Saturday, June 28, 2008

Synergistic Storytelling

THE MATRIX is a series of comics from cult writers and artists, such as Bill Sienkiwicz (Elektra: Assassin, 1986-87), Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, 1989-96), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, 1986-87), Paul Chadwick (Concrete, 1987-98), Peter Bagge (Hate, 1990-92). THE MATRIX is also two games - ENTER THE MATRIX produced by David Perry's Shiny Entertainment, and a massively multiplayer gamer set in the world of THE MATRIX, scripted in part by Paul Chadwick.
The Wachowskis wanted to wind the story of THE MATRIX across all of these media and have it all add up to one compelling whole.
One Example: In the Matrix Reloaded, Niobe appears unexpectedly in the freeway chase just in time to rescue Morpheus and Trinity, but for people who play the game, getting Niobe to the rendezvous point is the key mission. We re-encounter Niobe at the start of THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS where she was left off at the climax of the game ENTER THE MATRIX.
By the standards of classical Hollywood storytelling, these gaps (such as the failure to explain where Niobe came from) or excesses in the film confuse the spectator. The old Hollywood system depended upon redundancy to ensure that viewers could follow the plot at all times, even if they were distracted or went out to the lobby for a popcorn refill during a crucial scene. The new Hollywood demands that we keep our eyes on the road all times, and that we do research before we arrive at the theater.

A little too much asked from film goers who are not so handy with other media's. Targeting thus only to a niche audiences, this is where the filmmakers did a little wrong as the excitement that THE MATRIX created didn't get reflected that much with the sequels, but it can still be a glorified failure. Why? Read on...
Danny Bilson, the Vice President of the Intellectual Property Development at Electronic Arts says:
Going forward, people are going to want to go deeper into stuff they care about rather than sampling a lot of stuff. If there’s something I love, I want it to be bigger than just those two hours in the movie theatre or a one hour a week experience on TV. I want a deepening of the universe,
…I want to participate in it. I’ve just been introduced to the world in the film and I want to get there, explore it. You need that connection to the world to make participation exciting.
This level of integration and co-ordination is difficult to achieve even though the economic logic of the larger media conglomerates encourage them to think in terms of synergies and franchises. So far, the most successful Transmedia franchises have emerged when a single creator or creative unit maintains control. Hollywood might well study the ways the Lucas film has managed and cultivated its INDIANA JONES and STAR WARS (1977) franchises.
{A particular note on Paul Chadwick}
We can see collaborative authorship at work by looking more closely at the three comic stories created by Paul Chadwick, “Déjà vu,” “Let it all fall down,” and “The Millers Tale.” Chadwick’s comics were ultimately so embraced by the Wachoski brothers that Chadwick was asked to develop plots and dialogue for the online MATRIX game. Chadwick might, at first glance, seem an odd choice to work on a major movie franchise. He is a cult comic creator best known for CONCRETE and for his strong commitment to environmentalist politics. Working on the very edge of the superhero genre, Chadwick uses CONCRETE, a massive stone husk that houses the mind of a former political speech writer, to ask questions about the current social and economic order. In THINK LIKE A MOUNTAIN (1996), Concrete joins forces with the Earth First! Moves war on the timber industry to protect an old-growth forest. Chadwick’s political commitments are expressed not only through the stories but also through his visual style: he creates full page spreads that integrates his protagonists into their environments, showing the small creatures that exist all around us, hidden from view but impacted by the choices we make.
what happens to the world - PAUL CHADWICK
In “The Miller’s Tale”, his protagonist, a member of the Zion underground, tries to reclaim a land so that he can harvest wheat and make bread. Risking his life, he travels across the blackened landscape in search of seeds with which he can plant new crops; he grinds the grain to make loaves to feed the Resistance- movement. Chadwick’s miller is ultimately killed, but the comic ends with a beautiful full-page image of the plant life growing over the ruins we recognize from the appearance in several of THE MATRIX movies.
More on Transmedia Storytelling
Transmedia storytelling is perhaps at its most elaborate, so far, in children’s media franchise life POKEMON or YU-GI-OH! As education professors David Bukingham and Julian Sefton-Green explain, ”Pokemon is something you do, not just something you read or watch or consume.” There are several hundred different POKEMON, each with multiple evolutionary forms and a complex set of rivalries and attachments. There is no one text where one can go to get the information about these various species; rather, the child assembles what they know about the POKEMON from various media with the result that each child knows something his or her friends do not and thus has a chance to share this expertise with other. Buckingham and Sefton-Green explain: “Children may watch the television cartoon, for example, as a way of gathering knowledge that they can later utilize in playing the computer game or in trading cards or vice versa…the text in POKEMON are not designed merely to be consumed in the passive sense of the word…In order to be part of the POKEMON culture, and to learn what you need to know, be part of the POKEMON culture, and to learn what you need to know, you must actively seek out new information and new products and, crucially, engage with others in doing so.”
(abridged text from: convergence culture - henry jenkins)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Transmedia Storytelling

Peter Bagge noted for the sharp social satire in HATE comics and more recently for GET IT on the film THE MATRIX and how people are responding to it

A Transmedia story unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole. In the ideal form of Transmedia storytelling, each medium does what it does best – so that a story might be introduced in film, expanded through television, novels, and comics; it world might be explored through game play or experienced as an amusement park attraction. Each franchise entry needs to be self contained so you don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy the game, and vice versa. Any given product is a point of entry into the franchise as a whole. Reading across the media sustains a depth of experience that motivates more consumption. Redundancy burns up fan interest and causes franchises to fail. Offering new levels of insight and experience refreshes the franchise and sustains consumer loyalty. The economic logic of a horizontally integrated entertainment industry – that is, one where a single company may have roots across all the different media sectors – dictates the flow of content across media. Different media attracts different market niches. Films and Television probably have the most diverse audiences; comics and games the narrowest. A good Transmedia franchise works to attract multiple constituencies by pitching the content in somewhat different constituencies – and if each work offers fresh experiences – then you count on a crossover market that will expand the potential gross.
The perfect CASE STUDY
Here’s what science fiction writer BRUCE STERLING trying to explain his fascination for THE MATRIX as a cult movie:
First and foremost, the film’s got pop appeal elements. All kinds of elements: suicidal attack by elite special forces, crashing helicopters, oodles of martial arts, a chaste yet passionate story of predestined love, bug-eyed monsters of the absolute first water, fetish clothes, captivity and torture and daring rescue, plus really weird, cool submarines…There’s Christian exegesis, a Redeemer myth, a death and rebirth, a hero in self discovery, THE ODYSSEY, Jean Baudrillard (lots of Baudrillard, the best part of the film), science fiction ontological riffs and the Philip K. Dick School, Nebuchadnezzar, the Buddha, Taoism, martial-arts mysticism, oracular prophecy, spoon-bending telekinesis, Houdini stage-show magic, Joseph Campbell, and Godelian mathematical metaphysics.
And that’s just the first film!
Few of the movies endless borrowings:
- Use of the mythological names for the characters (Morpheus, Persephone, Trinity)
- Neo pulls a copy of Baurdrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation (1981/1995) for this shelf
- The traitor Cypher, is referred to one point as “Mr. Reagan” and asks for an alternative life where he is an actor who gains political power – are clear only when you put together information from multiple sources
- License plates on the cars (such as DA203 or IS5416), which reference specific and context-appropriate Bible verses(Daniel 2:3 or Isaiah 54:15)—may require you to move through the film frame by frame on your DVD player.
- Neo’s apartment number is 101, which is the room number of the torture chamber in George Orwell’s 1984(1949). Once you have picked up this number, then you discover that 101 is also floor number for the Merovingian’s nightclub and the number of highway where the characters clash in THE MATRIX RELOADED
- The sheer abundance of allusions makes it nearly impossible for any given consumer to master the franchise totally. In this context, the Wackhoski brothers have positioned themselves as oracles – hidden from view most of the time, surfacing only to offer cryptic comment, refusing direct answers, and speaking with a single voice.
(to be continued later…)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

O' baby! you're going to miss your flight!!

We MISS our flights all the time, all this time where we live in, all these endless moments when we immerse ourselves in nothingness to achieve this projected ourselves and exactly in this very same place we loose these flights all the time.
BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET directed by Richard Linklater is a terrible reminder of how films affect me and tonight I am highly disturbed by the absurdity of these moment when I know tomorrow I will wake up to live again my PROJECTED best; pick up my recently termed "american flag" bag by another of my 'bored of life' academic colleague and complete my projected self in academia.
For the last few months I was limiting myself to write only film reviews in this blog, sadly another sign of the demise of the real "oddexistenz" inscriber. Not that this is going to be any different but I truly believe - Films are a response to LIFE and we don't get many chances of doing that. Very few a times we are honest with ourselves and with a film rolling, the task becomes even more difficult.
BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET is about a couple who meet each other for a night and their dream romantic projection comes true; fate has it otherwise and they meet each other again after 10 years with both of their life changed beyond recognition. They introspect and try to get back to bring back old memories and during this process it becomes very clear, that they are not going to let this moment pass. The movie ends with Julie Delphy reminding Ethan of him going to miss his flight, he smiles on and dissolves into molecules in the air.

Friday, June 20, 2008


"Coffee is the second largest traded commodity (after oil) in the world. The market for take-away coffee is worth $100 billion dollars at present. This market has trebled over the past decade. The export of coffee (in income) doubled in the past 5 years alone"
How much of it really benefits the countries which produces COFFEE? Nothing is further from the truth…
“Coffee as a global community” by Shiv Sethi in Phalanx No. April 2008 proves that there is more than you can imagine going wrong in your cup of coffee every day. Just see if you can digest the following commodity chain analysis:
In the coffee trade from Central America to Europe in early 1990s, the wage of the coffee plantation worker was found to be 5% of the final consumer price. The breakup of the commodity chain shows the following pattern:
Wage of worker on coffee plantation: 5.1% (producer);
Payment to owner of coffee plantation: 8.5% (owner);
Exporter-Middlemen: 3.7% (shared by locals and Europeans);
Export tax : 17.2% (local government);
Overseas freight: 1.4% (mostly European shipping companies);
Duty: 1.8% (European governments);
Coffee tax: 18.4% (European governments);
Importer: 7.6% (European);
Cost of roasting: 6.5% (European);
Retailer: 23.7% (European);
Retail price in Europe: 100%
It should be noted that roughly 30% of the value generated remained in Central America and 70% was raised in Europe.

This brings us back the statement we started off with, in spite of such great demand for coffee why the producer (farmers) are at the bottom of the ladder as far as the beneficiary statistics is concerned? To understand this, we need to find out where is this coffee coming from? An estimated 25 million small scale farmers are involved in producing coffee around the world. Total coffee production amounted to 7.8 million metric tons in 2006. Nearly 10 billion worth of coffee was exported from Latin America, Africa and Asia, mostly to Europe and North America. Brazil, Columbia and Vietnam were the main exporters with market shares of 30%, 15% and 5% respectively. In addition, many African countries are important exporters of coffee. In particular, coffee is the main export earner of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.
Getting the picture? Not yet, read further…

During much of the colonial period, the colonies exported primary products like sugar, coffee, wheat, rice, cocoa, rubber, cotton, jute, palm-oil, etc., to the imperial powers and imported their industrial products. This pattern persists, with a few exceptions (more on it below), to the present day.


Down the years, the primary products producing countries have suffered both deterioration in the absolute prices of the commodity they export and in the terms of their trade.

The economic reasons are varied and fairly simple to comprehend. During colonial rule till today, the development of colonial economics shows that colonies gained little from trade with the imperial powers. It should be noted that coffee is exported in its raw form (beans) and further value additions (roasting, grinding, etc) is done in the Developed countries. Brazilian companies in 1960s tried their best to directly sell instant coffee in the US markets. Though they managed to get a foothold in the US markets they were accused of ‘unfair trade’ practices by the US state department.

Emmanuel (1972) argues that that the worsening terms of trade has not so much to do with what is exported but who produces it:
The “worsening the terms of trade for primary products” is an optical illusion. It results from a mistaken identification of the exports of the rich countries with the export of manufactured products and the exports of the poor countries with the export of primary products.
More on this issue and its various dimensions are available in the unabridged text by Shiv Sethi in his research paper. Interested in reading the full text? Catch it on…..
We go about our lives everyday zapping through channels and seeing the worsening fate of the African and South American countries, go about ordering vanilla topped mocha coffee and live among the rich or going to be rich mentioned countries. There is so much brewing over the cup of coffee we drink and we know so little about it!
One look at the poor farmer working in his farm to pay off his next debt, the IMF funding his autocratic masters to buy his crop for half its price and the picture is pretty clear…
Imperialism still continues ….well in a more dignified manner and in falsified economic capers.
Time to smell the coffee and WAKE UP!! And awaken the others too….

Sunday, June 8, 2008

How much do you know about BLUE?

BLUE, a primary color but the rarest in nature, was considered a form of black until about 5,000 B.C/ In many languages, there is no word for blue; a term referring to both blue and green often suffices for either color./ Blue can connote winning (blue ribbon), loyalty (true blue), sadness (the blues), the ocean and the sky, communication (U.S postal services, phone booths), the Hindu god Krishna, a toothpaste brushes, the Union army in the American Civil War, or the Democratic party. /Writing in 1978, leading color authority Faber Birren stated that people whose favorite color is blue are dovoted and introspective, that they "make able executives and golfers, and they usually dwell in neighborhoods where other blue lovers are to be found"

How well do you know PINK?

PINK was first used as a term in the 17th century to describe the undersaturated scarlet of Dianthus blossom/ By the early 20th century, pink was considered a masculine color - a light red - and mothers were counseled to dress their daughters in demure Virgin Mary blue. / Pink changed gender associations after World War II, often thought to be because the Nazis used a pink triangle to denote homosexuality./ Since then, pink has been so linked with femininity that a study done on adult male prisoners found that when subjects were placed in a pink room, they had more trouble hoisting their barbells. / Yet pink is everywhere; The pink triangle has been proudly reclaimed for gay pride, and pink has been associated with everything from breast cancer awareness to punk fashion to the socialist part of portugal/ Mary Kay Ash exemplified pink connections to power and femininity in 1968 when she ordered her first pink Cadillac to exactly match the shade of her signature May Kay Compact.

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