Multi and New Media

This class involved a great selection of academic essays and entertaining activities. Revolving around new media, it was a good class to flex my feminist writing muscles which I did in both my podcast, The Fourth Wave: Cyberfeminism, and the essay on Vlogs Vs Podcasts: A comparative essay from a consumer perspective:

For example, in the ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014) the author/speaker discusses how wonder woman’s back story has been changed and manipulated to, essentially, change her from having been born of female solidarity to being born from female rivalry. In the ‘Background Characters vlog’ (Sarkeesian 2014) the author/speaker discusses how, as video games are more interactive and players are not mere viewers but participants through their ability to manipulate the character’s world and actions, players are engaging in the sexual objectification of NPCs (Non-Player Characters). The vlog then cuts to numerous clips of players, through their character, paying NPCs for sex, paying for lap dances, picking up prostitutes and other such scenes. The author/speaker then points out that these actions have the same effect as the character getting a drink- using the women as sex objects increased health and status within the game. Again, the vlog cuts between those same scenes and a scene in which the character buys a drink from a vending machine. The audience themselves can now clearly see what the author/speaker is discussing with sickening clarity. Within the game, the sexual objectification of women is much the same as buying a drink. The author/speaker then announces that having NPCs displayed as sex objects only allows for them then to be dismissed as disposable. Toward the end of the vlog the same characters are then shown with the same NPCs in identical situations (paying for sex/lap dances) however afterward the character, at the command of the player, then physically assaulted and, in most cases, brutally murdered the NPC. Seeing this has a greater influence on the audience than merely hearing it can.

To begin with the ‘Background Character’s’ vlog (Sarkeesian 2014) issues a content warning, comes with a list of links and resources for further reading and a detailed summary of the series, unlike the ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014.) The ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014), whilst intelligently discussed and well put together, has received a mere 400 views compared to ‘Background Characters’ vlog (Sarkeesian 2014) which has 177 Twitter shares, 334,000 YouTube views, over 1,000 Facebook likes and has generated 11 cash donations for the Tropes Vs Women series. These viewer numbers support the findings of Helft (2013, p.1) who writes that “Viewers consume 6 billion hours of YouTube videos monthly — that’s almost one hour for every person on the planet”. If one compares Helft’s (2013) findings with that of Markman and Sawyer (2014), which state that podcast listeners didn’t listen to more than 30 minutes a week, it is clear which form is the more effective.

The revenue the ‘Background Character’ vlog (Sarkeesian 2014) alone has generated for the Tropes Vs Women series contrasts strongly with the reports by Markman & Sawyer (2014) that 39% of podcasters create no revenue and over 75% spend significantly on the creation of their product. The ‘Wonder Woman’ (Mirk 2014) podcast would, if it contained the some visual element, would undoubtedly do equally as well. In the discussion of podcast versus vlog topic and content are not of the utmost importance (Markman & Sawyer 2014). To engage an audience the delivery is of greater concern. Guest speakers and interviews help engage interest, though the addition of graphs, images and video cannot be valued highly enough. Had the ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014), on topic due to the upcoming movie, included the images being discussed, such as wonder woman wielding a sword, views would have surpassed the current count of 400, a belief backed by Markman and Sawyer’s (2014, p.4) observation that most “podcasters drew a small audiences.”

Continue reading

Writing for Illustration: Graphic Project and Book Cover Designs.

For NMIT’s writing for illustration I chose to create a comic through Bitstrips based on the short story Too Much To Lose, one of the stories I self-published in the Behind Closed Doors collection that can be found on Smashwords here. Too Much To Lose takes readers into the reality of life with anorexia; the obsession, the isolation, the silence…

With any luck it might just burst into flames and I could leave, or the building might burn down and I could die. It is hard to feel anything about that thought. Wanting to die isn’t something I really do- it’s just a vague thought, almost a joke. I hear the creak of a chair and spy Carroll’s legs under the desk as she sits back in her seat. Her thighs spread out before her looking ready to burst from her stretched skirt. I’d bet anything that her thighs touch even if she stands with her feet apart. I glance down at my own thighs, poking at the hard bones that define them. I look up and meet Carroll’s eyes, my mouth twisted to the side in a smug smile – Too Much to Lose.

To see Too Much To Lose follow the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The intention behind using this short story as a comic series published online is to counteract the massive online presence of pro-ana (pro-anorexic) websites, particularly those appearing on sites such as Tumblr. I wanted to illustrate the control an eating disorder can have over your life and the isolation. It was difficult making the comic appear as dark as I wanted it as I was really limited by the graphics provided on Bitstrips. I was only able to manipulate and edit so much. For example, I had very limited backgrounds on offer and to create a dark background I had to use the same gradient frame. If I could draw, I’d have made Ana (Ana being a personification of the protagonist’s ED) look like a hollow eyed, ghostly figure at times and as your stereotypical beautiful model at others. This would highlight the opposing sides of the image of an anorexic. In reality, you end up being skin and bones and look sickly. Your hair falls out, you’re constantly dizzy and pale. However, in the pro-ana forums there is this desire to see it as a lifestyle and beautiful. Many anorexics end up with a certain attachment towards starvation. Basically, the opposing images of Ana would illustrate all this. With more time, I would have fine tuned the dialogue too.

Continue reading

Magazine 11 Reflections

Take a kick-ass subject and add to it a brilliant lecturer and what do you have?

(Translation: Please give me a HD.)

I’ve learnt so freaking much in this class (am I allowed to say ‘freaking’ if this is for an assignment?) When I nodded along when we were all asked if we knew what a media kit was, I was lying. I had no idea. I was surprised everyone else knew. Were they lying too? Or do I really need to get with it? Either way, I know now.

I also designed a magazine insert for this class which is something I would never have even thought of before. It’s so simple but, still, it wouldn’t have occurred to me.

I am really happy with how my InDesign skills improved this semester compared to last. I haven’t actually had any of the classes were we’re taught InDesign so I’ve been learning by watching tutorials and playing around with it. I think I still have a long way to go.

At so many points I wanted to smash my face through the keyboard because, dammit, designing a magazine is so…fiddly. Every time I’d sit back and think ‘there now, it’s perfe- oh, f*ck!‘ Literally every time I think I’m done with it, I discover some tiny new error that irritates me.

The cover to begin with was atrocious until I purchased some stock images for it. The TOC (table of contents) was atrocious until I’d scanned some tutorials. As you’d expect, it’s still  little (a lot) on the basic side. Really, as far as the design goes, I have little to say. You can clearly see a colour scheme and I used the same two fonts throughout (why? They just have the right look). I just experimented in InDesign and messed around with colours and layouts until I had something nearing how I could picture it. There is still so much potential with designs that hasn’t even occurred to me though. The magazine presentation day illustrated for me the variety of layouts it’s possible to have. It’s something I’d want to experiment with a lot more.

That said; Lo and Behold! Here is an example of some of the magazine:

Magazine116 Magazine11 Magazine1113 Magazine1112 Magazine1111 Magazine118

I had the idea for the magazine in semester one when I was put on the spot and asked what I might possibly want to do a magazine on. I came up with a parenting magazine out of nowhere. I prefer writing about women/feminist topics. The thing about this magazine though is that it’s about parenting and being a young mother in general- it’s not for children. I did some research on parenting/lifestyle magazines and realised there is definite gap in the market where younger parents (and even single parents) are concerned. There seems to be plenty of parenting magazines for older, married mothers that are still trying to sell the image of the perfect, nuclear family.  I knew I had found a good angle for my magazine.

My other motivation is being a passionate believer that having a child young doesn’t mean the end of your life or that you’re a hopeless, brainless idiot. Lets face it, there is no end to that attitude. When I found out I was pregnant I had to deal with the most ridiculous comments. For example, being snidely asked after mentioning my desire to go to university, “You’re going to study and have a baby. Do you, like, even know how to do that?” Guess what, I know now. At my year 12 graduation I was also told the parents in the audience were disgusted that I was allowed on stage. I always wondered why there was this attitude that I shouldn’t be allowed to continue on with my life. There was definitely this expectation within the town I lived that I should drop out of school and do nothing with the rest of my life. Luckily, my family and I did not share that expectation.

Young Parenting was created with the purpose of delivering an honest yet positive take on being a young mother. It’s purpose is to inform, encourage and unite young mothers throughout Australia between the ages of 16 and 23. It would stress the importance of continuing with your education and taking your aspirations seriously. It would not be condescending, demeaning or be written with the assumption it’s audience knew nothing.

If it were an actual glossy generating a profit, in line with the above values, the magazine would offer two successful applicants a 10 week paid internship each year. The magazine would also keep readers up to date with various study and skills building opportunities and scholarships.

Studying With Children

playing at the park.

playing at the park.

One of my assignments for this semester at uni, for my Writing Life, Self & Other class, is to write a blog post.

Well, that’s okay… I can do that. I’ve been doing that.

“Choose an area of expertise,” the lecturer instructs us when we ask for more details about the assignment, “and write a post on it.”

Damn. An area of expertise… What am I an expert on?

Nothing? I ask myself kindly. Ok, well let’s narrow it down then. What things do you do? What are you good at?
(Yes, I do really have internal conversations with myself. Well, arguments usually…)

Feeding and bathing and bedtime story telling in under an hour on busy nights. I’m always ridiculously proud of this. Although, I usually end up soaked to the bone from energetic splashing during the bathing part.

I have a four year old daughter and am in my fourth and final year of studying.

I have totally reached the level of Expert Student-Parent.

Two Weeks Ago:

I am sitting at my desk in my office (papers strewn everywhere, books spilling from the shelves, books stacked in shaky towers on the floor, leaky pens scattered around.) and Olivia is playing behind me, singing passionately about fairies turning blue, and setting up a tea party for her toys. I get to work designing the cover for ‘Behind Closed Doors’. After a while I make the mistake of turning around.

Bombsite.

Toys are everywhere, bits of lego looking gleefully up at me, just waiting for a chance to puncture an unsuspecting foot. Focus, I remind myself. I finish the cover and begin an editing project. A few pages in, the computer screen goes blank.

What? I stare at the screen for a moment. Olivia has migrated to sitting beneath the desk, having just switched the computer off at the power point, she looks up and smiles at me.

 Back In The Present:

Maybe I’d better hold off on awarding myself the title of Expert Student-Parent.

Now, what’s my area of expertise…?

Brief Book Review: ‘Tampa’ by Alissa Nutting

image

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She’s undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.

But Celeste’s devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession—fourteen-year-old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher is to fulfill her passion and provide her access to her compulsion. As the novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is beginning.

In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the lusciously naive Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his teacher, and, most important, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after school; rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works late; body-slamming encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom between periods.

Ever mindful of the danger—the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack’s father’s own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind—the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure.

Whilst I understood the narrative, the themes and the points raised within the text, it nonetheless left me confused. Some reviews described the graphic descriptions in  this book as erotica. I disagree. This book is not in the slightest bit erotic. There is nothing remotely alluring or erotic in Celeste’s sick fantasies or the detailed descriptions of the sex scenes. The desire Celeste has for teenage boys is simply too inconceivable. Positively baffling.

This book has left me feeling conflicted and, I believe, this is what makes it so good. it will leave ypu with doubts and questions. You will be mentally haunted by this book. Perplexed confusion is the strongest emotional reaction I had to this book. This, I think, is due to the media/societal norms/advertising. Like most, I could better understand a lecherous older man’s interest in teenaged girls than the situation in reverse (though both disgust me equally.) How often are younger women viewed as more desirable? How often is it men who are depicted as the dominant ones? It is far more common. This book certainly flips gender roles and stereotypes on their head.

Despite being told in the first person POV by Celeste, you are not treated to any understanding of where her singularly obsessive sexual compulsion comes from, other than the fact she is clearly a sociopath. This, I think, is Nutting’s intention. Celeste is the kind of cold, calculating predator no one believes a woman capable of being. It makes her light sentance, given because she is an attractive woman (and how could sex with an attractive woman be rape?), seem all the more apalling. It’s appalling but it is also very accurate social commentary. How often is violence and sexual assault towards men taken seriously when the abuser is a woman? And how often is it taken seriously is the abuser is an extremely attractive woman?

‘Tampa’ also gives a perplexing view into how statutory rape is complex and different from rape in general. Celeste’s victims do give consent. They want her throughout the book, along with their peers, and they state at her trial they were willing. Which they were, but they were also manipulated, stalked and used to satisfy Celeste’s selfish, obsessive desires. One victim in particular was clearly left confused and destroyed by his involvement with Celeste. It is easy to see why, even with consent, sex with a minor, even if they are a teenager, is illegal. They aren’t mature or in control enough to protect themselves or to understand when they’re being abused. They have only the illusion of being in control or consenting. In reality they have been stalked and carefully selected for their weaknesses (being quieter, shyer, having less involved parents.)

Overall, this is an intriguing read. Do not expect to understand Celeste. Unlike HH in Lolita, and many real-life pedophiles, Celeste does not try to convince herself or the reader at any point that she actually cares for or “loves” her victims.
This book is quite graphic and disturbing, so definitely not recommended for the squeamish.
To purchase an ebook version, follow the link here.

The Blog Hop: Absurdly Honest Answers

I was tagged to answer the following four questions by Mandi.

What are you working on?
I am currently working on putting together a collection of short stories that will be self-published via Smashwords. I am also, privately, working on something else that is outside my usual genre, but this is currently Top Secret. I’m a little timid about sharing the details of it just now.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?
The stories in Behind Closed Doors don’t necessarily link up in terms of genre and theme like many do in anthologies and short story collections. What they have in common is more obscure. The best way of describing it is we all have acquaintances in life, people we smile at and say hello to, but don’t really know. We don’t know what’s going on in their lives, what struggles they might be enduring, what experiences they may have had, what secrets they are keeping. That’s the theme of this collection: the things going on behind closed doors, the unspoken stuff happening in people’s lives.

Why do you write what you write?
If you asked me why I write in general it would be easier to answer. In general, I write because I am compelled to do so. I write because, rather than having to find my writer’s voice, writing is my voice. As Mandi pointed out, I am terribly shy. I am not an excellent talker. Small talk has a way of making my throat close up. But why do I write the things I do? I think it’s because I have something to say, something to share and to show. I enjoy writing non-fiction and short stories mostly. I love non-fiction because I can share people’s stories. I have been doing ghostwriting lately and that is very rewarding. It makes a real difference to people’s lives to tell their stories and, given the subject, it can help others in their own struggles.

How does your writing process work?
I usually just start writing because of something I have seen or heard, or a thought or idea has come to me. Once I have a page or a few pages down then I stop and this is when I start planning. I plot out character maps, themes, the story arc and where I see it going. I do any research that is needed. I try not to make it too specific to allow for natural character growth and room to move the story where I feel it needs to go. Often halfway through writing new developments will crop up and usually I will go with these because they are more natural to the story and the characters development.

Finally, I nominate Jessi Tait (at innerminute) whose writing style I both admire and envy in equal parts.

March in March: A Vote of No Confidence in The Abbott Government

Image

The train, normally so quiet and empty on a Sunday afternoon, is packed. There are families, middle aged women clutching signs, men with beards and waist length dreads, an attractive woman wearing a maxi dress under a cropped denim jacket. Everyone is smiling, chatting, leaning forward to talk to their companions.

In a huge surge we exit at Melbourne Central. I have never seen it like this; not late on a Friday or Saturday night, not at peak hour on a weekday, never. We are slowly shuffled forward, unable to resist the flow of the crowd. We make our way through the twists and turns of the station and exit onto Latrobe St, directly across from the Melbourne State Library where thousands have already gathered for the March in March protest- a vote of no confidence in the current government and Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The signs are eye catching, bearing slogans such as “We need an Abbott-Proof fence” and “Welcome Refugees. Deport Abbott.” Every now and then chants arise, led by speakers and groups within the crowds, cries of “Shame, Abbott, shame” and “People, not profits.”

The vibe of the crowd is good; strong and purposeful. It is hard not to marvel at the diversity of protestors. This is not just one group. Here are not just hard-leftists. There are grandparents, elderly wheelchair-bound individuals, mums pushing babies in prams, dad’s with toddlers high atop their shoulders, men and women with dread locked hair and bare feet, groups carrying tin drums, youthful university students, individuals wearing Anonymous masks, and many, many people carrying cameras.

One speaker calls for everyone in the crowd to pull out their phones, take a picture, and upload on all social media sites with the hash tag MarchinMarch. The crowd complies. They want this to be huge. They want to be heard. This protest was not organized by the usual activist’s groups- they attended but they weren’t running it. It arose through social media, through a nationwide discontent with the Abbott government. Afterwards, we would learn the hash tag MarchinMarch had been trending at no.4 since 10AM that morning; a success. The media would indeed report on the marches but the coverage would be minimal and mildly dismissive. It would comment more on the size of the crowds and the unpreparedness of the police, than the purpose of the march and the changes Australians need to see being made. The media would, however and to their credit, report with honesty that the crowd was benign and respectful. 

Many marching were doing so with the knowledge that as of September 1st in Victoria such political protests will be illegal, a law passed at 1pm on Friday 15th, dictates. This was added to the long list of things to infuriate the people of Melbourne.

The signs clearly proclaimed what many were marching for. Like me, they were marching for:

1.            Australia’s National Parks and Tasmania’s old growth Forests.

2.            Asylum Seekers on Manus Inland and the violation of their human rights.

3.            Women’s Rights (and against Abbott appointing himself Minister for Women and against the new Paid Parental leave scheme, which will make employer’s less inclined to hire women.)

4.            Climate change and the Carbon tax.

5.            The Great Barrier Reef.

And much, much more. The list is endless.

As a small van trundles past to lead, blaring up-beat music and encouraging chants, the march as it begins. We all begin to creep forward, signs and banners raised, ready to show Abbott just what we think. Many people walking by or eating at café’s whip out their phones to record us as we march by. Others stare in complete confusion.

One man has a little boy atop his shoulders. The boy, no more than four or five, is pumping a chubby fist in the air and shouting in a soft, rounded child’s voice “People, not profit! People, not profit!” Other marchers turn to look and take pictures. The boy’s dad joins his son, his voice deeper, louder.

“People, not profit! People, not profit!” My friend and I join in as do dozens of others marching alongside us.  I’m sure plenty will wonder what difference it will makes and perhaps it will make none, but the purpose is to express a vote of no confidence and when 30,000 people turn out in one city to march, that expression has to be heard. It’s not just Melbourne either. Thousands upon thousands of people in city after city are marching with the same purpose.

After all this, one would think Abbott would wake up and start listening. As one sign claimed, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power.”