Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Graphic Novel: Don't knock it 'til you try it

If you know me, then you know that I get obsessive about my interests. For instance, when I started watching Twin Peaks, I became absolutely obsessed and tried to learn everything I could about the series, bought the Blu-Ray boxed set that included the companion movie, and spent hours looking for merchandise online. I began trying to find anything else directed by David Lynch or inspired by Twin Peaks. I was on the hunt for anything relating to or involving Twin Peaks.

Currently, I'm doing the same thing, but with graphic novels. I say graphic novels, and not comic books because I mean one and not the other. Comics are serialized and come in issues like magazines. Graphic novels are not serialized and are one long work of fiction or can be a collection of comic books reprinted as a graphic novel, like Alan Moore's Watchmen. They can usually be used interchangeably, but some prefer one over the other. I prefer graphic novels because I like to see the whole picture all at once. It's the same reason why I like to binge watch shows.

A lot of people have an aversion to graphic novels or comics because their only experience with them is by seeing others read them and never reading one themselves. Often times this discourages people to read them because reading comics isn't something that's popular in most peoples' eyes. But when you do this, you close your eyes to an entire genre full of excellent storytelling and artwork.

But this isn't just the opinion of a teenage boy behind a screen; academia has been acknowledging the art of graphic novels now more than ever. You can read some about this and how graphic novels are made here, but I can only truly speak of my experience with comics.

My grandfather used to read a lot of comics, and during the time he got sick, we bought him a couple comics from the flea market. He let me read over some, and that was the first time I read a comic book. From there, I bought Alan Moore's Watchmen. It has continued to be my favorite book. I found the story unlike anything I had read before it and I especially loved the different motifs that were repeated and referenced throughout the book. After that, I moved on to V for Vendetta, The Killing Joke, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and, most recently, Kick-Ass.

I understand that comics aren't for everyone, but I'd encourage you to give them a try. It's often times a good break from the average book, and has is a really good way to see how some of your favorite characters from TV and movies got their beginnings.

Here's a list of books that could be a good introduction into the medium:

I plan on reading The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Providence by Alan Moore.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I'm not an actor.

Most people have a fear of public speaking. An estimated 75% of people, actually. It's actually most people's number one fear. I had conquered that fear, or at least I thought I did, when I agreed to compete in Duo Interpretation at a tournament for speech and debate. This was flawed for two reasons:

  1. I'm not an actor.
  2. I'm one of the biggest procrastinators you'll ever meet.
For those of you who don't know, Duo Interpretation is an event in which two partners take a piece of writing, play, movie, or other text and interpret it for the stage, all without touching or looking at each other.

"Chase, let's do Welcome to Night Vale for our piece. This one won't be that hard since there aren't many characters," I told my brother, naive and unlearned in what all a duo encompasses, only choosing that piece because I love Welcome to Night Vale.
"That's fine, but that's such a weird piece," he replied, hiding his disapproval of the choice.

The Welcome to Night Vale Logo. Image Source:

We chose that piece, and went to the tournament. We didn't have to compete, and because we were the only two in our event, we were able to go to nationals. This was horrifying because it meant that we'd be going up against nationally competitive students who were actually actors and enjoyed what they did.

Since we were going to nationals, we had to choose a new piece that was actually able to compete at nationals.We spent most of our time waiting for a former debater who agreed to cut our piece into a workable script. Sadly, he bailed on us, and that forced Chase and I (who have never cut a script for anything ever) to write a script and choreograph it as well. Those few days were the worst days of my summer.

Finally, we had a script. This script was a naked skeleton, without any choreography or anything other than words and who says them. All that was left was to memorize it, and we assumed that we would just finesse the choreography when we got there. Sadly, the day before nationals was the same day that I was going to a Lana Del Rey concert. This meant that I would get absolutely nothing done the day before, and that I'd have to learn the script on the plane ride, which was at four in the morning.

We got to Dallas, and mildly memorized the script on the way there. A taxi dropped us off at a hotel where the tournament was held. Bracknell, our coach, met up with us and showed us to the area where we'd wait to compete. We sat outside a hotel room assuming that contestants were judged individually. We were wrong.

They called us inside, and as I walked in, I saw fourteen other students who all looked confident and perfect. Chase and I were up. We had never performed a duo before that moment. I walked up, legs shaking, stumbling over my lines, thinking about how I could use one of the chairs to break the window and leap out of it, as it would be less painful. But then, an amazing thing happened. The judge laughed. Our piece was meant to be funny, and for some reason, even with our miscarriage of a delivery, people thought it was funny. They thought it was funny for all of the rounds. That didn't keep us from getting last in every round, where literally every other team was better than us. We literally got last at the tournament.

After the first round, Chase and I wanted to quit. Chase had completely snapped, and was angrily ranting about how much he hated this entire tournament and wanted to leave immediately. Brack wouldn't let us skip any rounds, so we went on, and actually got better and better (but still worse than everyone else) as the rounds went.

So in the end, Chase and I faced public speaking against the best public speakers in the country. We were in a round with the team that won and we were absolutely destroyed. But, after that horrifying experience, we got to enjoy the trip. We went and ate at really nice restaurants, and got to watch the final rounds of the interp. events, which was basically 1/3 stand up comedy and 2/3 heartbreaking stories. The fun we had on that trip was almost as much as the embarrassment we experienced while getting destroyed by students who spent months training for that moment, in comparison to our two or three weeks.

Thank you, Mr. Bracknell, for making us do an event that we had never done. Thanks for showing us the sights in Dallas, and thanks for trying to prepare us for the slaughter that we were going to experience. We got better for it.