Friday, July 14, 2017

Classic Films - Episode 2

This episode's film is a classic in many books: Twelve Angry Men. Based on a play, the film follows 12 unnamed jurors as they debate a murder case. The films begins with 11 jurors convinced that a young boy killed his father. Only one disagrees. By the end of the film (spoiler alert), the jurors find the defendant innocent. I use this film in my public speaking classes as a discussion on argumentation and persuasion because it is such an excellent example of it. As such, I have seen this film well over a dozen times.

I’m referring of course to the 1957 version starring Henry Fonda as juror number seven, the only one who begins by assuming the boy on trial is innocent. I’ve had students remark in the past that they hate black and white films but really enjoyed this one. My kids felt the same way. They really liked this one. My second child remarked that juror #7 should really be the judge or the trial lawyer.
We had a fun talk afterwards about the justice system. This film is unique because we really don’t know if the boy killed his father or not. If this was a classic Hollywood film, we would begin by seeing the boy get framed for the murder, everyone disbelieving his story except some plucky young lawyer, throw in an odd love subplot, and the film would climax in a passionate plea to the jury for true justice. The jury would leave and then come back minutes later, announce a verdict of innocence, there would be much rejoicing, and everyone would go celebrate at a barbecue. Instead, none of that happens.

We don’t see the murder. We don’t really see the trial. Instead we begin with a very bored looking judge say that the jury must decide whether the boy is guilty or innocent and that they must all agree. The judge nonchalantly tells them how important this decision is but acts as if he’d rather be out golfing because he recites his speech in a dull monotone. Ninety percent of the film takes place in one room as the jurors debate the facts of the case. When they decide their verdict, we don’t even see the boy’s face. Instead the film ends with the various jurors walking their separate ways outside the court steps. As my eldest put it, “They just kind of blend in with the crowd. It’s as if they are just everyday people.” And that’s the point of the film. The decision doesn’t affect them. One juror even states, “We receive a summons in the mail. We decide the guilt or innocence of a man we don’t even know. It’s what makes us strong.”

I’ve been called onto jury duty once or twice but had to decline because I was still a student at the time. My kids found it interesting to hear that they might one day be called in to decide justice on some case. I warned them, however, that they don’t need to be juror number 7 and convince everyone that the defendant is innocent. Sometimes they are guilty. When I asked my kids whether they thought the boy really killed his father, they weren’t sure. The arguments were well-made but there were some holes in the story such as the murder weapon happening to be the same as a knife the boy bought that afternoon. It’s a bit of a coincidence.
What’s fun though is looking at the personalities of the different jurors. Even though they are never named, each one is distinct. You have the highschool football coach, the baseball fan, the angry father, the stock broker, the advertiser (whose job is persuasion but he himself seems unsure of it), the prejudiced man, the older gentleman, and the European watch-maker. It’s a fascinating crew of individuals. It’s also interesting to watch juror #7 work. He begins not by saying everyone is wrong, then they would get defensive. Instead he just says he himself isn’t sure of the boy’s guilt and that the boy probably is guilty but may not be so they should talk things out.

This is an excellent persuasive strategy as it gives you a foothold for collaboration instead of opposition. Henry Fonda, playing juror number seven, excellently maneuvers the group to look at each fact and consider possible alternatives. However, it is the last three jurors to convince that are the most interesting.

Aristotle argued that there are three different forms of appeals: Logos, pathos, and ethos. This is called the rhetorical triangle. Each of the last three jurors represents one of these. The first is the prejudiced man. He requires an ethos appeal. Ethos refers to quality of character. We are more likely to be convinced by someone whom we respect and deem trustworthy. What matters most to him is the character of the boy. He assumes the boy is a violent criminal because of his upbringing. He makes a speech about how dangerous poor people are and everyone in the room turns away from him. Confused, he keeps saying “Listen to me.” At which point one of the jurors, one who agrees with him that the boy is guilty, tells the prejudiced man to “Not speak again.” The prejudiced man has to be shown that just because the boy is poor and has a violent past does not mean he committee this specific crime.

Next to go is the stock-broker who is very thoughtful and likes things to make sense. He requires logos, which are logical appeals, in order to persuade him. His biggest concern was that a woman across the street saw the crime. This testimony is hard to argue unless she is lying and there didn’t seem to be any reason for it. However, one of the other jurors remarks that the woman had marks on her nose suggesting she wore glasses and if she did wear glasses, she wouldn’t have been able to see the killer clearly. The stock-broker agrees that this is logical and changes his opinion.

The last juror is the angry father played by Lee Cobb. This character is awesome. He is extremely emotional and often shouts out unintentional statements that reinforce juror #7’s arguments. It is hinted at earlier that he had a falling out with his own son and doesn’t like ungrateful children. When all of the other jurors confront him about the guilt of the boy at the end, angry father pulls out his wallet of notes and throws them on the table. Included on the pile is a picture of him with his own son who hasn’t spoken to in years. The angry father says, “There it is. That’s the whole case right there.” He then tears up the picture of him hugging his son and breaks down in tears.

This man requires pathos, or emotional appeals. He is angry at his own son. He has misplaced this anger on the boy on trial. He empathizes with the dead father and wants justice for the murdered man and also for himself. The other jurors don’t really have to say anything but they silently make this frustrated man realize why he is so angry. He finally gets his emotions in check and agrees with the other jurors as to the boy’s innocence.

Overall, 12 Angry Men is an incredible film. The story is engaging. The characters are memorable. Cinematically, it’s well crafted. The camera begins with long shots and moves closer and closer to the characters. By the conclusion, the camera is almost always showing close-ups, which reflects the intensity of the conversation and the mental debate. It is a fun, thoughtful film about persuasion, truth, and the American justice system.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Animazement 2017 - Part 1

Animazement 2017

... was a blast. There are no other words for it.

I cosplayed--for the first time in years.

It was refreshing.

The costumes weren't anything brilliant. Friday's were very (obviously) last minute. But I had fun--and that's the most important part right?

Friday, my daughter Sophie dressed as Princess Aurora. It was a dress she had gotten as a hand-me-down from her cousin. She loves wearing it, and I thought Animazement would be an excellent excuse to wear it. Last minute, I decided to put together King Stefan and Queen Leah costumes for my husband and I -- because Aurora has a complete set of living parents and why not?

Saturday and Sunday, my husband and I and Ty, my oldest son, cosplayed as the three Marowaks from the Alolan fire trial (Pokemon Sun and Moon). A friend of ours came along dressed as the Hiker from the trial as well. This was a lot of fun. Technically we had Sophie dressed up as a Salazzle, but she wouldn't keep the costume on, so meh. You win some, you lose some.

In the end, I had a great weekend. I am going to post more later on con-going with a smaller child and on some of my great finds in the Artist Alley.

No pictures from Friday; I will try to find some. But here's one I found of us on Saturday:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 5

Hey, two posts in one week. It's a miracle.

So anyways, I'm working on a couple of projects, but one of the bigger projects is redrawing all my archetypes. I'm pretty sure I mentioned that before. I posted a WIP pic earlier this year too. I've decided I don't like 3 of the pictures I posted there though, so... I'll be redrawing those. Anyways, this week's WIP post includes 7 more archetype sketches. I'm also playing with colors for the final versions.

Witch, Wizard, Wise Master

Ghost, Necromancer, Viking, Ninja

These are some of the color variantions. I'm leaning toward #2 and #3. Probably #3... This is also one of the designs I'm throwing out because I don't like it. No other reason.

I'm also working on a new line of something awesome. More on that to come, but here's a teaser picture. The top 3 fabrics are designs I had printed at Spoonflower. I haven't laid out things yet, but I'm hoping the sizing works. @_@

Monday, June 19, 2017

Finding a Groove

There have been a lot of changes around here. I've posted about some of them. Posting here and other places has been inconsistent, but I'm working on that. Part of it is I am trying to find my new groove with what's going on. Things are just very different, schedule-wise, to what I've done for the last 15 years or so. It's getting better. I'm starting to find a groove. I'm working on finding a place for everything.

Time for work--that's a set schedule, so this is really what I'm having to work around. Time for sleep. Time for my family. Time for my kids' school--we are still homeschooling because that is something that I feel is super important for our family. Time for art--this has been and remains to be my day-to-day stress relief.

What still needs to happen is to organize that time, so that I get things posted here in a consistent manner. It's about being mindful of what needs to be done, and it's also about regrounding myself temporally. The one thing I've had the most trouble with adjusting to with the shift to working nights is time--as in, what day is it? I find that I lose days at a time. I look back and realize that I never posted here on Wednesday or Friday and it is now Saturday. Oops. So, I'm having to work on my awareness of time.

But anyways, I'm working on finding my groove. I'm trying some new ways to organize the things I want to see finished and when I want them done. It's a lot of trial and error. We'll see how my plan for this week goes. We'll see what works and what doesn't. Then I'll adjust it for next week. It's slow, but there's progress. I may not be posting here consistently, but I'm posting. I may not be sharing a lot of WIP stuff, but I am getting things done. =D If this week goes well, maybe I'll get some WIP pics posted Wednesday, and I'd love to share our Animazement fun on Friday--I have a review of the convention I want to write up, and I have a post planned on the cosplays we put together for the con. If this week doesn't go how I think it will, then maybe those things will come next week. =P

Friday, June 2, 2017

Summer Classic Films - Episode 1

So, we're going to do a little something different around here. With my new job and the health problems I've had, keeping up with my blog and other social media stuff has been difficult. So, my husband is going to be contributing more to the blog here. This is related to the studio because he's the one that does all the writing for my prints and badges. He also wrote the Anime RPG book you may have seen at my table, so it makes sense for him to write some stuff for my blog. For the summer, on most Fridays, I will be sharing some reflections related to a film project he's been doing with the kids. He's big fan of film, and he teaches a variety of film classes at the college level. These posts are going to be a little longer than what I normally write, but I think they're worth the read. So, without further rambling, here's the first Friday post for the Summer Classic Film Project...

The Sting

As part of a summer activity, I have decided to watch classic films with my children. I want them to have to a good cultural background in film so the plan is to watch a number of movie classics and then talk about them. I was inspired to try this after I finished teaching a film art class in the spring. I was actually rather surprised at how few movies over twenty years old that my students were familiar with let alone seen.

I’ve already exposed my children to a number of what you might call geeky classics. They’ve seen films like Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future and the older Batman movies. We’ve even watched some of the more obscure ones like The Monster Squad, Ferris Bueller, and Murder by Death. As such, I’m going to experiment here a little more and show them more dramas and action films that aren’t quite as well known. Our first film was The Sting.

Made in 1973, The Sting features a pair of con artists named Hooker (Robert Redford) and Gondorff (Paul Newman) who exact revenge against a corrupt mobster named Lonnegan, played by the excellent Robert Shaw who was the drunk shark-hunter in Jaws. It’s a fairly straightforward story with a few twists along the way to make things interesting. It’s set in the 1930s and certainly captures the feel of destitution and dirt that I often associated with my limited knowledge of the Great Depression period.

One of the more interesting aspects of the film is how it not only creates this underworld fantasy of crime but it populates the world with a society of con men with goofy nicknames like Kid Twist and Combs. These men apparently have their own secret society with signals to identify one another and will on occasion band together to act out a complicated con story for big bucks. They play off one another to create an intricate story with which to bamboozle the poor schmuck they’ve decided to rip off. In this case, the con is revenge for the murder of one of their members. As such, it is a satisfying story of crooks stealing from other crooks. It probably wouldn’t have been as good if they had decided to just target a rich guy who was a little more empathetic.

The film opens with a couple of clips from the movie and a description of the players. This is a nice nod to earlier silent films that used this term when listing the opening credits since film in the early days drew heavily from plays. After an introduction to our main characters, the film halts over a still image of people sitting at a street corner. Some have chairs. One rests against a car. In the background we see a man rummaging around in the trash. It almost looks like a painting depicting the squalor and general hopelessness I have when I picture 1930s urban Americana. The still image shifts to movement revealing it not to be a painting but part of a film.

The camera then cuts to a man walking past all of the poor street dwellers. We only see the man’s shoes and they are clearly clean and expensive. They stand in stark contrast to the poverty around them. The man climbs some very dirty and rusty old stairs and enters a room bustling with people. We hear another man talking on the phone about the day’s take and how the police shut the group down for an hour. While we are not privy to the whole story, there are enough pieces here to suggest that these men are involved in an organized crime racket. Probably gambling but it’s hard to say.

Matolla, our well-groomed man from the street, is given some money and told to take it to Chicago. He leaves and as he walks down the street, he observes a robbery. Our man doesn’t get involved but another man, Hooker, steps into the scene and foils the robbery. A short exchange occurs in which Matolla agrees to deliver the robbery victim’s money to a group of loan sharks. What Matolla doesn’t realize is that he is being conned and is quickly relieved of all of his money. Thus begins The Sting.

The movie has some interesting and likeable characters, a complicated confidence scam, some assassins, and some very corrupt police officers. It doesn’t cut as often as newer movies but then again it is rather dialog heavy. That’s something that really stood out to me on this viewing. The characters in this film rattle off a ton of slang. I’m not sure if people in the 1930s spoke like this or if it is only a Hollywood reimagining but I found myself reflecting on the language a lot here. A lot of the slang was vanishing from general vocabulary when I was a kid. I can only imagine the confusion of my own children as they heard words like moxie and sting thrown around like cotton candy.

In particular there is one scene in which our conmen observe a detective entering a pub. One of the con men remarks, “I’ve never seen him before. He’s a dick, though.” I know from my experience that dick was an old slang term for police detective. My kids have only heard that word used as an insult meaning a jerk. The two meanings were probably synonymous once upon a time but the former term is no longer really well known among the younger generation.

That’s not to say I was able to follow the dialog all of the time either. I still have no idea what “droople drooze” is supposed to mean. Robert Shaw’s Irish accent is almost indecipherable at times when he rattles off phrases like, “You don’t see my men rumbling around with such riffraff.” Overall though, I think my kids were able to follow the story. The older two in particular really liked some of the card tricks and lies that the con men used to trick the evil mob boss.

One little thing that amused me is that at one point, Hooker and Gondorff are playing Cribbidge together. They only play one hand and for the most part the game is really just to give the two something to do with their hands while they rattle off exposition and character reflection. However, they played the game correctly. I like that kind of detail in a film.

In summary, The Sting is a fun film. It won a ton of academy awards and made a lot of money in the box office when it came out 45 years ago. There is one scene in which we see a woman’s naked backside and part of her breast. In the same scene is a woman doing a semi-risky strip tease in a bikini bottom and nipple covers. There are also a couple of murders in which one person gets shot in the head. I was actually rather surprised that the film has only a PG rating. I had forgotten those moments when I first saw the film years ago.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

I Went Away Again

So I disappeared again. Hopefully this will be the last time for a while.

So where'd I go this time?

Basically, I ended up back in the hospital. Which sucks. A lot.

Why? Well basically it turns out that my hemoglobin deficiency wasn't fixing itself like we thought it was because, apparently, I had no iron. Pretty much none. At all. So my hemoglobin had dropped back to where it was when last fall when this whole mess started.

And I passed out at work. Which also sucked. A lot.

So, I've spent the last 2 months resting and recovering and doing only what I absolutely needed to do to get by. I posted a brief note to this point on Facebook, but never made it here to post either. Oops. I blame lack of oxygen to my brain. Totally legitimate. Because, you know, even though I had lots of red blood cells, I didn't have iron, and iron's necessary for hemoglobin. Without hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying part of our blood) I was not getting enough oxygen to function.

Anyways, I'm feeling better now, and hopefully it's going to stay that way.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 4

I've been working on more of what you saw last week: Angel is almost finished (at least for this part--the entire print has a lot more to it). The Magic Girl commission is finished. This one was fun. I was given a lot of creative license to come up with the design--I was given red hair, blue eyes, bare midriff, wields a great sword, and uses the element of steel. Also the yin-yang symbol because this character's normal form is a guy--he becomes a girl when he transforms.