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Today, in 1999

Enjoy a picture of my family and I from early 2000! Guess which baby I am.

I was really bummed that I missed the Daily Create where one uses the words that were added to the dictionary in their birth year. Therefore, I was very excited to find that it is in the Assignment Bank! It is titled “Never Fear – It’s The Words Of The Year” and submitted by Anonymous. It is worth two stars.

The description is as follows: “Merriam-Webster keeps a year-by-year list of when words were first recorded, or first recorded as being used in a particular sense. Each year gives us a list of somewhat random unusual and mundane words. Your challenge: Take the list from some significant year, such as the year of your birth, and build a poem from the words on the list. You don’t need to be limited to just the list, unless you choose to do so. Any kind of poem will do – just make it meaningful. Assignment inspired by the ever-inspirational Amy Burvall.”

Therefore, I decided to look into my birth year: 1999. I was surprised at how applicable many of the terms were to modern day. I had no idea that many of those technologies had been formalized at the time of my birth, and it was a delightful surprise to be a little “meta” with it. One could consider my ‘freestyle poem’ a critique of my generation, though I am truthfully indifferent about my generation other than excitement over the fact that we’ll be the ones high in society one day just like all others. These are some thoughts from a different perspective. It’s a bit rocky since I had trouble trying to connect all of the themes in a poetic manner. Regardless, please enjoy!

Today, in 1999

Gen Z, a generation revolving around public storytelling

Destined to become bloggers, manifesting thoughts into blogs

Before they are released into the lofty blogosphere

Amongst noxious clouds of mango vape.

A chillaxed vibe as they curl up with their e-readers

Clickbait nagging their attention away from stream of thought

Speech devolves into a monotonous stream of texting

Just as often as they claim this invisible world as their own.

Dashcams make it so that mirror awareness is not a priority

The only mirror observed is a handheld, coltan screen.

Suddenly and wonderfully mindful of a carbon footprint, yet

So heavy was the footfall of the old world

That there is no shoe large enough to fill the damage done.

But we believe.

All these things intangible in an epigenomic society:

It’s no wonder that sometimes they think they have

A hoarding disorder their heads.

I’m a real boy.

One of my shticks from my Intro to Digital Studies course last semester was that I made quite a few pieces of interactive fiction. They were told in the second-person perspective using “you” to refer to the main character, who is intended to be an insertion of the reader. I like the style, for it allows for a certain extension of empathy and thought would go best with the topic of transgender identity. I took this theme a bit literally, and it contains some personal content that could be viewed as negative.

This activity, “I’m a Real Boy,” (two stars) was created by Cherish Phillips and contains the following description: “Everyone has at some point wanted to be like or actually be someone else. Whether they’re a famous celebrity or just someone you really admire. For example, Pinocchio. He just wanted to be a real boy, that’s all he wanted. So what you’re gonna do is write a snapshot of what your life would be if you could be anyone else in the world. This can be a snapshot of a single day, or a summary of how your life would be. Be creative feel free to use anybody whether its a TV character, and actual person, or some random person that lives in your neighborhood.” In this text, the subject is myself and contains a snapshot of a Tuesday morning.

Trigger warning: instances of potential body dysphoria*

You inhale, your ribs liberated from a vice-like ache known in an alternate universe. You can breathe freely: you’re not worried that too sharp an inhale could destroy your image. The morning is like any other, and so you go about it with an occasional hum, random bass notes emanating from your throat. Your roommate is still dreaming, though they’re a heavy sleeper. The sound floats briefly in the echo-chamber bathroom before dissipating into the sound of running water. It is nice how you don’t have to hover outside the bathroom to wait for people to leave it. You’re welcome there, or at least you’ve welcomed yourself. 

It takes you quite a short amount of time to get ready, not blinking twice at the reflection that you’re used to. Even though you’ve been stress-eating, you’re naturally active. You’re a black belt, and you had to work just as hard as the other guys during your test last summer. Soon enough, you’re ready to walk out the door. You’re not worried about the position of your backpack strap as you sling it over one shoulder. It lays across your chest instead of cutting into it. Your shoulders are relaxed because you don’t feel the need to make them look broader than they already are.

Your hand envelopes the doorknob, granting you full control as you close the door softly. Your name is on it unashamedly, declared in bold Sharpie on a googly-eyed bird made from scrapbook paper. Sterling. It appears on your license, birth certificate, and others: just as it should. You do not have to cover up your name when your family comes because they have always known you by that name.

You have to tilt your head to view it because you’re your father’s height: 5’10”. You’ve never had to wear any kind of hidden heel to feel like people can see you as the man you are. You shake your head. No point on dwelling something so… well, cute. You can say that word. It’s OK.

It doesn’t take you long to walk to Stage Dialects class because you don’t worry about the way your legs look as you move. You greet your friends and sit in a chair, bow-legged and relaxed. The class begins, and you’re required to make a pure “e” sound. It comes smoothly from the front of your face in a casual tenor. Your gum ridge vibrates with the sound, the need to deepen your voice and keep it trapped in your throat – a half-muttered rasp – never arising.

The sound confirms that you’re a real boy.

And so am I.

*Please note that even though this details many insecurities, I am rather confident in my body. Also, I apologize if I used the wrong term in my trigger warning! Thanks for reading! ^_^

Update:「Week 2」

Enjoy a picture of my cat that I used for my Daily Create! Here is some mood music. To enjoy while you read:

This week was very hard. (Who on Earth let a sophomore like me sign up for a senior-level course?) I vastly underestimated the amount of time I had, though I’m glad I could at least touch base with They Lived (1988). I hope to go more in-depth about the film’s psychology and more with next week’s writing theme, for I feel like I express myself best with words. I’m borrowing my roommate’s Hulu account to re-watch the film – haven’t watched that movie in years! It will be a great refresher. I’m also much happier about my blog’s layout now that I have personalized it a bit more, and I am eager to work on the home page.

One thing that got me through the week was 80s Japanese music. I have trouble concentrating when I listen to words with lyrics, though I was starting to get tired of chillhop. Therefore, what else to listen to than music with words that I do not understand? Mariya Takeuchi and Tatsuro Yamashita have taken me through hours of homework: they are taking me through this post now. Foreign oldies are a true gem!

A struggle I had was that my blog posts say that they are posted on January 25th when I absolutely posted them on the 24th. I never set a posting delay, and I’m thinking my blog should be in the correct time zone. In my time clutter, I found myself spending too much time on digital image editing when I probably could’ve done something similarly effective with less effort. Perfectionism isn’t always the answer.

I managed to complete 2/4 Daily Creates and 2/3 Assignments. As an artistic person, I knew that I would have fun doing the assignments, yet I let myself succumb to stress and try to finish them last-minute. I pride myself on being meticulous – especially being an Honors student – though I put too much time in other homework. I pledge to start on my assignments earlier since I truly enjoyed doing them, and like my other courses, Digital Storytelling needs to be a class I let myself love. Though if you couldn’t tell from my other posts, I’m already falling in love with this new creative outlet.

What I learned this week: Many things are not what they seem. I can be a hero. It is easy to forget about what is ‘invisible’. And like the aliens in They Live, digital images and arts are all around me: I just can’t see them.

Please check out my Daily Create and Assignment posts at the bottom of this one. ^_^

Sincerely,

Sterling

O B E Y

Hello! It’s Sterling, and I’m back with my second assignment. In the spirit of They Live (see my last blog post for more details), I decided to do the “Apocalyptic Character Generator” by Martha. The assignment’s synopsis is as follows: “Use Hero Machine to design and create a representation of your character for The End 106. When you’re done, export it as PNG file and then use a photo editing application to place your character in a setting that makes sense. Bonus star if you make the final product an animated GIF!”

I thought it would be great to make a character that represented me and my interests. I liked plopping him in the middle of the screenshot from They Live. This screenshot in particular is very profound, for as I discussed in my last post, the main character finds these sunglasses that reveal the truths and intents of anything from advertisements to the alien species mingling with humans. It is a testament to many of the marketing ploys that only exist for profit today. You may be surrounded by people who are driven by economy and politics, who layer themselves with false empathy. And my character, Sterling (of course) is here to reveal the absolute truth.

For more context on the scene, please watch Roddy Piper repeatedly put on and take off sunglasses in this excerpt (NOT a trailer, YouTube) from They Live:

About Sterling: he is quite a bit more muscular than I am – HeroMachine didn’t have any lean muscle options – though instead of using guns like Nada to fight, he uses his fists. I’ve been doing Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts for 13 years, and I recently got my black belt. I incorporated a lot of black and yellow in his outfit to represent Bruce Lee and his jumpsuit (aka the one Uma Thurman wears in Kill Bill): my #1 role model and inspiration. He is a representation of someone Asian in Hollywood (my dream) and is overall a pretty humble dude. He wears one of my favorite fashion items right now: a denim jacket. His trusty cat, Thai, travels with him everywhere. Thai can see these alien beings, and alerts Sterling when they are nearby.

Here is a better view of the finished product:

HeroMachine was surprisingly difficult to use despite its ‘dress up’ kind of interface. Many of the clothes did not fit the initial body parts I had chosen, and it did not seem to offer any variety in the position the clothes are in. I wanted to go for a power-walk kind of image, but it the clothes wouldn’t quite fit. Colors were difficult to figure out too, as you selected from three palettes for each item and applied them. However, many of the design options were still fun and it was cool to see an ‘action’ version of myself come to life. I might also have some outfit inspiration now! It’s rated three stars, and I think it is appropriate given its straightforwardness – one just needs to play with it for a while.

They Live; I Lived

Greetings! I’m back with something fun for my first assignment. I followed the theme of the 80s by targeting the movie my blog is currently themed around: They Live (1988), by John Carpenter starring Roddy Piper and Meg Foster. The assignment I chose is called “Before and After The End” by Martha. Here is its synopsis: “Take a before/after photo of a person, place, or thing that has survived the apocalpyse. Then use Juxtapose to share a comparison of your two photos. Try not to rely too heavily on Photoshop or other photo editors to show the changes.”

First, let me tell you about my inspiration: They Live. They Live is a science-fiction and action film based in dystopian Los Angeles. Roddy Piper plays the wanderer “Nada,” who overhears someone ‘getting soapbox’ and talking about powerful people and beings that are controlling humanity. Eventually, he recovers a pair of sunglasses that turn his world black-and-white and replace advertisements with words displaying their true intent. Some people are revealed to actually be aliens, and it is up to Nada to survive and reveal the truth as it was shown to him. So while this doesn’t exactly target the zombie-filled apocalypse we know, it targets a dystopia that may as well be an apocalypse to those who discover it. In a way, the fact that it is right under our noses makes it worse, and draws many parallels to the heartless intent of messages in modern society.

If you’re curious, here is the trailer. You can watch it on Hulu if you have an account. (Warning: guns, a muttering Roddy Piper, and repetition of the word ‘THEY’):

This assignment was rated 3 stars, but I spent a solid few hours working on this one to make the ‘alien’ overlay look natural. The assignment made it seem like one should show the difference more subtly in expression, though it is ‘subtle’ in the movie in that no one can see them. After all, I enjoy image editing, and it was cool to put myself in this dystopian society. First, I took two pictures of myself. Then, I selected this screenshot from the movie to overlay over my face using Pixlr Editor:

It was a little difficult to position correctly over my face, though it was still much easier to match human proportions to each other than that of a cat to a person (check out my attempt at that from today’s daily create!). Since the man’s bangs and clothes made his exposed forehead and neck much shorter, respectively, I had to duplicate them and stretch them out to fit my own. I used a spot-blending tool to cover some of the edges. I also had to color part of my face in black since the lighting on the skeleton face is much different than the room I was in, and it was more effective for me to make the edges of my face into shadows. This black color was also used in my hair, since it was too light compared to the shadows on my face.

Here is a colored GIF of my work, just for kicks:

Update:「Week 1」

Week 1 was, as one can expect by the time I have posted this, harder than expected. It certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone to record my voice and my face, though it was a change I was willing to make – as well as creating public accounts. Growing up with an IT Security Officer as a father, I’ve always been taught to use aliases and to lock down my information so that no one can ever witness it. However, as a Theatre major, it is now time that I begin releasing more information about myself so that I can attract others to my portfolio. I also have a passion for the theme and several 80s-related aspects I plan to discuss in future posts. I look forward to customizing my new social media and formatting my blog to read easily and attractively!

One challenge I came across involved my Instagram account: I created a “finsta” in high school labelled with my alias for this class (sincerelysterling). I lost the password, as well as the password for the e-mail account it was attached to. No other accounts were attached to it for recovery, so I will likely have to either communicate with Google or ‘give up,’ which isn’t too hard when it comes to old content. I opted to go with my Twitter handle as my username on my new Instagram (@sincerelysterls) instead. It also took me a little bit to understand the tags, too, so my posts may not have been attached to the main course site correctly. I will link both my Introduction and my 80s posts below just in case (or if you’d like to know more about me):

Here is my introduction!
And here are my thoughts on the 80s!

Memory of the Future

Title inspired by a more modern song by 80s legends Pet Shop Boys.

The 80s is a true cultural phenomenon that shines its neon lights forty years into the future. Science fiction, such as my blog’s current theme – John Carpenter’s film They Live (1988) thrived. This decade was about living life large: from the hair to the fashion statements. Television featured works of art and films that were destined to become timeless cult classics. It was a time of relative peace for the United States as well. Many today pursue the “Vaporwave” aesthetic, and it is often considered popular to listen to 80s music.

An example of the Vaporwave aesthetic: such images are often featured in electronic music videos.

To me, the 80s includes interactive fiction. The first item that came to mind was the Netflix interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018), which revolves around a young man living in the 80s who attempts to develop a classic choose-your-own adventure game. I certainly recommend it, for you get to explore 1984 in the forefront of its technological glory.

Here is Bandersnatch’s trailer, for a glimpse into many of the aforementioned themes and the treat of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” (1983).

Interactive fiction (physical and digital) was new during this era, for Joëlle Delbourgo and R.A. Montgomery’s Choose Your Own Adventure book series was released in 1979. The first game, Will Crowther’s ADVENT, was released in 1975 at Stanford and required that one find treasures in a certain amount of turns. Infocom (1979-1989) was a company and software by MIT Students, released Zork- one of the most well-known interactive fiction games – for home. Although short, the 80s is a proud host of this digital boom that lasted from 1982 to 1986.

A gif previewing Infocom’s Zork: you control your own adventure.

Throughout my life, 80s pop culture has been present. It is in my parents as they spent their teenage and young adult lives during these years. My dad blasts Depeche Mode and The Cure in the kitchen. My mom showed me The Breakfast Club (1985) and Sixteen Candles (1984) in my early teenhood. One of the first movies I watched with my college friends in freshman year was Dirty Dancing (1987). For an 80s revival concert, I tried to learn the Roger Rabbit. And lastly, if I ever get a boombox, the first thing I am going to do is hold it over my head like John Kusack in Say Anything (1989) – or, well, like Deadpool in Deadpool 2 (2018).

In case you were curious, the Roger Rabbit: #ds106thingsthoughts #ds106

Take On Me

Greetings! My name is Sterling (he/him), and I’m a sophomore at the University of Mary Washington. I am a Theatre (and potentially Digital Studies) major with a minor in French. Please watch this space for Digital Storytelling updates and some 80s goodness!

My introductions are listed below on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Soundcloud, respectively: