In a new video for IMDB, director Rian Johnson expertly explains the approach he takes to plot twists in his films.
I've been a huge fan of Johnson's work — both as a creator, and consumer of stories — since I first watched Brick in college nearly 15 years ago. And what he illuminates here is precisely why. We live in an era where spoiler culture dominates, and the craftiness of a twist seems to take priority over actual storytelling. Audiences crave the thrill of the surprise, and creators cater to that, to the detriment of storytelling.
What I admire and respect about Johnson's work is that his twists are always anchored in the emotional journeys in the characters. They're the kind of surprises that are simultaneously both shocking and inevitable — arriving unexpectedly, while also being intrinsically tied to the story that came before it that they feel like an obvious, foregone conclusion. And that's what makes them resonate even more powerfully.
Regardless of whether you're a creator or a fan, it's worth spending these 5 minutes in Johnson's head.
Image via Dick Thomas Johnson / Flickr Read the rest
"Pantomime at church, in school, or on TV is another form of dramatic expression for anyone who wants to give deeper meaning to words and to thoughts."
This is "The Art of Pantomime in Church" (Meriwether Contemporary Drama Service filmstrip FS-33, 1982).
(r/ObscureMedia) Read the rest
Imagineering In a Box is a free lecture series on Khan Academy that covers a broad swathe of elements involved in storytelling in built environments, from theming a land to landscaping, architecture, sound design, robotics, smell design (!), color, material science, food-based theming, ride design from pitch to execution, animatronic programming, queue management (MY FAVORITE!), costuming, etc.
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Mimi Pond is an absolute gem. The matriarch of a family of cool artists, she really knows how to weave a funny tale through her cartoons and graphic novels. Her work has been featured here on Boing Boing, as well as in National Lampoon, Village Voice, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other well-known publications. Mimi has written for Pee-wee's Playhouse, Designing Women, and The Simpsons.
Now, for a new LA Times piece, she's inked a 37-panel cartoon that shares the backstory of the late famous-for-being-famous Zsa Zsa Gabor. It gives a biting, yet humorous, glimpse into the shenanigans she observed at the post-auction garage sale of the Hungarian-born celeb's stuff, which was hosted by her eccentric (and controversial) widower Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt at their Bel Air mansion.
I can't show Mimi's entire cartoon here for obvious reasons but it's definitely worth the extra click. I can say this, truth is stranger than fiction.
images via Mimi Pond, used with permission Read the rest
Described as "an experimental festival for independent artists and creators who work on the internet," Andy Baio and Andy McMillan's internet-fest baby XOXO will be back in early September.
And according to this tweet, they're making it bigger and more inclusive (be sure to check out their "living" inclusion policy):
We're moving to a new venue, and growing so we can offer significantly more free subsidized passes, prioritizing underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The fun is happening in Portland, Oregon at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum from September 6 through 9. If this sounds like your jam, get on the horn and register before the deadline of June 29. Tickets (both paid and subsidized) are offered through a survey and lottery process, of which they write:
A first-come, first-serve system typically favors those with time and money, which ends up benefiting predominantly white men with well-paying jobs and disposable income.
Our survey system allows us to factor diversity into admission, which helps to counteract systemic biases and prioritize access to the festival for underrepresented folx and independent artists.
Check out the lineup! Read the rest
Want to know the stories behind finger hands, Handerpants (underpants for hands), and some of the other great novelty products from Seattle-based novelty giant Archie McPhee? I'm going to guess that you do. Let me point you to their new podcast Less Talk, More Monkey on iTunes and Google Play. It's hosted by my buddies-in-pop-culture Shana Danger, David Wahl, and Scott Heff.
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Tim Harford (previously) turned me on to Martin Lloyd's Amazing Tales, a storytelling RPG designed to be played between a grownup games-master and one or more kids.
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This is the sweet story of married military veterans, John Banvard (100) and Jerry Nadeau (72). John served in World War II and Jerry served in Vietnam. What makes their May-December love story extra special is that when they met in 1993, neither had ever been in a serious relationship with a man (as Jerry says, they were "sort of in the closet"). At that time, John -- a widower of 10 years -- was 75 and Jerry was 47.
At first, the two seemed worlds apart. John was a lover of art and theater, while Jerry was an outdoorsman. But they hit it off and soon became inseparable.
It's never too late, folks. Read the rest
Artists are creating experiences in virtual reality, and it's especially exciting to hear that multimedia pioneer Laurie Anderson has entered this space. With Taiwanese new media artist Hsin-Chien Huang, she has created "Chalkroom" (aka "La Camera Insabbiata"), an immersive virtual reality experience that lets its viewers to fly through words and stories.
Prompted by this interview with the Louisiana Museum, Open Culture writes:
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The piece allows viewers the opportunity to travel not only into the space of imagination a story creates, but into the very architecture of story itself—to walk, or rather float, through its passageways as words and letters drift by like tufts of dandelion, stars, or, as Anderson puts it, like snow. “They’re there to define the space and to show you a little bit about what it is,” says the artist in the interview above, “But they’re actually fractured languages, so it’s kind of exploded things.” She explains the “chalkroom” concept as resisting the “perfect, slick and shiny” aesthetic that characterizes most computer-generated images. “It has a certain tactility and made-by-hand kind of thing… this is gritty and drippy and filled with dust and dirt.”
Chalkroom, she says, "is a library of stories, and no one will ever find them all.” It sounds to me, at least, more intriguing than the premise of most video games, but the audience for this piece will be limited, not only to those willing to give it a chance, but to those who can experience the piece firsthand, as it were, by visiting the physical space of one of Anderson’s exhibitions and strapping on the VR goggles.
Plot graphs, grids of heroic attributes, flowcharts of dramatic action – chances are you've seen plenty that explain every story ever told. Often presented as a kind of literary pill for critics and storytellers, they're really just toys, thrown into the hinterland between what worked for one artist and what can be sold to another. But it's a lot of nerdy fun to make them, so I thought I'd share one of mine today.
I made it to try and better understand a story I was having trouble writing, but (if you'll forgive the epic presumption) I think it works well to explain why the last season of Thrones, beyond its breakneck pace and sketchy motives, felt like a completely different show. Here goes:
There are two axes to this toy: "Nuance" on the horizontal and "Scope" on the vertical.
"Ambiguity" denotes loads of nuance, tales where everything is subtle and shaded and much is demanded of the audience. At the other end is "Definition," where mysteries and motives wilt under sun and sword and closure is imposed.
On the scope axis, we have "Intimacy" — the emotional tapestries of family and friendship, the world's whispered reminders of its own past, hiraeth and home. At the other end looms "Abstraction," where lines are clearly drawn, where ideas and sides do battle, and grievances reflect universal dogma even as the personal disappears from view.
To play the game, take any story and decide where it tends to rest on the chart. Read the rest
The reason other people's dreams are boring is because most people are bad at telling stories. This video from The School of Life offers suggestions on how to narrate your dreams (or tell any kind of story, factual or fictional) without boring your audience.
These are some of the rules for storytelling:
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– firstly, we know what we mean far earlier than anyone else can and so we must understand a story at least five times as well when it is to be shared in company as when it is merely left to marinade in our own brains.
– secondly, keeping a story brief takes far more effort than letting it expand. The philosopher Pascal once touchingly apologised to a friend for the length of a letter he had written him. As he admitted: ‘I’m sorry I didn’t have time to make it shorter.’
– thirdly, we need to simplify. The downfall of almost all anecdotes is an accumulation of incidental detail untethered to the underlying logic of the story. If one is explaining how it felt to see one’s grandmother, it is irrelevant (and a waste of someone else’s rather precious life) to say what time one left the house and what the weather happened to be like. We need a view of the branches, not of every leaf.
– fourthly, factual events (dates, times, actions) are always less interesting (though far easier to remember) than feelings – and yet it’s the feelings that invariably contain the kernel of what can intrigue others.
Here's a brief audio update on the immediate future of HOME: Stories From L.A. The TL;DR version is, I'm slowing down the production schedule to make the project more sustainable over the long term. Give a listen for a little more background on the hows and whys of it all. The show returns this spring for Season 5, and in the meantime, the archive is a great way to load up your podcatcher. (Oh, also: I'm looking for a social media/publicity ninja; if that's you, drop me a line.)
HOME is a proud member of the Boing Boing Podcast Network.
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If you're already a subscriber, many thanks. And if you have a minute to leave the show a short review at the iTunes Store it'd be much appreciated. Read the rest
Shawn writes, "A gaggle of Chicago comedians came together to produce an authentic 1950's radio show about how Frasier's parents met while solving the murder of a young Seattle waitress. Featuring young beat cop Marty Crane and behavioral psychologist Hester Palmer, this thing's got it all: mystery, comedy, rats, operas, and a well-utilized HOLIDAY SETTING. You don't have to be a Frasier fan to enjoy it, but if you ARE, you should also know that it's faithful to all established Cheers/Frasier continuity. We even have a full list of citations, in case you don't believe us. Read the rest
HOME: Stories From L.A., a member of the Boing Boing Podcast Network, is on a brief hiatus, and returns for its fourth season in October. If you haven't heard the show yet, this might be a good time to catch up with an episode from the archive -- like "The House On The Hill," about a forgotten figure from the Golden Age of Hollywood; or "A Home, A Murder, A Mystery (or two)," about a house that saw a horrific murder in 1959 and then sat empty and silent for more than 50 years; or "Rose, Mercedes and The Days Of The Dead," about what an L.A. actress did to encourage the troublesome spirit of her late grandmother to vacate the house they once shared. (Hint: It involved sage. And hammers.)
HOME looks at home in the broadest sense -- as a place, a feeling, an aspiration, a dream. Do you have a story about home that takes place in Southern California? If so, I'd love to hear from you. Drop me a note. Tell me a story. And maybe you can have a hand in helping me figure out: What do we mean when we talk about home? Read the rest
The Wall Street Journal reports that storytellers—people with a natural inclination to craft concise yet compelling narratives without rambling—were found to be hot by science. Feels good to be a writa.
The results were the same across all three studies: Women rated men who were good storytellers as more attractive and desirable as potential long-term partners. Psychologists believe this is because the man is showing that he knows how to connect, to share emotions and, possibly, to be vulnerable. He also is indicating that he is interesting and articulate and can gain resources and provide support.
“Storytelling is linked to the ability to be a good provider,” because a man is explaining what he can offer, says Melanie Green, an associate professor in the department of communication at the University at Buffalo and a researcher on the study. The men didn’t care whether the women were good storytellers, the research showed.
There is also a "how to" guide for nascent storytellers: master the technical basics, set aside time to practice, build a repertoire of basics, develop a relationship to tense, and get emotional.
Spotted via the sneering Gilfoyles of Hacker News, who seem fabulously angry about this for some reason. Read the rest
For more than a decade, BB pal Eames Demetrios (grandson of Charles and Ray Eames) has developed Kcymaerxthaere, a fantastically strange collection of parallel universe stories physically tied to real world sites that link the alternate reality with our own. The actual installations are at 121 sites in 25 countries so far. "It’s like a novel with every page in a different place," Eames says. Now, he and his collaborators are creating a limited edition book compiling the stories of the physical markers and historic sites of Kcymaerxthaere. Eames has launched an Indiegogo campaign to translate the stories into myriad languages and distribute those translations to libraries and schools in the communities those host Kcymaerxthaere installations!
Kcymaerxthaere: The Story So Far (Indiegogo)
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Up in the manicured hills of Los Feliz, a neighborhood that boasts at least three famous murder houses, the one with the weirdest history may be the Perelson house... where, deep in the night of December 6, 1959, a husband and father of three lost his fragile grip and went terribly, shockingly crazy. But the story only starts there.
Why did Harold Perelson snap? What does it mean when, without warning, the safety of a family home is shattered from within? And how do you explain what's happened to the house since?
This week on HOME: Stories From L.A., a mystery that's endured for almost 60 years, and the crime that set it in motion.
Thanks for listening. And if you like what you hear, please subscribe. Read the rest