Author: ghamilto

The Spy Guy

I wrote about the Spy Guy in an earlier post, and my view on his purpose remains somewhat similar. During his first appearance, I thought he called attention to the medium of the graphic novel, as his cartoonish drawing style sharply clashed with that of Spyda and Lynxa. The Spy Guy then randomly reappears, going to work then home in a totally mundane routine.

His introduction echoes Anti-Gone’s opening pages, a page of darkness, a page of light, fragmentary images floating in whitespace, then action. The key difference seems to be that the first page of darkness was a solid rectangle, while this one has the outline of buildings carved out from it, as if the reader were looking up at skyscrapers. The difference between the scenes following these pages of darkness is that the first ones occur out in nowhere (“the open sea” as Spy Guy describes it), but the other one takes place in the city (a sign reads “5th Ave”). While the open sea was a wasteland of nothingness and mystery, the city is just another day at the office.

Someone pointed this out in class, but Spy Guy’s scene here is the most normal part of the whole graphic novel. He drinks coffee, reads newspapers, watches Netflix- there’s nothing surreal about the scene except for his appearance. His hands and eyes are again emphasized via panels of them floating in space. Has anyone already said that the Spy Guy looks like the bad guy (Boris) from Rocky and Bullwinkle? I feel like someone (including our professor) may have said this, but it’s driving me nuts.

Anyway, this cartoon-person clashes with the realistic office and apartment. Willumsen sets up such a great mystery with the Spy Guy’s introduction, but the follow-up is almost a let down- the Spy Guy is boring. The Spy Guy’s entire character now seems to have only been a vehicle for bringing Spyda and Lynxa to shore and delivering this gag. The gag is that looks can be deceiving. The Spy Guy is just as fictitious as the rest of the characters, regardless of his drawing style.

Perception and Minimalism

The graphic minimalism of “Anti-Gone” allows Willumsen to explore surreal and meta abilities of graphic novels.

The opening pages move from darkness to light, then Spyda is introduced in fragments floating about in whitespace. The reader perceives a sun without a horizon, Spyda’s hand, a surface below, and the water itself, all drawn in line drawings and solid shades. The surface below at first appears solid, until he feels it out. Spyda plays with the water and laughs as we too perceive it, as if he were only now becoming aware of his surroundings. Indeed, he and Lynxa are unsure of their surroundings. She guess that it may be “a private paradise retreat,” despite the two having seemingly never met before. Lynxa’s description is insightful, as it is, at first, only the two of them in this picturesque retreat from reality.

Willumsen draws the opening images with just enough detail to reveal Spyda’s surroundings (the scene’s setting), except Spyda’s hand, which is more realistic than the rest of the page’s minimalism. The drawing style of Spyda’s hand again recurs, first when the cloaked salesman’s detached hand ashes his cigarette, then when the two exchange payment with floating hands. All of these moments point out that Spyda and Lynxa are seemingly human, while the cloaked salesman’s cartoonish drawing style is out of place when juxtaposed with them. We, as well as Spyda and Lynxa, must ask ourselves who and what is this stranger?

The stranger adds levels of complexity to the story by pointing out visual features of the graphic novel. Perhaps most importantly, he advises the sick Lynxa to “focus on the horizon,” an alarming statement because there is no horizon. The only time during the day that the horizon has yet appeared was when the sun reflected off the water’s surface. The stranger says, “We are on the open sea,” despite Spyda and Lynx having been on land in a previous scene. He seems to be aware of their isolation, and offers them tickets to the galleria, as if it were a ticket out of their surreal situation.

Spyda and Lynxa’s experience in their surreal virtual reality mirrors the experience of the confused reader.

Whining about Tinkercad and Sketchfab

I found Tinkercad to be an enjoyable introduction to 3D design, but limited in its capabilities. My single largest complaint was the lack of control when it came to color/ shading/ textures/ uploaded images. You can pick the color of each individual shape, but there are no options for designing gradients and textures. I wish you could individually paint planes on a shape, for instance- creating a cube with a different color on each side. It would also be great if Tinkercad allowed you to upload images and lay them across surfaces. Grouped shapes must be the same color—if you group two differently colored shapes, they combine into a monochromatic shape. This consequence of grouping shapes could be a tad frustrating, as grouping shapes makes them easier to move/ rescale/ reshape. In order to work with conjoined shapes of different colors, I had to first drag over the shapes with the select tool. A larger workspace would be nice. The user-created shapes need to be organized further than simply two sections (I believe they include Popular and All).

Having said all of those complaints, I think the whole point of Tinkercad is that it is an introduction, teaching users the basic principles of 3D design. In other words, the program is designed for beginners (like me!). If my suggestions were implemented, it may overcomplicate the program beyond the needs of its intended users. I do wish more creative applications offered Basic and Advanced modes. For instance, if Photoshop could switch back and forth between its current form and a simplified version designed for casual users. These applications could attract wider audiences and enhance some users’ experience by offering Basic modes.

I had a much worse experience with Sketchfab. The main flaw seems to be the automatic adjustments applied after uploading an object. I made a pair of silver slippers, and Sketchfab changed their starting perspective to looking up at the bottom of the soles. Their preview and opening perspective on Tinkercad were front-facing, but Sketchfab converted them to a bottom-facing perspective. Sketchfab also has very specific automatic light settings (they love atmospheric pink). These automatic light settings feel too stylized, and should maybe be replaced with more neutral lighting. I found the Sketchfab controls to be over my head at first, but I eventually figured out how to adjust the perspective and lighting. The lighting (including the background colors) made my slippers more dynamic, as various shades of lighting give my slippers different coloring from each angle.

For Ages 1 to 100

I very much so enjoyed our conversation on Monday about whether or not Through the Looking-Glass is children’s literature. Just to preface my thoughts- I love children’s literature. Carroll and Roald Dahl are two of my favorite authors of all time. I haven’t read any of Dahl’s children stories since I was a child, but I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland last year. Not to say that Dahl does not (again- I’m obsessed with him), but Carroll really transcends these categories.

Why would we call Through the Looking-Glass a story for children? Because of the nonsense? The rhymes? The fairy-tale elements? To be totally honest, I think some people may want to label this as children’s literature because the main character is a young girl, which is painfully nonsensical. If you think you’re somehow above reading Lewis Carroll because you’re in college, you’re kidding yourself. I’ve read plenty of writing that was meant for adults but seemingly written at a grade-school level. I am honestly intimidated from reading the Harry Potter series because it’s just so much.

Carroll’s writing has mature structure, references, dramatic tension, etc., but it also has childish characters and dialogue in the story itself. We must be careful not to label something as childish when perhaps surreal or absurd are more accurate terms.

The truth is that these categories are sloppy and simply a distraction. This story is for anyone between 1 and 100 years of age. Children can enjoy it, but adults can truly understand it (maybe).

Hladik’s Secret Miracle–My Personal Hell

I had to read Borge’s “The Secret Miracle” in high school and found myself greatly challenged by it. Although I now have a better grasp of the story, there is still one major aspect that confuses me- How is being frozen in place a miracle? The title, opening quotation from the Koran, and Hladik’s prayer all suggest that the pause in time he experiences is some sort of divine miracle. Personally, when I think of being able to sense the world around oneself but unable to move, I think of dying. It sounds terrible- standing in the mud, in the rain, for an entire year. The horribleness of this experience is multiplied by the fact that Hladik awaits certain and violent death. This should be the absolute last moment one would want to live in for a year. But Hladik does not wish to freeze time to increase his remaining duration of physical sensation- he is on a mental mission to finish his tragedy. The play itself also sounds like a dreadful place to spend a year- to painstakingly construct an existential crisis in one’s head. How could one even concentrate on writing while awaiting death? It seems like a recipe for Hladik’s own existential crisis. If I were in Hladik’s position, I would probably want time to speed up and get things over with.

But Hladik has some serious work to do- redeeming himself as an author, truly proving his intellectual ability, and making up for past publications. Self-doubt may be an inevitability when a person has their execution date set, but Hladik is also especially self-critical. My heart went out to him. More than anything, he finished writing the tragedy for his own self-fulfillment. “He did not work for posterity, nor even for God,…” (Borges 5). Once he completes his opus, he and therefore all existing memories of the play will cease to exist. No one will read it. And though I may suspect this pausing to be a divine miracle, Hladik does not write for God. Hladik writes for himself. If he is the only one who will ever know the play in its entirety, then does it ever even exist? This is almost a variation of a classic question- If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it really fall? These questions are inherently self-centered for us to ask- they assume that something’s existence depends upon our perception of it. My thoughts happen, even if you don’t hear them. The main reason I ask whether Hladik’s play ever exists, is to ask whether the pause in time even happened. If time pauses for Hladik then resumes without any effect upon the outside world, then in the end- it did not really stop in a way. No one would ever know time stop if only a man awaiting execution knew. This logic suggests that the final page only occurs in Hladik’s head. But Hladik is not the one telling the story- the narrator (whoever they may be) knows time stopped- so does that mean it actually did stop? I believe that Hladik’s pause in time existed just as his completed tragedy did- in his mind alone.


I Would Probably Stay in the Cave

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave has always fascinated me. I like to imagine myself as one of the prisoners, with no understanding of reality beyond my companions and the shadows we watch. My simple question has always been- if given the choice, would I leave the cave?

The question is problematic, because I would not have the perspective of life outside the cave. I always picture the people in this allegory as living in conditions similar to Segismundo. That is to say, people who are living in bondage. The problem is, if I spent my entire life shackled, I would not know that I were shackled- imprisonment would be my reality. I would think that the entirety of existence is to live in the darkness- but again, I would not recognize darkness without first knowing of the sun.

I always think back to “The Matrix”- if Morpheus appeared in my Milbank suite tonight, and offered me a pill that allowed me to see reality in its reality, what would I say? Maybe my life, as idyllic as it seems, is really just a series of shadows. Maybe my real life could be so much more than my existence as a college student. Even if he did not say how reality differed from my own, I would not take the pill. If my life is an illusion, then it is a beautiful one. Even if all the figures around me were just shadows, they bring me such joy that I would not trade them for anything.

If Morpheus told me my reality is an illusion, and I decided to remain in this illusion, a seed of doubt would doubtlessly be planted in my head. I would know the entirety of my existence is false. How would I live my life then? My life would essentially be a video game. How would I play this game? Maybe I would play without hesitation, hedonistic and regretless. Maybe I would not find joy in anything due to its falsehood. The truth is- I love playing videogames. Simply put- I would rather play a virtual reality game of my own life than abandon it completely.

I also often wonder about the escaped prisoner’s companions, and specifically- their reaction to his return. The allegory goes that the prisoners think the returning member is delusional, someone to now fear or despise. I am reminded of the contemporary concept of “woke”. Someone who’s “woke” is aware of “lies” that the public believes. For instance, someone may consider themselves “woke” if they subscribe to the increasingly popular belief that the earth is flat. Maybe the earth is flat, and we mock those who believe so because we feel that our reality is threatened.

What if I were one of the prisoners who was not released? In other words, what if my friend took Morpheus’ pill and returned to tell me about the truth of our existence. If I trusted the friend, and the friend said there was a big beautiful sun waiting to be seen, I might consider taking the pill- a leap of faith contingent upon my trust in this friend.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, more than anything, makes me feel insecure about my perceptions. Maybe my life is an illusion. If so, I would probably leave the VR goggles on.