Some Assembly Required


(This Blog Posts alternatively titled “How to Pass English 101 with Professor Morgen”)

As per usual, I decided to test how I could possibly turn an assignment into a humorous and perhaps unrealistic approach to storytelling. With this particular assignment, I decided that I had to recreate my thought process for most my assignments this semester (and to be fair, it isn’t very far from the truth). Looking back at all of my work this semester as a whole was very interesting because I realized that I did some work that I actually really liked and had forgotten about, Horny the Elephant and my Red Highlights Found Poem being the standouts for me. If anyone really wanted a blueprint for how I created most of my work this semester, this is probably the best thing I could give them. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised as to how in depth I went with the steps in the assignment.

Sexual Orientation in Spinning

One of the standout themes in Spinning was the idea of Tillie struggling with being a lesbian. I also felt that at there was a right balance between focusing on it and then other things. This prompted me to count the number of panels per chapter that reference her sexual orientation.

The main limitation of my graph is that you can’t see a percentage of how much each of the chapters takes up and rather what chapters feature her sexual orientation the most.

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The map took the shape it did because the references to her orientation become more prominent when she is finally outed after her picture with Rae is discovered and she comes out to her parents and friends, and it takes center stage. But once this is revealed it slows down a considerable amount and then fades into the background as her future and her issues become more present.

The map succeeded in showing the ramping and fading of references that I felt when I read, but it came up to my decision of what constituted a reference to her sexual orientation, therefore the numbers may be slightly different if someone else made the same graph.

What this shows me about Spinning is that the themes and moments in the book shift just as Tillie is growing up and therefore we should track exactly where we are and what the story is telling us by what it focuses on.

Habit Tracking

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My approach to this assignment was to select things that people commonly choose for a New Years Resolution, that we all of course, know are going to fail. The funny thing is I have been doing these resolutions for months unconsciously and thus simply graphing them is reminding me of what I normally do and how much I do it.

The reasons that I missed some of the days I was supposed to do my habit were either because I wasn’t supposed to (in the case of exercise), didn’t have the time, or was just too tired at night when I usually do them. I mostly wanted to test how plausible it is for someone to be consistent at keeping these habits every single day. It is plausible in the short term, but maybe not in the long run.

I chose a bar graph as it would show each habit compared to each other as they are obviously different in difficulty and time engagement.

It was certainly a good self-assessment that keeps me accountable for the days that I miss and force myself to improve the following day.

Comparing Palestine and Pyongyang

Palestine by Joe Sacco and Pyongyang by Guy Delisle are both journalistic graphic novels whose diegesis revolves around the portrayal of a foreign culture. In Sacco’s case, we get a brutal and uncensored retelling of the ongoing conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians. From Delisle, we get the humorous yet harrowing narrative of an animator’s trip to North Korea that explores the “hermit country” in a depth that is rarely seen in any form of media. Both Sacco and Delisle considered how their art style, tone, and moments selected would affect their story as well as their portrayal of foreign cultures and ended up creating works that land at extremely opposite ends of the graphic novel genre, yet serve a similar purpose through their use of vignettes. 

The most obvious aspect of the journalistic approach to graphic novel is the main feature of the genre: the art itself. And in their attempts to convey a different culture, Delisle and Sacco chose art styles that couldn’t be more different from one another. In Palestine, Sacco chooses to use a highly complex and detailed black and white lined style. At times, the art style itself can seem aggressive and over the top with so much happening on the page. Delisle, on the other hand, chooses a more simplistic art style that boils down to very basic shapes. He even describes himself as lazy in one panel where he refuses to draw cars because he feels like it would be too much work. 

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This is in contrast to Sacco, who depicts every inch of war torn Palestine in painstaking detail. At times, the art itself seems to be assaulting the reader because it spills off the page and fills every inch of it. There is also a lot more text when compared to Pyongyang. Perhaps the most illustrative moment of this is an entire section that becomes a like a normal book with minimal pictures. Sacco goes into excruciating detail in this section, which is very much unlike any moment in Pyongyang. Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 8.00.58 PM

Pyongyang and Palestine also have extremely different tones overall. Pyongyang is a humorous but surprisingly realistic commentary on the state of the most secretive country on Earth, North Korea. Delisle often makes jokes at the expense of his North Korean counterparts and complains about how inept the North Korean animators are at understanding basic direction. In Palestine, Sacco restrains his judgement when telling the stories of the people, but will often comment from time to time. 

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Palestine however features a more menacing and brooding tone in contrast to Pyongyang. In Palestine, it is expected that every man has been in an Israeli jail and if he hasn’t, then it is a matter of time till that happens, the conditions of which are horrible. In contrast, Pyongyang often uses the fact that people are taken to labor camps or disappear in North Korea as a running gag. 

But perhaps the most important similarity between the two texts is their choice of vignettes in order to explore the cultures and issues of foreign nations. Pyongyang’s choice of vignettes are used to show the absurdities and humor in the ways of North Korea. One of the most obvious vignettes is the trip to the museum. By showing the relationship that the supreme leader has with the rest of the world and how everyone holds him as a God. This is clearly a misconstrued idea perpetrated by the North Korean government, but North Koreans who visit the museum who have been brainwashed their entire life will fall for this. In fact, Delisle finds the museum so funny that when he enters the room with the statue of Kim Il-Sung, he has to restrain himself from laughing out loud because of the absurdity of bowing to a statue. 

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In Palestine, the purpose of the vignettes is a journalistic approach to the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The vignettes showcase the stories of Palestinians in their interactions with Israelis. The most harrowing stories are the ones that come out of Israeli jails. The scariest part about this is that every man has to go through this in Palestine, a rite of passage into manhood of sorts. The Israeli jails are run by a few bad apples that torture their prisoners and the stories that are given to Sacco describe the harsh reality of them. 

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Although different in purposes, the vignettes in both Pyongyang and Palestine serve the higher purpose of building the characters and the world of both stories. In Pyongyang, the purpose of the vignettes is to explore the secretive country of North Korea and to build the attitude and tone that a foreigner has to the country. In Palestine, the purpose of the vignettes is to explore the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis at the civilian level, but also to show a foreigners perspective on the conflict. 

Recreating Napoleon Dynamite


Ever since I saw Napoleon Dynamite I was obsessed with the idea from the title credits to use lunch foods to show the movie. When I saw this assignment it immediately occurred to me that the DUC could for once help me do my homework. Who would have imagined that? It was kind of fun to play with food in this way, as it allowed me to reimagine the credits in my own way. I know I may have cheated slightly because I didn’t recreate a frame from a movie, but I decided to take the essence of the idea and somehow make it my own by creating what could be a frame that fits in with the original title sequence. As a filmmaker, I am absolutely not a fan of recreating shots from movies exactly because that seems incredibly lazy to me. What seems far more valuable to me is understanding the aspects that form the image, tone, and style of the movie and giving my own spin on things.

Mansion on a Cliff


Finding the right images to make this look like a new image was certainly a challenge. My first attempt failed miserably but then I realized that the easiest way to find pictures that had similar colors what to search Flickr by colors which is exactly what I did. By searching through colors I was able to match two images rather easily. I also tried to find a picture with a clear straight edge where I could stitch the two images together.

I don’t know if my picture says anything other than it being a house on a waterfall. I guess it could be about living on the edge always. It may be worth it for the view alone.

House Image

Waterfall Image

Peer Feedback and Rough Draft

The main point that all of my peers made is that there should be less panels of essays and more creative pictures. What they agreed upon is that they liked the idea of having my panels be metaphors. They also found the tone to be dark and satirical which I found hilarious because I had never considered my tone to be that but it is very accurate.

A True Story…

Real Narrative

I struggled to find a story that I wanted to tell. I thought about it over spring break and still couldn’t find anything. Then, when I was looking for it, the story just came to me. The moment was so strange and unexpected I knew this was the perfect story. I may or may not have modified what actually happened for a comedic effect, but the gist of what happened is still there. I’m definitely more on the spectrum of what I feel Sacco does where he may or may not make himself look better with the stories he tells and change them a little, where as Spiegelman takes the story as it is and simply adds artistic flare through the images. I wanted the overall layout of the page to convey something through just a simple glance and so what I did was use very dark colors to make it seem like the dark and stormy night it was on the night that the event happened. I also knew that I had to be as accurate as I could with the Emory shuttle because it is such an important part to the story, featured in two panels. I also wanted the second panel and the last panel to be the same to show like there was an arc to the story by showing that something changed.

And yes it may sound odd, but the bus driver confused me speaking Spanish with cursing.

Tracing Maus Reflection

mausprisoner.gifTracing Maus was very interesting in that it took several elements to completely analyze two pages from Maus. By having it broken down into stages, I felt that I got a better understanding of what was going on within those pages because I was able to look at them from different perspectives.

By first having to trace the pages, I had to see what visual elements from the original comic were relevant to the story telling and thus had to make a preliminary visual analysis of what I was seeing. Then, by having to analyze the tracings according to Scott McCloud’s definitions, I was able to further pinpoint certain segments of the page that make the storytelling work. Finally, by having to compare and contrast the two pages to form arguments, I was able to see how certain elements evolved over the course of the two books.

The Importance of Feelings

In book 1, we mostly get a vague picture of how Vladek was feeling during the time of the war, but we rarely get any information on how Artie is feeling, beyond just general frustration with his father. However, both of these two things shift as we progress later on into the story. Both Artie and Vladek experience moments in the book where they open up either to each other or to the reader specifically. The “Parshas Trauma” moment in Book 1 is the first real instance where we get a glimpse into Vladek’s feelings, although this revelation isn’t too profound. Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 11.05.03 PM.png

However, in book 2 we learn that Art has started visiting a therapist to help him deal not only with the pressure of his father’s death but with the mounting fame and pressure coming from the release of book 1. We get a glimpse into the mind of Art and how the concentration camps affected him even though he never lived through them. Almost 43 years later, the camps were still taking a toll on many people, Art included. Art is struggling to cope with the information left to him by his father. He blames himself for not having gone through the camps and not understanding his father, and the therapist explains that his father may have taken out his on guilt on Art to help cope with what happened. Vladek felt guilty for surviving the Holocaust, and takes it out on Art, who then takes it out on his therapist. This progression of guilt taxes Art heavily and takes a toll on his wellbeing. Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 11.08.05 PM.png

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