer who’ve collaborated before on projects (including a work published in Issue 1 of Verse Kraken), we knew we wanted that help to involve putting our creative output to some concrete use.

So, inspired by the efforts of previous poets who’ve completed the ‘100 poems in a day challenge’, we are setting ourselves the task of creating 100 pieces of poetry/prose infused art in the space of a single day: Saturday 16 May.

If you’re able to spare anything at all to sponsor our efforts, we would be incredibly grateful. If not, then tweeting us some support during what promises to be a very long day would also be fantastic.

1. Sponsor us! The Justgiving page is here. All support would go to Shelter.

2. Share us! The more people you tell, the more support we get and the more people will see the creations on the day.

3. Inspire us! That is a lot to create, so we need prompts and things to base the pieces off! We can be contacted both on our blogs and elsewhere on the wires (@websterpoet and@pinstripeowl).

We’ll most likely be blogging about the work as well, so do keep an eye out for developments.

Impressions of ‘Public Enemies’ (2009)

This was on the telebox the other night and I wanted to write something brief about its camera&etc work that struck me. Both as a note to myself as I found it interesting and to wake up this languishing blog. When I initially saw the posters for Public Enemies, I was quite excited. Depp & Bale in 30s get-up, with gangsters and tommy guns – that sounded quite the draw. I didn’t get around to it and it fell off the peripheries of the map, as is so often the case.

Theatrical poster

I hadn’t noticed the director at the start of the film, Michael Mann, but despite that was throughout the film regularly thinking about his 1995 film Heat, which was a much more compelling viewing, perhaps because the characters were given far more emotion with which to work. Working from non-fiction does not preclude characterisation. In fact, I’d argue that given these people are apparently such big things in the American consciousness of history, they should be human. Obviously they’re not played for larger than life, instead a more real, world-weary greyness, but there shouldn’t really be more emotion in Bale in Equilibrium. The silent looks of welling tears can only be used *so* much before they look a bit bizarre. 

Also oh god the camerawork, it was so distracting. Digital hand-held cameras with little to no soundtrack except diegetic snippets of music from the era, particularly with a sparse script, left me cold. Rather like a Van Sant film than what you might imagine from the premise. Actually, that comparison seems more apt now I come to edit this post. From my paper-scrap scrawls mid film to the draft of this, I looked at one or two easy-to-find reviews online and was struck by Douglas Messerli referring to Depp’s turn as “balletic”. As a film of set pieces, it might have been more effective using entirely diegetic sounds/recordings over their live action. Or even using the news reports of the time – like a montage effect but with less cheesy-80s connotations.

Did I want a blockbuster, action-packed and adrenaline-pumped? Not particularly, but some life would have done – even if the protagonists were intended to seem so tired. It all seemed a bit flat. Contrast with a quiet character like George Smiley from Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyHe says little and yet remains quietly compelling. Am I just naturally more drawn to Gary Oldman? Hm. He works in contrast to the more emotional characters, particularly near the climax of the film. At the climax of Public Enemies, or rather, the multiple catch-release shoot outs, I was periodically looking at the clock going “well, there’s an hour of the film left, so clearly there’s no danger here”. The deaths of the surrounding characters were meaningless to me because they were not given a chance to exist for us as an audience.

You know what I think the most effective scene of that film was, tellingly? It was at the theatre, with Dillinger watching Manhattan Madness, and truly feeling, I think, a connection to the idea of a character that no longer existed in the world. Both him and Purvis, the script is at pains to point out repeatedly, are perhaps more comfortable in the older days of chasing criminals through orchards, without the science and the morally conflicted methods of the new Bureau. Had the film wanted to go down this route more and make a point about the shifting paradigm, then yeah, it’d be more focussed. As it was, it was too emotionally detached. The love between Dillinger and Frechette (Cotillard), didn’t bring any dynamic either: there were early warnings to avoid the women because blah blah old trope of attachments are dangerous, but it isn’t delivered. There’s no real arc to speak of, and it watched like a historical document rather than bringing that history to life, which with some more innovative use of archival sound, it could have, compellingly.

Social Media Guide – Notes

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I’ve a couple of things I’ve been meaning to write since about October (Eek!) and am determined to do so. Until then, I wanted to post about what I’ve been working on recently.

Puffles watching work on the initial Twitter guide

Puffles watching work on the initial Twitter guide

I met Puffles the dragon fairy on Twitter quite recently. They blog here about Politics, news and anything else that takes their fancy and with past Whitehall experience, their insights are often quite keen. They’re also a bit fab at encouraging young people, who are a bit Catch-22’d by needing experience to get experience. I took part, along with Michelle Brook and Ceri Jones in the second set of commissions (the first lot being WordPress and Facebook). Our topics were An Introduction to Twitter, and an Introduction to Social Media Analytics and I’m really proud of the final results.
Puffle’s blogposts on the process are here: planningscripting, screencastingpublishing/editing.

Process

It was definitely a learning experience, not least because I’m most comfortable on PCs and view Macs with some suspicion. Some of the initial attempts to try and convert things between the two types of laptop OS’s left me flailing as filetypes claimed to be incompatible and I kept hitting the wrong shortcut keys. There was also much “where the hell is this button/function?!?!?”, but we got there in the end. During the process we were usually on two computers, and Dropbox was invaluable to keep files current. All the editing was eventually done on Puffles’ Mac, as they had Adobe Premiere as well, which was what I was most familiar with. I cannot stress enough the importance of using what you know. Obviously, it was exciting to play about with unfamiliar tools, but when needing to produce something, it does help to work with your experience. The best way to learn any program is to essentially fiddle about until it does what you want. You often find interesting things you hadn’t thought of yet, as a bonus. (That said, there were frantic interweb searches for how to guides at points!). But I get ahead of myself.

Scripting

Michelle, Ceri and I taking time in the morning cafe ritual to go over scripts

Michelle, Ceri and I taking time in the morning cafe ritual to go over scripts

These things do take some time. What we found very useful was having the first day spent exploring our parameters with bullet point lists of points we needed to cover, discussing the topic at hand. This also gave us time to get to know each other. Fortunately, we all worked really well together and got on fabulously. Taking this time to talk about the video meant that we did not get into the awful state of realising we’d missed something crucial later and having to wedge it in. The script that was written on the second day was continuously rewritten throughout the experience (up until the final audio recording!)  to rephrase things more clearly, or to replace awkward to say passages.

Audio

Initial audio quality was horrendous. It was recorded off a laptop microphone and you could tell in how echoey it was. Similarly there was a point where the lovely roaring fire wanted to get into the action and crackled as we spoke, as well as an attention-seeking cat wandering about the house looking for food.

"sssffzzzf zfz" - Calcifer

“sssffzzzf zfz” – Calcifer ruining audio takes

Due to where the laptop had its mic, the difference in volume between the three voices was pretty stark, and playing with the master volume didn’t really mitigate it as much as necessary. Luckily, as we got more familiar with the script (having done it enough times) and rephrased things, stumbles became less frequent, replaced by periodic giggles, which was necessary, I think, to keep us mostly focussed throughout the day.

The second set of audio was so much clearer. And as it should be, as we used a proper mic (Apogee MiC) with a tripod facing us. It was astounding the difference the right equipment could make sometimes. Garageband, which the new mic preferred to be fed into, was surprisingly simple to use, even for PC users like myself and Ceri. The original effect settings were quite odd though, so we settled for “no effects”.

Screenshot of Garageband

Screenshot of Garageband

On a related note, Ceri has now made Subtitled versions of the guides – obviously this is an important thing to do to make the guides as accessible as possible. Here’s links to the Twitter Guide with Subtitles and the Subbed Analytics video.

Screen-casting/Filming

Using Screencasting Tool, from the Good Luck Corporation, a company that sounds like it should be from some dystopian video game, all of the footage used was taken on one of the Macs. Do make sure to match the frame rate with the frame rate of the Premiere file, or you’ll have to do it again, like we did, at points, lest it export to a flickering mess.

Screengrabbing tool. N.B: remember to crop it so you don't get the "stop recording" on camera.

Screencasting tool. N.B: remember to crop it so you don’t get the “stop recording” on camera.

Important to note: creating a storyboard (even just writing what to cast for what bit of audio), is essential. Taking the time to rename the screencasts for their content and their number in the running order meant that editing was so much simpler, as we could import the folder and literally go down the list, building the bridge slat by slat.

Oh dear. 

That first video we exported as a trial run. Getting feedback was important, but also painful. Essentially, a) the audio was unclear and more importantly, b) because of the exporting + the initial set up of the Premiere file, it was too small and too blurry to be legible.

Disaster!

Disaster! That or the computer’s attempt to summon Cthulhu while we weren’t looking.

It took some frantic exporting and fiddling about with settings before we could figure out what the matter was. Tip: it’s best to export snippets of bits occasionally to see that everything’s going ok. There are a load of template settings to export with on Premiere, including a Vimeo one, but this is misleading as that’ll export to 640 x 480, so fullscreening will break it. We tried exporting the original and cropping the frame, but the damage was done. We’d have to start from scratch.

So many options! Recommend to stay far away from any of them, and instead make sure initial set up is what you want to export.

So many options! Recommend to stay far away from any of them, and instead make sure initial set up is what you want to export.

One thing that really worried me was that the previews in Premiere itself of the screencasted files were a bit blurry themselves (probably just due to rendering capacity), so there was a point when I had assumed we’d have to cast it all again: which would take a significant amount of time. But luckily, was reminded on Twitter that this might be the case and checked the files themselves, which were legible and fine. Thank goodness. They were also fine sped up, which was useful as some of the key tricks we used to match footage to audio was essentially fitting the video length to the audio length.

Our settings, for reference, were: H.264, 720 x 1280, 64kbps, 48 kHz, 25 fps.

Exporting

Exporting

Notes and Tips for Premiere

Set up all the things you’ll need. I personally keep it so I can see the files to drag in, the Timeline, the film bit, and have the effects dropdown in another tab, so it’s easier to drag in and drop the most useful things ever: fade to black and cross dissolve video transitions. We used the former for most transitions, and the latter for cuts within the same segment: say if we cut out a bit in the middle but it’s ostensibly the same thing.

Keyboard shortcuts are invaluable! Become friends with x, c and v, which flicks the cursor between normal selecting (which’ll allow you to drag-and-crop clips, the incredibly useful time-smushing tool (shush, I can’t remember its name at this point) that will speed up/slow down clips as you drag to fit a specific length, and the razor key, which is useful at times, but not as helpful as Control (or Apple key) + K, which is cut at where your time-stamp thing is, which allows you to be much more accurate. There’s a key for this in Garageband too, I think it’s Apple+T off the top of my head. Note on Apple+K: it will cut all the tracks you’ve got highlighted, which can be useful or can be a pain: just keep an eye on it. Also, render (hit Enter key) as you go along. It’ll make it faster in the end. Also? Save. Save a lot.

Puffles and Muffin at the end of a long day's work

Puffles and Muffin at the end of a long day’s work

Conclusions/Final thoughts

There were a lot of things we could have done to make it a faster process: having the right audio equipment initially, setting up the video file correctly at the start… Small but very important things that’ll come back to haunt you if it’s done wrong initially. There were also a few screencasts we hadn’t renamed, which meant there were points of looking for particular things we knew we had done. All in all, the Analytics went much smoother, having made the mistakes on the Twitter guide and learnt from them. It doesn’t take too long to edit as long as everything is set up to be easily found. Working technically five hour days, though generally spending much longer allowed us to be more calm about the whole process, taking lunch breaks and loosening up in the evenings.

Definitely very fun to do. Having finished Uni I’ve not really had the chance to use the skills I honed there, instead concentrating on dull, but gainful temping. Working on these learning guides seems to be what I really should be doing, and I’m certainly going to be on the lookout for positions that actually consider either the creation of such guides or the implementing of said digital strategy of sorts. Particularly given the feedback we’ve received on the final versions has been very positive.

Where to go from here / How does this fit into traditional roles?

It’s quite difficult to figure out what this sort of work really is. Technically we were making digital strategy learning resources that will be used by organisations to introduce their staff to the importance of social media, a bit like Sue Llewellyn’s guides for the BBC’s College of Journalism. It’s definitely an important field that’ll need more consideration by those wishing to be in the public eye.

But where does it fit within traditional business models? Much of the issues that arise with Social Media blow-ups are due to essentially bad customer service, because the people using the tools are perhaps focussed on keeping it a broadcasting, Marketing tool. There’s nothing so frustrating as those in customer-facing roles hearing complaints/suggestions/feedback and having very little recourse but to feed it up the chain, which can be far too slow as technological advances. Some middle ground needs to be sought, perhaps using the framework of a kind of un/solicited out-sourcing to aid decision making. Too many cooks are said to spoil the broth, but you can never have too many cookbooks from which to draw inspiration </convoluted analogy>.

Puffles as Decision Maker

Puffles as Decision Maker

Trains in the Night

There are lots of posts in the planning stages on my desktop. I’ll put them up once they’re written to a degree I would let them out. But a friend reminded me of how lax I had been with this site.

I saw this last night in the park near my house. It runs next to several large train lines. The light is rather beautiful, particularly in the Winter evenings. The clip is 24 seconds long, and I’ve removed the sound. Reminds me tangentially of Viking Eggeling’s Symphonie Diagonale (1924), which is a lovely thing.

Train (After Eggeling) from Pinstripeowl on Vimeo.

Moonrise Kingdom and Voyeurism (some thoughts)

When last up in the ford of Oxen, I finally got to see a film at the Ultimate Picture Palace, a lovely small cinema that I’ve got to explore more, as it is warm, friendly and seems to key into a more antiquated film experience, which in some ways was appropriate given that the film, Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdomwas set in 1965 in a remote New England island.

 

The colours were beautiful: vivid and pure saturation, and of course it was shot excellently. I had initially been wary of seeing it, mainly due to being bored during The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, also my enduring feelings about hipsters (which are to hit them with sticks). But this aside, it was good to see at not-exorbitant prices, *though* some of the interactions between the central child actors made me want to die while watching them.

I understand Anderson’s attraction to making adults act like children and children grown up and serious, and the inherent whimsy and true-to-life-ness that this often has, but I don’t feel the need to watch two twelve year olds undress and awkwardly snog. I kept seeing them (perhaps unfairly) as Sally and Glen from Mad Men in my head was another jarring aside, but this seems to be a personal association. But yeah, their love story: of initial attraction of two children who don’t seem to fit in with their peers/siblings and decide to run away together is something the audience watching can key into as nostalgic escapism. But, as is so often, it is the gaze in which lies the problem. Can a film do justice to early sexuality? Is the medium so inherently based on voyeurism that it is impossible to explore without being so bodily removed from the play of the characters?

“Leave it to Wes Anderson to turn… half-naked children groping at each other, bleeding, talking about hard-ons—into something that feels at once playful, tasteful, and bracingly real.” – Asawin Suebsaeng @ Mother Jones.

No one is doubting the truth of the scene. Truly, the interest in one another’s bodies and the awkward exploration is ‘honest’, and true to their respective ages.

When reading around for this post, I came across a comment on a review that also keyed into some of my thoughts on the film:

“I totally agree that it was a relatively “honest” depiction of that kind of thing, but the question becomes whether or not we need a visual depiction of it… if it’s a movie for adults, then it is (actual…) children pushing boners into each other for adult eyes… This isn’t a particularly subversive paragraph in Bridge to Tarabithia or whatever. This is fetishized childhood for people who haven’t been children in decades.”

The first part, I’m not going to address. If things were only made due to need, then where would we be? Well, function and form would become more intrinsically linked which may please the more Marxist of artist craftspeople and that could be interesting, but beside the point! The audience of a Wes Anderson film is never going to be a young audience seeing their own lives: it is an audience of escapists, of those after the Peanuts-esque childhood with adults that have their foibles exaggerated like a caricatured chin.

“Didn’t you ever snog a boy or girl at that age?” a friend asked, after the film. Beside the point.

The film is made to key into our, the viewers’, childhoods, using characters as avatars. However, unlike book characters, where relating to character experiences can be easier due to not being so bodily excluded from the scene, Moonrise Kingdom just felt voyeuristic. The awkwardness of the character interactions, much like in Life Aquatic, is made more so because of the inherent voyeurism of the camera, which is unrepentant and cold in its pans. Perhaps I would have felt less like an intruder in their world if the camera had been more sentient. Perhaps that’s the point. I certainly am not arguing for cinema not to make you uncomfortable, but there are things perhaps to be unpacked further.

I said earlier that perhaps film was a bad medium to access such things. Maybe given the business surrounding it, it’s harder. Television is a better way to talk to younger audiences, and I think Skins is probably a good example. It caused such havoc when it started, as a brash, youthful take on sex, drugs and youth. But it spoke to the teens that age, so much so that I’d argue that with each iteration and new cast, it loses its older audience to gain a new one, reaching that point and having its own, current issues.

Final thought, which is in no way a conclusion, but a petering out of time before the wrong side of dawn

“The film… has a rapt quality, as if we are viewing the events through Suzy’s binoculars or reading the story under the covers by a flashlight.” –  Kristin M Jones @ Film Comment

I quote this because I like the idea of the ubiquitous binoculars serving as a focus. It could have been more awkward, if the adults searching for the runaways had character internal character development, or at least, a less shallow one: some of the adults do identify with the children – notably the policeman, played well by Bruce Willis, who is having a messy affair with Suzy’s mother. The un-comfort of the adults finding the children in flagrante (ish) could have worked to counterpoint the natural desires of the children. But the audience, I feel, is meant to relate to the mature (and yet inexperienced) children, laughing at the folly of adults. Which I can get behind, but still, thoughts. Hm.

I’d definitely be happy to discuss it more and this post is mainly a way for me to gather thoughts together. If you’ve opinions, feel free to share in the comments below.

Suzy Bishop & her binoculars.

Console dreams

Sometimes, I dream video games.

I play them fully immersed, aware of game principles yet conscious within the game avatar who, typically, is a little like me, a little like Link. The worlds have a Nintendo-esque feel to them, sometimes, owing to both Zelda and a bit to Banjo Kazooie, I’m sure. Sometimes I see through the character, sometimes I can take in the whole scene, craning my eyes as the camera does its best to make me die or miss a handy if easily overlooked plot point. Sometimes I die, respawn, spend a whole night trying to get past a dungeon. Not necessarily successfully.

There are puzzles I wake up from wishing for a pen and pads of paper, to trace out their intricacies. Other times I get lost mapping out large caverns of water complete with an almost insurmountable enemy to evade, my paper renderings never able to fully render the dimensions, or the sheer, terrifying drop from the ledge.

I find these dreams interesting: how are they differentiated from the more standard Indiana Jones-esque fantasy? The roving perspective, the concept of task/quest, the multiple lives – Why are these in any way relevant to talk about here? Well, mainly because they’re food for thought for gamification of narration, which is just another way of saying, accessing and choosing a path from a plurality of perspective. (Plurality for all!)

I’m currently working on a beta for a game that uses the Story Nexus platform. The Failbetter team are doing something rather fab at letting the engine loose on the world and the possibilities for new ways of experiencing stories are rather exciting. My world is based on Jean Arp’s Sculpture à être perdue dans la forêt, because it’s beautiful in name, concept and execution. If successful, the player will experience a forest through its fallen leaves. But we’ll see. I’ve much to be getting on with!

Jean Arp - Sculpture to be lost in a forest

Jean Arp – Sculpture to be Lost in a Forest, 1932

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