2048: Dirty Dozen edition

I had seen these 2048 things, but it wasn’t until @dkernohan’s abomination that I attempted to play one. My first thought was to make Noir2048, but that would have meant doing some actual work and I have to leave for the office in about two minutes. I thought there were twelve tiles, so I thought of Twelve Angry Men, and then remembered Michael Branson Smith’s awesome set of Dirty Dozen GIFs. Actually there’s eleven. Given my phb256 handle, I should be embarrassed. Sometimes these TDCs just seem to do themselves.


That’s something we do in ds106 – remix each other and build upon each other. Just so no one wastes any time on this, I put Telly Savalas in the top spot – for Tina’s sake.

I claim bonus points for using animated GIFs.

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The Shadow Rhymes

There’s a writing assignment to do a Poem Made With Twilight Zone Episode Titles which comes from the ds106zone days. Since we’re doing Noir106 these days, I decided to give it a different twist and use episode titles from The Shadow. That’s a thing about these assignments: They’re more about being creative than following the rules. You can alter them, or you can make up your own assignment and add it to the bank. If I had thought of it earlier, I might have added a Shadow Poetry assignment, but at this point I don’t know if it matters.

I went looking for titles. First I tried searching the Internet Archive, but that didn’t work out so well. I did find an extensive list on Wikipedia however. It seems like every other episode title ends with “death” though, which wouldn’t make for proper poetry, but there were ones I could work with. I scrolled through the list and pulled out titles that rhymed and built a list. I grabbed couplets that felt like they fit together, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of narrative sense:

The Shadow by Francesco Francavilla

The Shadow by Francesco Francavilla

Happy Doomsday
Death Shows the Way
Death Rides the Skyway
Death Rides the Subway

Cave Of the Zombies
The Gibbering Things
The Curse of the Gypsies
Death Pulls the Strings

Death Stalks The Shadow
Death Draws the Bow
Death in a Minor Key
Murder By Proxy

Rendezvous With Doom
The Man Who Could Not Die
Death and The Viking Groom
The Absolute Alibi

It doesn’t really tell a story, but it does paint some kind of work picture, so I’ll call it poetry. It has a rhythmic feel to it as well.

At first I asked my wife for help with it. She likes things to make sense (but she married me anyway), so she started to make it a narrative poem, tweaking the verbiage to make it flow and give it meaning. But if we were going to go that route, it would have to come to some conclusion, and I didn’t see that in the lines I had. So I took a step back and decided just to use the raw titles in a sort of found object poem. So there you go. Who knows what rhymes lurk in the titles of episodes?

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A little about #ds106 assignments

One of the readings we assigned this week was How To Write Up Assignments Like a Blogging Champ, in which blogmaster Alan Levine describes in detail how to write up assignment posts. Everyone should read it. Click the links The Three Parts of a Great ds106 Blog Post, Telling the Story Behind the Story, The Work Itself, and Narrating the Process and read what’s there. I’m going to highlight some points here, but I won’t be doing it justice.

What you say about it is worth more than the work itself

I see many people posting their work, and a lot of it is great stuff, but we ned more than that. It’s the thought that went into the work, and what you went through to make it, that really count. Maybe you tried to do an assignment and it came out a disaster. If you write about what you were trying to do, what inspired you, how you went about it, where you think it went wrong, and what you learned from it all, you will get full credit for doing it. You can learn through that process. Your classmates can learn through it as well. Maybe someone will offer ideas that can help you out and turn the project into a success. On the other hand, if you create a masterpiece but don’t say anything about it, we don’t know what kind of thought or effort went into it. We don’t know what you got out of it. It is harder for anyone else to learn from it.

Linking and tagging the assignment

Each assignment has two tags. You have to tag your blog post with both of them. You should also use the #ds106 and #noir106 tags, of course. Those tags get the blog post to feed through to the proper places.

You should also link to the original assignment in your write up. That way a reader can easily get back to the prompt and see what it’s all about. Maybe they want to see how other people approached the assignment. Maybe they’ll want to try it too.

You should link to anything else appropriate too. More links make for a stronger web. The Noir106 adventure is off to a great start! Let’s make sure we’re doing it the ds106 way.

Iron Link cc2009 by Andreas Levers https://flic.kr/p/6SBHQ2

Iron Link cc2009 by Andreas Levers https://flic.kr/p/6SBHQ2

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TV Guide remix: Noir106 style


Do they still have TV Guides? I haven’t looked at one since the 90s. The cable people I know all use the on-screen guides, and the rest of us out here in the wilderness are lucky if we can get two channels, so what’s the point of a guide?

But I liked the TV Guide remix assignment anyway. It might be fun to try to put a different spin on things.

The Postman Always Rings Twice – A kindly gentleman takes in a wild animal, with disastrous results.

I’m not sure if that feels drastically different, but bringing the predatory cat metaphor into the synopsis makes for a little verbal sleight-of-hand.

Chinatown – A private detective leads an eye-opening expose on corruption in the Los Angeles Water Dept.

OK, that was bad. I read a commentary on Chinatown many years ago which pointed out all the foreshadowing of the final scene that goes on throughout the movie, and that’s all I can see when I watch it now.

The Wild Party – White queen takes black pawn. Black pawn takes white king. It’s all in the game.

After Wire106, that couldn’t be helped, sorry. I don’t think any of these lives up to the Wizard of Oz example given in the assignment, but there the best I could do in the time frame I gave myself. In each case I looked for a less than obvious angle to take on the stories.

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Party on, Garth

Her mouth was a crimson velvet petal,
Her hair was beaten from gun-metal.

That couplet from The Wild Party always stuck with me. The contrast makes it striking, but the gun-metal metaphor is something else. Primarily it’s meant to describe color, but it brings so many other connotations – something dangerous, something hard and cold, a weapon. It’s also “beaten,” with more connotations of violence and fire. That choice of words raises all these thoughts, even if only in the back of our minds. That, more than the rhyming, is the poetry of the piece.

Cody found a video of the illustrator, Art Spiegelman, talking about the book and two musicals that were made from it. There was also a movie back in 1975. Spiegelman talks about the challenges of translating the work into other forms, saying that the story could fill a thimble. Even illustrating the work had its problems. A few pictures, he said, would take away from the reader’s imagination. By doing a lot of pictures, it becomes more decorated than illustrated. When there are so many pictures, each individual one has less significance. He diminished his own work to put the spotlight back on March’s words.

batshadowTranslating works across media is something of a theme with hardboiled/noir, and a theme of the week. Cain’s novella became two movies and a radio show. The Killers was brought to the screen three times. The Shadow was born on the radio, then moved to pulp magazines, then to movie serials, newspaper comic strips, and later into comic books. He was also part of the inspiration for Batman. And we looked at the Chinatown screenplay rather than the film, kind of a reverse translation. I guess that says something about the appeal. The common themes that people have been picking up on in noir – murder, lust – are the stuff of ballads going back hundreds of years. So noir is timeless.


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Dispatch from the dark: We’re all in this together

Some thoughts on the mysterious email we received this week, and a couple thoughts on the character dossier assignment. Take a look at Amanda’s post, she came up with a good one. I also make reference to Out of the Past, I think…

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Cat scratch fever

Catwoman, by Darwyn Cooke/Ed Brubaker

Catwoman, by Darwyn Cooke/Ed Brubaker

I don’t think I ever read The Postman Always Rings Twice before. I saw the 80s movie a long time ago, and the 40s film a few weeks ago, but didn’t notice the cat theme until I read it last night. I’m no supercutter like John Johnston, but I can handle Control-F. So here are just about all the “cat” lines from the story:

“To me, you look more like a hell cat.”
I’m not really such a hell cat, Frank.
Oh, all right. I’m a hell cat, then.
“Did you say you weren’t really a hell cat?”
And I’ve got to be a hell cat, just once, to fix it. But I’m not really a hell cat, Frank.”
I’m not the first woman that had to turn hell cat to get out of a mess.”
“You must be a hell cat, though.

Cora’s not really a hell cat, but Frank talks her into being one. She gets convinced of the idea and sees it as her way out of her situation. But cats are known for sharp teeth and claws. It’s Cora who says “Bite me! Bite me!” and “Rip me! Rip me!” She’s telling us that Frank is the real hell cat.

I almost hit the horn, but then I saw it was a cat. It was just a gray cat, but it shook me up. A cat was the last thing I wanted to see then.
I didn’t want to blow the horn, because it wasn’t anything but a cat, but I didn’t want it around that stepladder.
“Goddam cat, going up that stepladder.”
“I love a cat. They’re always up to something.”

Why was a cat the last thing he wanted to see? The policeman who showed up would have been a better candidate. The policeman sees that somebody is up to something, but he doesn’t really get it.

There was the cat, laying on its back with all four feet in the air.
“Ain’t that a shame? Killed her deader than hell.”
Killed her deader than hell. Pretty cat, too. Remember, how she looked when she was creeping up that ladder? I never seen a cuter cat than she was.”

The cat got fried on the fuse box. How’s that for foreshadowing? They know they’re looking at an electric chair jolt. It doesn’t phase them though.

But I can’t. It’s on account of the cats.” “Cats?”
“We’ve got a lot of cats.
“Cats are cats, ain’t they?”
A jaguar is an awful cat.
Well, anyway, I couldn’t walk out on my cats.
“Cats, hey. What do you do, train them?”
These cats you see, they look like cats, but they’re really cat lunatics.”

Cat lunatics – it refers to “outlaw” cats, “bred in captivity.” Cats that will kill you. Other cats might kill, but the cat lunatics will. Frank knew he was born to wander. Nick and Cora tried to keep him in one place. It didn’t work out well for any of them.

“How can you tell it’s a jungle cat?”
Let’s let Goebel keep those bughouse cats for their board, sell your car for whatever we can get, and hunt cats.”
When she came back she had a kitten with her, but a kitten that was bigger than a cat.
“And the cat came back! It stepped on the fuse box and got killed, but here it is back! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Ain’t that funny, how unlucky cats are for you?”

I’ll leave that one to the National Film Board of Canada:

The Cat Came Back by Cordell Barker, National Film Board of Canada

There’s a lawyer, Katz, who represents the two in court, but like all cats is mainly looking out for himself. And the cat comes back again in the final court scene:

He even had the puma in court. It had grown, but it hadn’t been taken care of right, so it was mangy and sick looking, and yowled, and tried to bite him. It was an awful looking thing, and it didn’t do me any good, believe me.

Shades of Dorian Gray there. I just have to sign off with Toonces:

toonces1 toonces-crash

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Driving rain and noir


I found this from Brian Michael Bendis my Tumblr this morning. Before he started doing all his superhero stuff, he used to do crime/noir tales using the same color scheme as Sin City. Some might remember that we used his book, Torso, in our True Crime class way back when. The art is by Michael Avon Oeming.

The thing I found striking about this image was the number of noir tropes that it packs in. The city at night, the shadows, the rain, the world-weary character. Janelle noticed that driving scenes are something of a noir trope, even if TV Tropes doesn’t acknowledge it. There’s also the oblique angles – that filmstrip-like band running through the image both creates and contains them.

As many people in this course have noted, noir is more of a style than a genre. I think we can see that here – while the image exudes style, it doesn’t tell us much of anything of the story. We don’t know about the characters or the plot, other than the guy with tired eyes is driving somewhere at night in the rain. Come to think of it, that might make an interesting writing assignment – tell the story of the scene.

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Thoughts on Noir106, week one

Just about everyone got off to a good start in Noir106. Quite a few people said they found the first week challenging, but they got through it. That’s good, because the intensity doesn’t let up. A big round of noirplause for everyone!

citizen kane clapping

Everything you need to know for Week 2 is on the course website under Week Two: Writing & Noir.

Some general comments:
Your weekly summaries should link to or embed all the work for the week. That doesn’t mean you have to repeat everything – your individual posts throughout the week should be more detailed and in-depth and the summary could be more of an overview – but I should be able to see from the summary that you did everything that needed to be done. It makes it easier to grade. Maybe it will make me grade easier.

One of the things you have to read this week is How To Write Up Assignments Like a Blogging Champ. Take its advice to heart. What you have to say about the things you create in this class counts as much or more than the creations themselves. A masterpiece, if it’s only accompanied by a cursory overview of the thoughts and process behind it, is not worth much. On the other hand, if you something you make comes out a complete failure, but you give a clear account of what you were trying to do, what you went through and what you were thinking, and what you learned from it all, then that could be worth a lot – both for you and your classmates.

Just to reiterate what we said in the weekly video: Think about what you title your posts and name your blog. The titles should be descriptive and the name of your blog should be unique to you.

I hope I don’t come across as Dr. Negative, here or in the comments I left in Canvas. I’m just trying to get everybody off on the right foot.

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I like the examples of noir that people are coming up with. Some of it is what I expected, and some are off the wall (which I also expected). Paul Schrader, in his Notes on Film Noir, describes noir as a style more than a genre. So I thought I’d look at a kung fu comic through the stylistic lens that Schrader provides.

Cat is the first part of a story from the mid-seventies comic book The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. The storytelling technique used by the writer and artist is very cinematic in any case. Kung fu and film noir don’t typically intersect as far as I know, but we can see it happening here.

Master_of_Kung_Fu_038-04Schrader wrote of the chiaroscuro lighting often seen in noir, also in evidence here. The entire page is intercut with flashback panels – a noir-ish approach to chronology. Schrader says, “Compositional tension is preferred to physical action” in film noir. Kung fu stories are usually all about the action, but this particular page is all about the composition. Thematically, the page touches on a moral compromise, which relates to the corruption often found in noir.

Master_of_Kung_Fu_038-07Schrader also talks of oblique lines and odd shapes used to evoke instability and restlessness. That’s represented on this page in the reflected conversation. It’s a quiet scene, but there is a bit of tension underneath. As an aside, I’m bothered by the yellow arrow used to show the continuity of the conversation. I can see why the page would otherwise be more confusing, but it’s intrusive and not really necessary. The reader could figure out the flow, even if it would take a second read-through.

Master_of_Kung_Fu_039-10The story continues in Fight Without Pity, which is heavier on the action but still displays noir techniques like flashback and voice-over.

If we look at it using the TV Tropes view of noir, we see even more connections in the staging, the landscape and the characters.

I actually found this stuff when I was looking for The Shadow. I may have to go back for more groovy diversions.

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