Posts Tagged ‘Diana Poulsen’


How Hayao Miyazaki Opened my Mind, Sailor Moon and David Bowie made me a Digital Artist, and Why I explain images to people.

This is the last lecture I gave after 7 1/2 years as a contract professor at Fanshawe college.*

“I learned HTML to share Sailor Moon with the world.”

I talk about the intersections of pop culture, videogames, and art and how all of that influenced the way I taught art history and make art work. How the past may be very distant, but manages to touch everything we do.
Thank you to Ainsley Arnold for recording video I spliced into the slides. Thank you to Dames Making Games and friends for encouraging me to post my lecture.

And of course, thanks again Fine Art! It was blast teaching art history and seeing all the work each of you created during your education.

*I left teaching not because of a lack of passion, but because I can’t live off the $8000 I make teaching four classes a year. (yes, eight thousand dollars a year, you didn’t misread and I didn’t mistype.)



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I hoped to get something  published before I went under for surgery. I’m glad it did. 

A new article of mine is up at Kill Screen.

This time I compare open word games, in particular Skyrim, to Borges’ short story the Library of Babel.


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Joshua Barndt
Jan 8th – Feb 6th 2010
XPACE Cultural Centre

Joshua Barndt - Limbo - 2010 (Installation shot from Barndt's website)

As I boldly stepped into the basement of XPACE I entered another world or environment created by Joshua Barndt. A new world at the end of the world, the limbo after an Apocalypse. Remnants of old cars buried in mounds soil, revealing convenient tiered spaces for wild gardens. Amongst these remains, Barndt planted wheat grass which grew in perfectly straight lines; seeming synthetic in their stiffness, but organic in actuality.  I witnessed one viewer who was unsure of the nature of the grass then, I gasped,  he pulled some of the grass out of the installation to further examine whether or not it was plastic or organic. Conversely, I asked a gallery attendant, though I did kneel and examined, with my eye, the grass trying to guess whether it was plastic or biological. Despite the viewer’s destruction, I should applaud Barndt for creating such a thoroughly illusionistic installation causing a viewer to have to pull apart the work to be convinced of its organic nature.*

Lights in the installation were strategically placed to provided limited illumination as well as energy for the grass to grow. The wheat grass was freshly planted, since I could still see the soil surrounding the individual blades of grass. I admittedly went and saw Limbo the first day it opened, which has constantly made me think back to exhibition and how it must look now. Did the grass survive? It is more lush? How does it smell now? Has the discarded trash vanished in a sea of green? I am imagining it growing (bad pun) and changing while I am away from it. I am always curious about how it will look from one day to the next and that is why I enjoyed this installation. Limbo is different every time a viewer visits it. Limbo is a rare installation that I wanted and encouraged others to visit more than once.

* As a general courtesy, one should never touch or move a work of art without the expressed permission of the Artist.  Not touching, while difficult, will save you and the Artist the anguish of damaging a work of art. If you are unsure whether it is appropriate to touch the work, ask the gallery attendant first.

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Mel Chin

Environmentalists and people who want to change the world

Theodore Géricault

People who enjoy watching moments of intense psychological drama

Jackson Pollack

People who colour outside the lines

Caspar David Friedrich

People enchanted by the mysteriousness of nature

J. M. W. Turner

People in awe of the destructive power of nature and the beauty of light


People who secretly want to be cyborgs

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I’ve been putting off writing a review of Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. The novel profoundly bothers me as a  reader and a reviewer. I love novels that are patchworks of various narratives, which is what I believed Her Fearful Symmetry to be. Sadly, it is in literary purgatory. The grey area of I didn’t hate it, but I cannot say it was great, but it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t particularity fascinating either. Her Fearful Symmetry is highly problematic, with occasional meditative moments and tidbits of greatness.

Her Fearful Symmetry is a patchwork of stories taking place in and around Highgate cemetery in London England. The majority of the novel focuses on a set of mirror twins, Julia and Valentina, who inherit their estranged Aunt’s apartment over looking the cemetery. Before the twins can sell the apartment, they must live in it for one year and their parents may not set foot in it.  The apartment is haunted by the ghost of their deceased Aunt, Elspeth, who is an identical twin to the younger twins’ mother, Edie. If you’ve read any books about twins or ghosts you’ll quickly figure out where that narrative strand is going, yes it really is that predictable in a twisted Parent Trap way.

As for the twins, Julia is set on being with her sister at all costs, believing that Valentina cannot live without Julia , since Valentina is shy and sickly. Valentina slowly expresses her wish to live her own life away from Julia. Both are caught in the typical twin metaphor of being thought of as one soul in two bodies. This conflict of interest between the sisters could have taken quite a dark turn or developed into something interesting, but it simply does not.

SPOILER WARNING (Skip to ‘End of Spoilers’ if you care too)




Instead, Valentina, who shows no symptoms of suicidal tendencies, starts to dwell on killing herself as a way to separate herself from her sister. Valentina believes that her death and resurrection via her spectral Aunt is the only way to be free of the burden of the societal expected shared existence of being a twin. (Somehow, Valentina did not think that  talking to her sister or that moving away was an option.)

The other problem is that few of the characters seem realistic and many of their decisions are forced, easy solutions for a ending that tries too hard to be poetic.  For example, I had a hard time buying that Elspeth’s devoted lover of 13 years, Robert, would only take one year to mourn her and then move on to dating one of her nieces. Many of the characters are completely vacant and lacking in any kind of self reflection or critical thinking. (hmm could my apparition of Aunt be angry that I am dating her boyfriend? No, sadly that thought never crosses Valentina’s mind.)





The potential break up of the twins sounds beautiful, but it is bogged down in a multitude superfluous ideas and quick resolutions and non-resolutions that are pulled out of a hat. It is these strings of unresolved ideas and jumping conclusions that in part make the novel problematic. As though it needed to be edited down to focus on a well elaborated narrative strand or two, instead of swimming in a sea of abandoned notions.

Julia’s relationship with upstairs resident, Martin, is easily a favourite part. Martin is the most well developed and provocative character in the novel, though sadly not the main character. He is an intellectual and crossword creator suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which makes him a prisoner to his apartment. Martin’s long time wife, Marijke, finally decides to leave him since she wants to be free of the demands of of his OCD rituals. She dares him to venture to follow her Amsterdam. Julia becomes fascinated with Martin and his routines. She sets out to help fix and investigate him. It through Martin that we learn more about Julia and her particular quirks that develop her into a separate and unique being from Valentina. As I said this is a patchwork of stories, Martin’s story is the best one and by far the most enjoyable. This side story of Martin, Julia and Marijke’s interaction and affection is gloriously romantic and unusual.  Martin’s story is almost enough to make me forgive the other mistakes, but sadly it is only a small section of the book. It is these moments of clarity and development in the novel that make me love it, but the rest of the novel, as I have said, lacks cohesion, which is disappointing.

There is a part of the book where Niffenegger describes Robert’s Ph.D thesis as though it had expanded and lost all perspective. That sentiment is a metaphor what happened to Her Fearful Symmetry. Like The Time Traveler’s Wife, Niffenegger spends a lot of time setting up great ideas, and then quickly forgets them as she proposes them. Her Fearful Symmetry truly embodies this scatterbrained-ness which only miffed me in The Time Traveler’s Wife, but now deeply irritates me. I am frustrated with Her Fearful Symmetry, because I can see an awesome story about Martin, his wife and Julia, but it is clouded by dregs of former ideas and a vacant fascination with identical twins.

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Steel Traveler of Urth
Lilley Press
August 2009
Saul Al. Roberts

Steel Traveler of Urth follows post-apocalyptic archaeologist, Jason Father, on a dangerous expedition to the treacherous and brutal Wastes to collect a rare piece of forgotten technology. I assure you, my darling readers, this is not your stereotypical pith helmet and boring old archaeologist.* Jason Father is your silent, Lara Croft ass kicking, sexy, tomb raiding kind of archaeologist. Yes, sexy. Saul Al. Roberts does not disappoint, but delivers an action packed adventure and a steamy made-me-blush sex scene. On his journey, Jason is eventually accompanied by Reggie, a down to earth renegade anthropomorphous spider and Leane, a feisty mutant sex slave with a tail.

The wastes are desolate and at constant threat of a travelling persistent and deadly taint, a remnant of the old world. Even the most innocent appearing plants and creatures are corrupt and seeded with madness. In Urth, the hierarchy of power has dramatically shifted from humans to insects. Humans are victims of slavery, they work to get out of the wastes and into Urthian dream of owning a small farm and no longer being owned. Humans and mutants (and the odd insect) a like, are subjected to cruel punishments and technological experiments at the hands of their insect owners, resulting in their complete transformation into re-programmed cyborg creatures or unintentional magical monsters at the mercy of their owner.

Despite my love of science fiction movies and televisions shows, I’ve had a strong aversion to sci-fi literature. Bad experiences with poorly written sci-fi had left me thinking that sci-fi must include a monumental glossary of invented terms and irrelevant and tedious technological detail. Steel Traveler of Urth revolutionized my world for sci-fi novels. It was an incredible surprise to this disgruntled sci-fi fan that I could once again curl up with a good sci-fi novel. Roberts quickly sucked me into his world and I did not put the novel down until I reached the very end. There are no narrative lulls, nary a superfluous or tedious detail, only an riveting adventure.

Roberts picks his battles for creative invention. Roberts avoids strenuous and tedious details, but at the same time manages to create a world that is technologically and visually different from our world. Roberts’ new terms for races and measures of time are intuitive and easily remembered. My favourite inventions are the proverbs for the different insect races such as “Never believe an opponent dead until you’ve severed his head!” I was pleased that Roberts did not try to overly humanize the insect characters, each still prescribing to their insect culture and mating habits.

Steel Traveler of Urth is what I want a good paperback to be; adventurous, daring, occasionally humourous, a touch of romance and well scripted action. The cover is, admittedly, off putting. However, like the old bipedal proverb says: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’

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linken5. Linken Quest line in World of Warcraft (Videogame)

The Linken Quest line serves a strange commentary on the familiarity of Role Playing Game narratives.  It illuminates the similarity of many RPG narratives in a single quest line in WofW. Using the Legend of Zelda narrative, the player must collect objects to help Linken (the WofW version of Link) regain his memory. Players are rewarded with the Sword of Mastery and Linken’s Boomerang which are WofW versions of the iconic Master Sword and Boomerang.

4. Fatal Frame 3 manga collection

Though entirely in Japanese, the fan fiction manga for Fatal Frame 3 (as well as the manga collections for the previous two Fatal Frame games), adds an extra dimension to the narrative. It is beautifully illustrated with a wide variety of drawing styles. From the images alone, you get the sense of what these authors are adding to the FF3 narrative.

3. Tin Man (TV Series)

I’ve always enjoyed the animated versions as well as graphic novels of the Wizard of Oz. Honestly, I’ve never been keen on the musical version. Tin Man is the first filmed and acted version of the Wizard of Oz that I have enjoyed. It is simply a darker and interesting take on the Wizard of Oz. However, I wish they had gone further with it.

1165641897_Ealice2. American McGee’s Alice (videogame)

American McGee’s re-imaging of Wonderland after Alice’s family died tragically in a  fire, causing her to go mad and spend the rest of her life in an Asylum. She re-visits Wonderland, however Wonderland is  dark and twisted to reflect her now insane mind. Alice is no longer a lost little girl, but it is at home and is as frightening as the residents of Wonderland.

1. Teacher  by Loten (Fan Fiction)

Teacher is Tamora Pierce’s Wild Magic told from the perspective of Numair Salmalín. Loten is one of few fan fiction authors that I felt profoundly understood Numair’s character. The Immortals series by Tamora Pierce is easily one of my favourite reads. Numair is a character that I have always wanted to read more about.  Loten’s version of the first book in series fills in blanks and satisfied my curiosity about Tortall’s greatest mage . Loten’s re-telling of the entire Immortal series is helping me await Tamora Pierce’s own duo on Numair.

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