Poem: Cavity

In the densest chamber of her heart,
She hears universe-old songs affix to her
Body and rattle against her windowed eyes.
She tries to dance in it best she could,
And sometimes others love and beseech her
For all those “universally”-“exotic” qualities.
But there’s a loneliness in looking young and
Living a melody that doesn’t jive with the
Tempermental fashions of the day.

It eats at her, hollowing her cheeks,
And makes her a shadow of herself.
Condolences cards of lost connections
Decorate her mental mantle. Like dust,
She dropped half a stone last she stood exposed,
As her stomach roiled between other’s expectations
And actuality and splintered hope.

She’s wanting to be one of those girls in the photographs
Sepia edges and brightly myriad cores
Daring in their eyes and etching into words
That they are untouchable, untouchable, untouchable.
But isn’t it fitful fantasy, children’s romance,
As they call it history, not her’s. Not her own.

There’s a corner of a wallpaper that tickles her,
Asks her to give up being herself and just roll with it.
There’s a staircase that once lead to books and annals
But now leads to silence and crouching spines.
There’s a mirror that she dares not look into,
And a cabinet full of knife-like, timeless sleep.
There’s shingles that need mending because
They’ve weathered too many saline storms.
And there’s attics upon attics of her dreams,
Both old and young, if she’s still capable of it.

(She is, she can be.
There’s a closet of her dancing shoes,
Still warm with her body heat.)

If she could string all her sighs together
She’d touch the surface of the moon,
Awashing her bedspread in its bluish hue.
Maybe that’s a better place to be,
Coldly yearning with a consistent face,
Inviolable in a divergent, cyclical time.
And maybe she’s there already,
If she lets herself be uplifted
By her shoes, strings, songs.
Away from the density of
Other people’s nested insistence.

Poem: 4’33” and Variations

He was tremendous to me, once.
Told me everything I wanted to hear.
Into the long night, it was
Where everything was analyzable.
We scrutinized every silence and
Lorded over that time, that space.
We seemed unafraid to speak our
Minds: Restless, young, brash.

There were silences when we
Watched each other breathe,
Wanted to stay awake just so.
We talked about dreams
But forgot about the nightmares.
Flourished in play but negated
Grief and minute, intricate shames.
Eyes closed first, then the ears, and
Neglect became the most
Unforgiving silence of all.

There are many such silences.
A singular in a multitude.
A drop cascaded into a movement.
The streets creased unseasonally,
A stop-start jerk of arrested action.
There are some that hear not,
And twist the hearings.
There are blackouts.
There are lines that shouldn’t
Have been struck, erode the stories
Of the fallen and the meek
As noise.

In retaliation,
There are the silences of protests,
A bubbled time in a streetwise candle,
And of remembrance.

Then there are the silences
Of contemplation in a “temple” of the self.
Or: A behemoth in muffled lightning,
That roils with relentless challenges,
With drops of calm like oil in water,
Breathing deep against the tide of time.
There’s pressure, easing and honing in.
There’s scribbles, loose-leafs, coiled spines,
Which all get shuffled and satedly vandalized
On the way to create new memories.

[coda]

And then there’s you.
My newfound silence in newborn shyness,
In a staccato heartbeat of quiet hope.
A singular glance poised for harmony
Of endless discussions in crafted havens.
It runs full color arpeggios in my imagination,
Eliciting a gasp of paradigm shifts.
A question fluted on the lips, wondering,
If the meaning I make is meaningful to you.

      D.C. al Coda

[coda]

Sometimes (time and time again),
Allowing one’s truest self to Become
Is but the silent grace of listening.

Poem: Unseasonally

Unseasonally that winter,
The heat burnished street corners
Into a filmy, snow-less static.
Songbirds twisted their heads
In confusion, as pedestrians
Gestured at one another
In hesitant notes and climes.

I think I waved at you then,
Just as your heels stuck to the mud.
For that moment, it was as though
No cars moved, nor a single reel.
And everyone spoke to each other
With an outpouring of relief and tears.
I can still feel your weathered hands.
They’re forged and calloused by
The banners you’ve hoisted,
The fences you’ve climbed,
The shields on their side and yours.

I offered you a drink to soothe
The voice that shouted against, for, with,
In a thunderclap of orations.
But you smiled and said, “I’ll tell you
Everything, after all’s said and done.”

Something glimmered that sundown,
Softly blushing, giving grace to fear,
A past participant of beauty
In the midst of calamity.
The movement of the trams restarted,
Jangling with scheduled purpose,
While I was still standing with my
Hands outstretched.

(We’re all still standing with our
Hands outstretched.)

Poem: SmallTalkBig

Where are you from?
I ask not the typical question;
I mean how you would paint yourself,
Whence you’re developing your core.
I mean that I see myself in a nest of mazes,
Colors and meandering wildflower ideas,
Being wholly comfortable in complexities,
And simultaneously needing to gulp down more air,
Flirting with reality and dousing it with dreams.
I mean that I’m from the rolling hills that
Shift with the freckles of the clouds,
Uncertain but in love with the possibilities.
I mean that I’m hugged by the warming hearth,
A soundscape of endless conversations,
Of openness on the ground, lightness in space,
Making me ask next: What tickles your soul?

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Creative Production Inspirations and Lessons from BTS in Kpop, Pt. 1

BTS, a seven-man K-Pop hip hop group, has been a creative inspiration to me in ways that I didn’t believe would be possible for my cynical-of-mainstream heart and mind. With their recent win of Mnet’s Asian Music Awards (MAMA)’s Artist of the Year Daesang, they have literally started from the bottom to win the most prestigious award for Korean musical acts. Thus I found myself writing about why this phenomenal group resonates with me and my creative development, and why I think it transcends borders for so may fans.

bts_mama2016_winningbackstagetweet

BTS is the English name based on their Korean name, Bangtan Sonyeondan, which translates to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts”. It’s quite a high-flown title and reminded me of something like “Fullmetal Alchemist” at first. As they’ve explained in a few interviews, they chose this name because their music is meant to reflect the issues that teenagers and youth in their 20s in society, and use their songs as a shield against prejudice.

And I’ve been delighted to find BTS’s name and motto remains true, in their musical production as well as their visual direction that engage with social consciousness themes for a youth age group. They have done this in an unpretentious way that allows young fans to have open conversations about difficult topics on family, mental health, inequality, sexuality, and more. As someone who has enjoyed Cinema Studies in university, some have called my cultural media interests esoteric and niche and out of touch with what’s “popular”, but BTS has shown that you can have it both ways; Their strength lies in their simultaneous presentation that is both accessible and self-reflexive, with both breadth and depth.

Throughout the rest of this winding article, I will present what ingredients in their oeuvre makes them such a creative and commercial success, and key points that I believe any commercial artists of any medium who strive to talk about social consciousness in their work can learn from.

Read more

Poem: Swimming Small

You catch my gaze across the distance.
Many months later, you’re wondering
About the smallness of the world,
Or about the smallness of us.
I can’t remember if I’ve kept a secret or ten,
Or spread them like open-handed cards,
When I’m at my worst and my best.
You used to sing me sonnets,
Interject cosily between my breaths,
Until my silences got too heavy.
My “I don’t love you” is a crippling hymn,
But at least you’ve memorized
Some parts of me before I can avert my eyes.
I don’t know if I can stand it sometimes
All the vices of me against the world,
And I tell you not to wait for me.
But you tell me to “Don’t stand then,
Swim,” as if it’s that simple.
But who am I to question if it is?
Maybe it’s true that I don’t love much at all
But the firmness of your smile under a tide.
That we’re equally adrift, outside-looking-out,
Beckoning each other like two gravitating,
Wild islands, in the smallness of the world.

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Sound is a Spectrum: First chapter released for a new Twine game

This is just something that I just started developing after coming out of Bit Bazaar and the first Babel build. I started thinking up the idea of creating a slice-of-life story of a girl who grew up in an entertainment agency and wants more than anything else to step into the role of an idol, just because that’s all that she grew up with. As everything else that is so manufactured and under the watchful eyes of another, I think there’s room to create a world of dreams as well as insurmountable nightmares, pressures, and fears.

I created this chapter in Twine over the course of eight hours (with plot outlines that I’m not showing you, of course!). Some GIFs are sourced from performances. Unmoving images are my own.

You can play the first chapter here.

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‘Encasement’: Finally, a solo weekend jam game at Dames Making Games

So I completed my first solo weekend game jam games at Dames Making Games (@DMGToronto) at the Snacktember members jam! It was a lot of fun, and definitely a test in self-judgement and self-reliance. Prior to this, I have completed Ludum Dare 26 (themed “Minimalism”) as a floater and the Oculus VR Jam (3 weeks long slow jam for the Oculus Rift) as an Art Lead. Snacktember’s theme was “tropes, especially inspired by Feminist Frequency’s Tropes Vs. Women”.

I figured Twine would make a great starting point for me to really flex my design muscles of out how narrative games really works. This would be a great way for me to figure out how to design for my real baby, Project Babel, to have naturalistic narrative progression in interactive game form. I have never learned Twine until this jam. Thankfully, my initial impression is true: It really proved to be a great exercise in not just creative writing, but also in game design.

Play it here!

Mind, it’s a prototype, built and learned in a cumulative 16 hours. Yes, minor grammatical and sentence structure gripes.

Flow_01_TitleSize

I also really wanted to pay respects to the theme. After significant questions marks popping up all over the space above my forehead, I figured I’d go with something that is both a familiar narrative theme to me, but also a challenge to write. I wanted to subvert the damsel in distress trope by putting the player in the role of a woman who is under house arrest for a politically motivated charge. It’s also a story about friendship and redemption. Yes, you are actually being put in the situation of  “Peach in a Castle” in the style of pragmatic realism, not a male-oriented fairytale. When I say that it’s based on familiar themes, it is because I take to reading both polisci analyses and political film thrillers.

What I really enjoyed:

  • Taking the time to write out a comprehensive storyline summary (about 5 pages long), suggesting the relationships of characters and their environment ahead of time.
  • How CSS really isn’t that hard, even though I probably shouldn’t have prioritized at all, but it was fun to make the Twine look unique and fit the storyline.
  • Seeing the Twine build get updated and then seeing how all the “scenes” flow together.
  • I liked my own thematic take on subverting the damsel in distress.
  • How basic Twine is so easy that I was surprised by it. Simple but powerful.
Wow, too much text! Here's a picture interlude of something that visually inspired me. This is by Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitters, Carnival, 1947. Dadaist art is a response to the horrors and illogic of war. Header image is Dadaist-inspired graphic design by Jack Deane, student of Manchester Metropolitan U.

Wow, too much text! Here’s a picture interlude of something that visually inspired me. This is by Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitters, Carnival, 1947. Dadaist art is a response to the horrors and illogic of war.
Header image is by Francis Picabia, Hera 1929.

What could be done better:

  • Oh my gosh, so much. I had a loss of faith on the second day that I was spending way too much time in areas of the game that the protagonist is “alone”. But it turned out that it was my best writing. Thankfully, I didn’t axe any of it. (What Henry Faber (@henryfaber) said is right: Don’t change your direction halfway through the game jam. Stay the course.
  • I had not had the time to do 66% of the game. I honestly thought that I would be able to get maybe 75% of the writing done, if not all of it. Writing well takes longer than expected, but now I know how to time myself. I need to basically start thinking of it as I do with anything like a 3D game:
    1. Create a something akin to a greyboxing but in Twine, laying out all the branches of the story. I was so enamoured by Twine that I started writing chronologically; I fleshed out the descriptions and felt so connected to the story that I was emoting it. Even though emoting is actually kind of harmful to happiness and stamina for a project like this.
    2. Then, figure out which pieces of the story are the centre stage pieces, the ones that are the high points of exposition in the narrative. That’ll give it better flow, just like in a 3D level.
    3. Good texturization is important, though, because it helps sell the atmosphere as realistic and suitable for the world that it’s meant in. Same for 3D level design as it is for interactive novels. I should have approached it more strategically, maybe working out some of the dialogue parts out of chronology, but only after the skeleton/”greyboxing” has been established.
    4. I actually haven’t tried the above method yet, but when @HenryFaber mentioned it, I was like like “oh”! I just talked about this in a presentation! Hahah, spot on.
  • Related to the above point, I actually didn’t have enough time to flesh out the exposition via dialogue as much as I had hoped (Part II). It’s rushed and I know it, and empathy for my characters therefore takes a nosedive. It’s because they’re not three-dimensional enough for me to implicate what their motivations and contradictions are.

Like all game jams, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it. Dames Making Games is such a welcoming community for me to explore more unusual game content such as a story about a woman’s gradual agency even in the most limiting of circumstances. I’m very blessed to be part of such a community and to receive such positive feedback and thoughtful advice from the members and coordinators there. Thank you for making it a great experience! Special thanks to @alexalksne for reading through some of my first Twine passages and letting me know that it hit the right tenor.

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Rotoscopes: Small stories, small futures

 

Note: If the animation doesn’t start right away, left-click on the image area above.

Something I dubbed “Cicatrix” was evoked at the end of the rotoscope. This was a short story that I started writing in grade 10 about the speculative near future, where there were tribal groups vying to advance technology for their own clan. This triggered a genetic mutation that killed off 10% of the population and caused an increase in stillbirths. This decimation is the “IX” in “Cicatrix”. The tribal societies became increasingly xenophobic and reverted back to a feudalistic structure to suppress the population from forms of revolt. The story of Cicatrix is told through the eyes of a girl who dared to travel to document the strange dreams that have been developing over the surviving citizen population, and comes to learn how this uncovers the mystery of those who died.

Because I wrote this a while ago, I would say that it is aimed at a YA audience. Perhaps I’ll refine the story one day. The email address mentioned at the end doesn’t exist anymore, but it’s nice to know that I was thinking of how I could pitch the project, even then. The animated character was based off of a video of my acting.

Click here to see a test rotoscope that I did for practice, before embarking on this particular project. All of these were hand-drawn in Flash.

Stigma

Stigma: Pitch-length plot;
A young military cadet who wakes up from a medical treatment,
to find that he has inherited more powers than he reckoned,
to take down the invaders with powers that appear to be
as alien as it is drawn from the nature of the Earth.
He is given the task to eliminate the oppressors with all of
Earth’s natural inheritance in the form of bacterial evolution.
But what kind of politics did this kind of power emerge from?

Prologue

I’ve had this dream before. And each time that it repeats, it feels all the more disjointed and uneasy. For all its familiarity, each iteration makes me scrutinize the sequence for any changes, and run irrational circles in my head on what it means.

I find myself in a forest, frosted over with ice and snow. Everywhere that the eye can see, there are evergreens, crowding together like nervous guards, so that their needled branches fasten upon each other in a sudden crisp wind. The chill doesn’t bother me. My breath puffs out in a cloud, its shapes more reminiscent of jagged leaves than balls of cotton. For some reason, I am sharply amused by this activity.

An almost human-like murmur followed by a bark sounded at my heel. Two she-wolves, of proud, silver shoulders, greet me amicably. They stride about as to demand my attention. I suddenly feel chilled, then warmed, as though my senses have just woken into a different climate than the one that I have expected. My skin prickled as though with an extra layer of winter pelt.

The lighter-coloured of the two wolves raised her paw as though to strike me severely. The entirety of the she-wolf’s muscular arm swiftly metamorphosed into a crimson, gelatin mass of tubular veins as her spurs touched the crook of my arm. The coils of blood pulsated merrily in the brisk air. It seems to me as if it is working out its own patterns. And as the she-wolf tilted her head, it was as if she was humming a melody an accompaniment to the rhythm of those breathing, cellular bodies. So focused was I on the lupine beast that I only just noticed the raised bumps of my own circulatory maze in response to the visceral display.

But it was more than just a display, for a wet, pleasurable slice rioted through my veins. My own set of blood ribbons rose out and immersed themselves with the wolf’s, abject and magnificent. Immeasurable seconds brought the feeling of extra life transfusing into me, cycling and sniffing with its sidelong presence. I feel a giddy rush that made me throw my head back and see bright, coral-red networks behind closed eyelids. When my nose twitched, I am met with the scents of a feast of living things. Throughout these proceedings, the other wolf companion was sitting on her haunches, watching keenly. A momentary lolling of the tongue indicated her anticipation for the same biochemical unity.

As the blood ribbons halted in their coursing, the lighter wolf gave a wuft of breath. She has become more dimunitive, as like a newly sheered sheep. Her expression is one of sleepy satisfaction. Deep within her settlement, she will now and then flash a human-like eye within her irises. Both wolves rearrange themselves about me, folding their legs and bundled close against me. A bastion against the brisk winter and enduring solitude.

When I next awoke, I was still in the dream-world of the forest. I knew right away that there is supposed to be a third wolf, an old sire, who has not arrived. His missing presence is hangs like an omen. The two she-wolves paced wretched marks into the snow with trembling agitation. The darker-coloured wolf paused on a low hill, momentarily rendered into a gray silhouette. She looked back at me. I didn’t know what she was thinking beyond the glaze of worry. Then the world shifted.

The earth concentrated, held its breath, and FLEXED. Those trees with their roots exposed suddenly developed a metallic gleam to their undersides. The chirping of insects and small scavengers abruptly silenced, then wound up again in a synthetic, scratchy parody. The repetitious loop made the wolves flatten their ears to their skull. Gobs of spit leaked past their incisors. Where there were once peepholes and knobs in old trees, hosting a home for bees, robins, or rodents, these hideaways have been infested with gears, leaking batteries, switchboards. In a tree split along its length by lightning, wires and coiling junk froth forth. This garbage twitched in the dirt like centipedes. The ground moved as though on the back of some frustrated golem, of which myself and the other noble creatures are but fleas. Steam rose uninhibited from century-old trees. Rather than the sound of yawning foliage, mechanical rust shrieked when one of these sentinels felled.

My dear companions suddenly seem very far away. I was left looking at their backs and low, cautious tails as they ran. I chased after them, heart at my throat, with fearful anticipation making wintry distance seem all the more unapproachable.

Poem: The Rakes

 

This is how they measure up in expectant conveyance:
Angelic faces and cadaverous limbs,
In a hall wide with strangers,
Made more cavernous
By the mirrors of censorious apertures.
There’s always one that stumbles, forsaken:
The sweat coalesces on her neckline,
Melding with bone,
Skipping skin.

Painted over,
These laminate eyes
Give off an exotic sheen.
The garb speaks over their silence,
Shorn the broadest-shouldered of their vigour.
Bow-docked girls imitate them in a gaggle,
Carnivorous tones and grasping eyes,
Skipping stones.

The red has not yet dried,
Yet the grievances of politeness gathered
Into an uproarious applause.
The complexion of their faces all
Meld into one shade.
Another dissipated figure drapes forgery
In so much non-fulfillment.
When would each their skeletal gaze embrace at
Skipping nothing?