Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tell Me A Story Momma....but, in hindsight, preferably NOT about zombies...

--by Janin Wise

*Please be advised, these have not been edited. They are just as they were typed for the NaNoWriMo project.*

Once upon a time, not that long ago, heck, going on this very minute! in a small brick house, in the middle of southern Alabama, a northern raised woman, with her young children, moved in. And every night, as the clock struck 8, a chorus of “Tell me a story, Momma!” rang down the hall. She could no more resist that sweet request than Odysseus could resist those sirens, so she drifted down that night darkened hall and asked her children, “Would you like me to read to you, or would you like me to make a story up for you this evening?” And every evening, they requested a new made up story.

Well, this particular evening, being the day right after Halloween, spooks and goblins fresh on their minds, the story began, “Once upon a time, not terribly far in the future, was a world gone mad! It’d finally happened! The Zombie Apocalypse was nigh!

Until such a fantastic and terrible thing happens, you never think that it might… well, maybe you think that it might, but you don’t REALLY think it’ll ever happen. So it’s not like you plan for it.

Unless of course, you’d been reading up on your Zombie Survival manuals. And fortunately for our heroes, they had the complete library! Max Brooks, “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead”, Sean Page’s “Official Zombie Handbook”, and Meghann Marco’s, “Field Guide to the Apocolypse” just to name a few. These books had been well read, re-read, dog-earred, bookmarked and highlighted. Any bibliophile could tell you their pages had seen more than their fair share of turnings—heck, some of them were taped in place while other errant pages peaked between the sheets of their well filed brothers raising their hands saying, “Pick me! Pick me! -I’m- the page that’ll save your life!”

And who are our heroes, you ask? You’re hardly going to believe me when I tell you, but our heroes are no older than 8 and 5. Oh, I know. In an emergency situation, everyone turns to the adults for guidance. But lets face it, in such a fantastical situation, it’s the imaginations and creativity of the young that are going to be able to handle it.

Now fortunately, these two little boys and their family lived in kind of secluded part of the world, no closer than 30 minutes to any real civilization. And that right there is probably what gave them time to prepare. See, bad things like to spread in big places. The more people you got packed closer together, the easier it is to spread. That’s as true of the plague way back in Europe as it is for the zombies today!

So news reports were covering the spread weeks in advance. The adults all laughed it off—after all, Orson Wells had his laugh with the media of his day—radio; so they figured some very clever (and soon to be very rich!) executive had decided to update the scheme to television and the internet. But the two little boys knew better. Call it children’s intuition.

When they got on the bus the next school morning, all the other children were quiet. See, children see and hear and KNOW a lot more than they’re given credit for. Well, once they got the opportunity, during lunch, at recess, they all began to talk. And they realized they ALL had the same bad feeling that something was coming. So they came up with a plan. First, the kids started sneaking canned goods and bottled waters from home and stockpiling them in the school. It helped that the fifth graders knew it used to be bunker and how to get into the underground access. Then, they mapped out the nearest Department of Transportation site, all the hardware stores, the pawn shops, any place a creative weapon could be found.

And finally, the day they dreaded, that the adults had laughed off, was upon them. It started like any other boring school day: Get up way too early. Get dressed with eyes half open. Mumble what you want for breakfast. Try not to drool too much of it on your clothes before you have to brush your teeth and rush out to the bus so that you don’t miss it. But as they pulled into school, you could see them shuffling up the hill. One slow step at a time. Bits missing. Parts falling. Limbs dragging. And we won’t even go into the smell!”

(At this point, Momma realized that both of her children were clutching the sheets, their faces pale, their eyes wide. And she thought about the fact that if she kept on this track, it was likely she was going to be sharing her bed with two terrified little boys…that like to crowd and flip and roll in their sleep…She remembered an old storyteller friend saying, “When you start to lose the story or the audience, when you have NO WHERE ELSE TO GO—wrap it up quickly with, “And they all DIED!”

She considered it briefly, all of this passing through her mind in less than the time it takes to make a single blink, and knew that if she ended it now with “And they all DIED!” after making the heroes little boys her own boys’ ages…she was going to end up sharing her bed with two terrified little boys…that like to crowd and flip and roll in their sleep…except now they would likely have nightmares and wake up screaming…. Crap.

What to do?! What to do?!?

A-ha! Got it!)

“And the children stood there watching in horror as the creatures came shuffling, shuffling. Slowly, slowly, oh so painfully slowly up the hill. Getting closer. And closer.

And still the adults paid no heed.

And still the zombies got closer. First they shuffled one step. Bits of flesh dripping. Then they shuffled two steps, the stench of their rotting corpses proceeding them. Wafting up the hill towards the children. Overwhelming the smells of waffles and strawberries being made in the cafeteria for breakfast. (And if you want to talk about –nasty- there’s simply nothing that smells worse than waffles, strawberries and death.)

The children began to quake in fear. The dead continued to get closer, closer. Dragging, limping, slowly, slowly, always closer. And no where to run! No where to hide! All their plans forgotten in the terror or the reality! They were about to be consumed as they stood there in fright!!!!.....

When the two little boys woke up.

They’d fallen asleep in their makeshift tent of covers again, flashlights on, reading from their zombie manuals. None of it was real! It’d all been just a terrible bad dream! Whew!

(At this point, the excitement and fear in the eyes of her own two little boys calms down, they smile, they giggle, they relax. And then my world wise eight year old says to me, “I have to admit, Mom, for a minute there, I was really worried you were going to end this one with one of your, “And they all DIED.” endings.)

Hugs and kisses, fears allayed, lights turned out and both boys lay down for another night of restful sleep.

Alabamian Nights, a Foreward

The idea behind Alabamian Nights came from my enjoyment of Arabian Nights, or 1001 Nights, as a teen, and was started because two friends introduced me to NaNoWriMo and it sounded fascinating. And to be completely honest, other than knowing there’s a 50,000 word deadline in a single month—I had NO idea what I was going to do—and then it hit me, so here we are.

No, this is not a modernization of the Arabian Nights stories. And no, this isn’t going to give a look into the traditional tales of the south—I’ll admit freely and upfront, I’m a northerner in southern Alabama. What it IS, is a collection of original stories that I make up each time I sit down to add to my ‘novel’.

No, there is no king threatening my life each night if I fail to entertain, merely my two wonderful children who won’t hear a one of these tales until they’ve all been written. But to be honest, as I’ve thought about it, I think the threat I face with my tales is just as dire as the one faced by Sheherezad. With all the technology and political correctness, the rules and toys that diminish socializing face to face, I fear that my children, our children, are facing a loss to something beyond value—the ability to use their imagination.

I’m aiming for 101 stories, because even though the original is called 1001 Nights—that's how long it took her to tell the tales, not how many she actually told. In fact, some stories spanned several nights and I’ve yet to come across an edition that has more than 100 stories to share.

Now, my boys have grown up listening to me tell tales. The story every night part is true. Heck, even making up stories on the fly is true. What makes this a work of fiction is that I haven’t actually shared these stories with my children –yet-. So I imagine their responses because I’ve told them tales for so long, they already KNOW that stories are meant to be interacted with and not merely listened to.

I hope that three things come of reading these—1. You like it and wish to read it with someone else (because like I said, stories are meant to be interacted with!) 2. It encourages the making up of stories. And 3. It leads you to searching for other stories to delight in.

That said, Enjoy!

--Janin Wise

NaNoWriMo Update

I only made it to the half way point before being completely engulfed in other things that needed my attention and time. Still, roughly 25,000 words isn't bad for a month, with no prep work to begin with.

For those who are wondering what I'm talking about, here's my previous blog about getting started on NanoWriMo.

My friend Renee asked if the results would be readable, so what I've decided to do is post the better stories (:

I say that because the goal of NaNoWriMo is quantity over quality, so all of it isn't necessarily -good- (lol).

So the next series of posts will be short stories, instead of making this one -very- long post.

After all, I made it to 52 pages (;


The Presents are Under the Tree

On December 1st, my little boys asked me to decorate the house for Christmas. So I did. But I wasn't feeling the spirit of Christmas. To be honest, I haven't felt it all month. Not getting to spend Christmas with my family like we'd hope to, helped to take the wind out of my sails. Every day, my cousin has announced the countdown as we get closer and closer to Christmas. In the beginning, my response was 'Aack!' because I just wasn't ready. But as it's continued to get closer, I've leaned more towards disheartened.

For the last 2 weeks, my little boys been asking me where the presents are, because the tree is dressed and lit, with a bare skirt beneath it. I've told them it's to prevent the cat from digging through them and the dogs from messing with them and so my boys won't be tempted to look. But being completely honest, my animals and children are all very good, and are good about leaving things alone. No. The real reason I hadn't put anything under there was because I've been worried there wasn't really anything -to- put under there.

As much as we don't talk about it, I know that my children are aware. When they wrote their Christmas letters to Santa, my oldest asked for 2 specific video games, a pair of nice boots, and an alarm clock. My youngest asked for a pillow pet, an xbox game (but Momma, I can't think of any one to ask for by name...), a round clock for his room, and a new leapster because the one he got when he was 2 is no longer working.

Last week, when my children came home from school, my 5 year old showed me his feet and as he wiggled his toes at me through the bottom of his shoes, he asked me for a new pair, please. My 8 year old had given me this same request the week before-- both of his shoe laces are broken and his toe was popping through on the top of one of his shoes. But his request was a little more specific, "Mom....can it -not- be a $5 pair from WalMart, please?" I promised him a nicer pair for Christmas, if he could wait just a little bit. A hole on top is irritating, but manageable. Two blowouts on the bottom, however, mean wet feet.

So I took my boys to WalMart-- and they each chose $20 pair of sneakers. There might be plenty of people who look at that and think, 'Well, yeah.' But these are the most expensive shoes I've ever bought my kids. I figure the life of their shoes is 3-6 months maximum-- outgrowing, wearing down-- shoes just don't last for children, so why spend a lot on them? But my boys asked, and as I purchased them and they each got to carry their shoes out, my little boys thanked me for their early Christmas present.

When we got home, they put them on and played, ran around, and rode their bikes for two hours, enjoying and breaking in their new shoes. They're so proud of them, they had to tell their Grandparents all about their Christmas sneakers.

The economy is finally starting to show. Even in our area. And though I try not to talk about it much, we're not immune. A year full of unexpected medical bills, new services, and not planning far enough in the future caught up to us in time for Christmas.

My youngest was asking me this morning about Thanksgiving trees. And I told him that they sort of exist-- that people write what they are thankful for on the paper leaves. And he asked me what I was thankful for-- and I said, "My family, and your Daddy's job. And the benefits of your Daddy's job."

He said he was thankful for all the good things in the world.

I love the way my little boy thinks.

So three weeks ago, I set aside $15 so that I would be able to take my boys shopping at Dollar Tree. We went this morning. I took them one at a time. Their shopping list was short: 1 gift each for Grandmother, Grandma, Grandpa, Daddy, Momma, and Brother. When we headed in the door, I handed him a carry along shopping basket. Then I followed my boys, each in their turn, around the store, playing living grocery list so they knew who the next gift was for.

It took each of my boys about 20 minutes to do their shopping. My oldest would say, "I think this one is perfect for Daddy because he's always trying to find his." My youngest, when it was his turn would take me down an aisle, then say, "Nope. The right present for Grandma isn't in this isle. Lets try the one two over." It was actually very endearing to watch my boys -think- about the gifts they were giving as they searched for just the right ones.

Then when we got home, I headed out to storage and found my Christmas paper and tags stash, as well as my tape. Then took my boys in turn to help them wrap their gifts. My boys wrote the 'To and From' all by themselves. They cut the paper. Wrapped the presents, and put the tape on, with me helping as needed (: And as each present was wrapped and tagged, my boys would dash out of the room to put it under the tree, before coming back to wrap the next one. All the while, closing my bedroom door to keep the surprises so that no one would know what they got for them. (And making me promise to forget what they'd gotten for me.)

So our tree went from being empty, to having 12 presents under it.

I decided to look in my present storage area, without much hope, figuring I had maybe 5 things in total to add to our tree.

And this is where I discovered something else to be thankful for: I tend to start my Christmas shopping in July, as I come across really great sales and discounts. And so my children have 5 presents each under the tree from their Daddy and I. And I have some things to give to my husband. It isn't what he asked for-- because that has to be special ordered online and I can't do it right now. But it's something. And I think they'll make him smile.

And so this afternoon, one week before Christmas, I am thankful that there -are- presents under our tree. And I'm thankful that Santa will be able to come.

But above all, I am thankful for my thoughtful, wonderful little boys, who have finally given me the spirit of Christmas this year and made next Saturday something to look forward to, instead of something to dread.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Color and Tech 2010

One of the required courses in the Art Department at Troy University is Color and Tech. It teaches you to see the variations in colors, shades and tints, and understand how the work on the computer, and how the work differently in paint.

Our very first assignment was to select colors on the computer that represented to us, the word given.

Our second assignment was to overlay a light layer of tint and shade-- then match those colors by adjusting the actual numbers instead of just putting a layer over it.

Our next assignment was to label and identify the primary, secondary and intermediate colors, as they show up in the light spectrum.

The we generated color wheels in both CMY (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow) and RYB (Red, Yellow and Blue) The reason for this exercise is because CMY truly will make any other color, but we all grew up using RYB-- that was because when the color wheel was originally created, man didn't have the ability to make cyan or magenta.

Then we moved into the value scale of grays without color:
Our first 'real' assignment was called "In and Out" and using the value scale to generate it. This was mine:

Then we added color to the lesson-- trying to see the value scale of colors:
Then we had to try to arrange them in order.
The next assignment was to take the first 4 letters of our name and using 8 different colors, generate a simple design that would have the same value.

Then we moved onto a project called "babies". The idea was to place the same color in the center, but by putting it on it's parents, make it look like the OTHER color.
Then we had to paint our babie's project out and try to match the colors we'd made on the computer. I think I got fairly close! I chose my first pair (:

Then we had the opposite assignment-- to take 2 different colors and make them look like the -same- color:
We had an assignment called, "Radiation" that was supposed to look like it was radiating from the image.

One of my favorite assignments was called "Analogous and Complimentary" :

Then we had to take an image and adjust the CMYK values in each portion.

We had to paint a grayscale image with various hues-- I misunderstood and added too much chroma. I call it "Pet Peeve #1". If I actually get around to it, I'm going to do another one in the proper grayscale with mild adjustments in color, and I'll call that one "Pet Peeve #2" (;

Then we had to use Cyan, Magenta and Yellow-- no ACTUAL black, and try to make black. Believe it or not, but the below image actually looks black from across the courtyard.

Then he gave us a pantone swatch, and we had to try to match it with paint. I got fairly close, but didn't get it exactly. Needed more blue and white.

Then he gave us an interest assignment where we ended up sticking a whole lot of toothpicks in an orange (lol). Then we had to draw out the colors we ended 'selecting'. Then we needed to use the computer to generate the colors.

All of this was in preparation for doing our 'design' assignment. We needed to generate 2 designs that could be repeated-- below is the pattern I created for our 'baby' line.

Then we selected one of our color palettes for it:

And had to switch colors around/ try another palette for variety:

Then we had to do a "Young Adult Modern" repeatable pattern. This was mine:

Then we did the same thing with the color palettes:

And the alternatives:

The last project that we turned in on the cd was where we had to make the same color look like 2.

There were a couple of other assignments, but because they ended up in previous blogs all by themselves, they are not represented here (;

Looking back on it, in 16 weeks, we did a LOT of assignments!

Oh How I Loathe Self-Portraits

I've had to make three self portraits in the last 2 semesters. This semester, I had to make the -largest- painting I've ever done: 3 feet by 4 feet! ...and it had to be a self-portrait. sigh.

The theme was 'playful'. We worked from a photograph of ourselves, and even though we were to try to emulate the image, it was understood that our personalities would come out in the painting process.

I chose a photograph of me blowing bubbles that my 8 year old took of me just before sunset. Below is getting started. I prefer to start with my darkest shades and work my way back towards the lightest. I realized I don't paint a specific area-- I paint all the places that are the same shade before moving on to the next shade and adding more white.

Getting started.

50% complete for mid-review

The piece I turned in as final.

I'm thinking I'll follow my professor's suggestion and glaze the background with about 65% percent grayscale so that I stand out better in it. Though I have to say, as far as reproducing the original image goes, I think I got fairly close:

Sculpture Project aka Wire Tree

We worked on several stone carving pieces. I had one that was ready to be lacquered, but I kept looking at it and thinking it was missing something. Once I figured out what it was missing was a wire tree, I immediately worked on making one for it.

I took a process photo (:

Then I took 3 images from different angles of the finished tree:

And the final result, attached to it's soapstone base was -exactly- what the piece needed.

I'll need to take a better photograph of it for my portfolio, but have to admit it, -completely- pleased with the end results (:

Final Prints for Fall 2010

For our final assignment in printing, we were told we had to do something experimental-- either combining 2 or more of the processes we'd already learned, or we could try our hands at screen printing. I decided to try the screen printing.

As I was thinking of ideas for what I wanted to do, I had a phone conversation with my mother, and she asked me to design her a silhouette geisha. So I decided that was what I'd do for my final printing assignment.

First, I created a drawing in pencil.

I made sure to take a picture of it because I wasn't sure if the inking/marker process would end up ruining it.

But it turned out just fine. (: Then I uploaded it into the computer to refine it.

But I didn't want to do just a single image. So I drew another one.

And photographed it before inking as well, for the same reason.

Then uploaded that into my computer as well.

Have to admit, very pleased with the end results (: Now I just have to send my mother her copies!

Fall 2010 Printing with Image-On

Of all the processes we learned in print-making this semester, I can honestly say that Image-On is the one I absolutely hated. Below is the image I created for our first Image-On assignment.

I absolutely adored it. It's from my photograph of some of the flowers in my yard, that I overlays transparent images of the butterflies on. Yup. The butterflies were not actually in this image to begin with. Then I added the quote.

Unfortunately, the image-on process was a complete failure for me and the end result was a mess.

So then we had our next Image-On assignment. This time, we were using a transparent sheet to create our image on, using ink, dark pencil and ink wash. Below is the image I created for this assignment.

Then came the Image-On process. I had my plastic template cut to size, put the blue sheet of image-on on it...and ended up with a huge rip in the middle...and no more image-on to replace it with. Crap. So I decided to turn my image and crop it. Below is the result.

The rip in the image -is what gives the right side it's ragged look. I liked that happy accident enough that I duplicated it on the left. The end result in titled "Storm Kings".