XXX – Feels like I may have hit on something tonight.
It is a lovely and mysterious moment when an idea strikes. Whether it be a video I might make, or a novel that I will never write, or a drawing I could finish.
Last weekend, I perused a multi-story vintage warehouse with my sister, and came across this small Band-Aid tin in the search. For only $4, it was obviously too perfect to pass up – I’ve got this odd attraction to trinkets and old things to place on shelves. It probably stems from the same part of my brain that likes vests.
I set it up on a shelf in my kitchen, next to a small glass tea-candle lamp and an old yellow Gurkin mustard tin. It fit right in. Each day since, I’ve glanced up and felt a sense of satisfaction seeing my new Band-Aid tin sitting up in its place, like it had been there for years.
This afternoon, I happened to glance up at it again, and I had one of those lovely moments. An idea struck – an idea for a poster. What would the Band-Aid of a creative life be? I jotted down some quick ideas in my notebook. “Sleep”? “Silence”? “Take a walk”?
Before deciding on a direction, I took my own advice and stepped away from my computer. Me and my roommate went on a walk down the lake a few blocks from our apartment, and as we walked across the footbridge overlooking Lincoln Memorial Drive, I told him about the idea. “Oh, yeah yeah yeah,” he said excitedly. We chatted back and forth for a while, throwing ideas out.
“I’m trying to think of puns that go with Band-Aid,” he said. “Hand maid!” We didn’t go with hand maid. We kept walking, enjoying the cool weather, then finally, walking through the front door, landed back at my original concepts.
Here is my poster for the day. It’s been a while since I made one, and it felt good to be back in it. For a while at the beginning of the year, I was making a poster like this every day. It’s nice to look back at past self and be stoked at all the work he did… But it’s also nice for present self to have the freedom to take a break without feeling too bad about it. That’s a balance I’m still trying to find.
My grandma opened a laptop a few weeks ago. Well, my father opened the laptop in front of her, while she sat peering through thick glasses, her hands curled in her lap. The screen booted up, and my grandma sat silently for a moment. Then, looking at my father, she gestured at the keyboard and trackpad and said, “Now what’s all this junk?”
I watched the video my mother had sent of this moment, and laughed. Grandma will never know how to use computers. But really, there’s a reason for that. The pace of change today is so rapid, and the nuance of change from iteration to iteration so complex. If you don’t keep up with each new version, you’ll quickly get lost in the sea of change. We tend to take out own understanding for granted.
A dotted line, or a variation in color, or the placement of a certain word is enough to clue us in on how to navigate a smartphone menu. We know where to click. We know where hidden options lay, where links are stowed and what benign gestures lead us from place to place in our digital worlds. Because we’ve walked through the experimentation, and experienced the iteration.
We expect proficiency and understanding, but we need grace and patience. It may seem obvious to us, but that never matters. We are completely different people, and completely different generations. We need to accept the beauty in that, as well as the challenge, and work to bridge the gap.
There is a term in movies when the music the audience hears is heard by the characters as well. It’s called diegetic music. It’s a rare moment in cinema when audience and character are experiencing the same thing in the same moment – it creates a bond, if just for a moment. As if the people on the screen are really right there in the room with you. Or, better yet, that you are in the world with the character you’re watching.
Here’s a video essay that explains this concept using The Simpsons, and mentions the ability to craft diegetic vs. non-diegetic sound for laughs at 2:45. (Baby Driver is another great example of a movie that plays a lot with diegetic vs. non-diegetic throughout)
Today though, my generation isn’t watching movies, they’re watching Tik Toks. Short, breathy videos that last no time at all, but bleed one into another, hour after hour. They are not meant to be watched with others. They are simply scrolled to, seen, and scrolled past. With no memory that it ever existed. There is so little common bond in media these days, whether it’s between members of an audience in a theater, or the audience and a character on screen… At least, I suppose, none of the common bond I’d wish for. (I realize I’m being haughty and judgmental)
The excitement of sitting in a theater to see a movie with dozens of others who have been waiting and waiting just like you. That’s a feeling I want to preserve when I get it again. A feeling I want to bottle. The feeling of laying on my couch and scrolling through a feed of short lived, frail clips, putting off the work that needs doing and the more impactful media I’d rather take in – that’s a feeling I disgust.
“In a brief statement Friday night, Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge confirmed that He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named has returned to this country and is active once more. “It is with great regret that I must confirm that the wizard styling himself Lord – well, you know who I mean – is alive and among us again,” said Fudge, looking tired and flustered as he addressed reporters.
Here is the beginning of an article in the Daily Prophet, pulled from the opening chapters of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter: The Half Blood Prince. The Harry Potter books, incredible on so many levels, also happen to be a master class on how to tie in media from a fictional world to help build out connection and context for the reader. The use of articles like this one throughout the Harry Potter series do not only give the world that J.K. Rowling created an immense sense of realism and weight, but they also serve as an effective and palatable form of exposition.
There are always going to be pieces of world that need to be explained to the reader. This is done through exposition. It is often long and tedious. The corn husk you have to peel away before you get to the real fruit of the story. One way to do it smoothly is to introduce a character or a protagonist who is completely new to the world. She needs everything explained, and in explaining to her, the other characters in the story also explain to us the readers. Harry Potter, of course, is a perfect example of this. But also think Percy in the Percy Jackson series, Buzz in Toy Story or Elliot Page’s character in Inception – the talented new architect.
This introduction of information through the use a media that the characters themselves would experience in the world we are reading about (or watching) offers a seamless and engaging way of delivering information. Radio, newspapers, social media, TV, etc.
The most recent example I’ve found is in Disney’s new Falcon and Winter Soldier TV mini series on Disney+ (I really enjoyed it). At the beginning of one episode, before anything else, they show a TV commercial that we understand exists in the world we are watching. We don’t see the commercial over the shoulder or through the eyes of one of our characters. We simply see the commercial full screen, then it cuts to the opening credits. The specific commercial is never mentioned in the story or by the characters, it simply serves as a more entertaining way of giving important context and expositional information than having two people explain to each other while walking through a hallway (no hate at The West Wing, I love the walk-and-talk). It worked perfectly in the show.
Wes Anderson gives us menus and newspapers. J.K. Rowling gives a radio network and a gossip column. And now, Marvel has given us a slew of fictional TV commercials.
Deepen your worldbuilding and cut your exposition time in half. Give context via the media your characters would actually experience within your world. Explain it with an article, not just a monologue from your mind. I’m the official sales rep for the fictional news outlet.
First came the stone age. Then the bronze age. Followed by the short lived iron age. And finally the steel age. The accursed plastic age threatens to swallow us today. But an argument can be made – if the measure of an age is judged by a material’s use in the key technology of the day (swords, skyscrapers, computers, etc.) – an argument can indeed be made that we are not living in the plastic age, but the glass age.
A day when our wireless world, and the technology we rely on every single day, is connected and made possible by thousands of miles of glass fiberoptic cables stretching round and round our tiny Earth. Too many times to count.
I wonder if we will ever leave the glass age. And if we do, what the material of tomorrow will be. Perhaps graphene. Perhaps plastic will drown us all. Maybe vibranium. Or unobtanium. Or even fungi. Or wrapped in a material that has yet to exist. Or maybe, we’ll soon be living in a world that has moved beyond the lowly physical material entirely. But there will always be something. Some key material. Some precious resource.
And though the material changes from age to age, the people never seem to. We are still the same war ridden, poverty stricken, babbling flock of tribes we’ve always been. I wonder if that will ever change. Somehow I doubt it. no matter what material we all use in the same exact manner every single day – no matter what materials connect us, it seems we’ll always be fighting over who has more of them.