Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Guru Jessie James: What I've learned from Life With Jess.

I'm finally beginning to figure out what Jessie James and the Life With Jess narrative has been trying to tell me. In short, it's a wake up call to the fact that my own happy sense of life is only made possible through ongoing inattention and apathy regarding the suffering of others. And that I have a foundational and pervasive sense of entitlement based on what is mostly just good fortune.

I'm not saying that I'm a bad person. In fact, I'm probably above average on a scale between ISIS beheaders and  the Dali Lama. But I can see the seeds of Jessie's character within my own consciousness. They do not come to fruition in the same overt intensity. But to her defense, Jess is a fictional character in an animated series, so there's no real harm done. 

In the fictional universe I've created so far, the consequences are never visualized. I don't show Lizzie huddled in the bathtub cutting herself with a razor blade in order to feel like she has some control in a life that is full of shame and coercion. Or the Dean standing on a chair with shaking knees, an electric wire tied to a ceiling fixture and wrapped around his neck, contemplating oblivion instead of facing his colleagues and wife when Jessie threatens to expose his affairs with students.

These dark undertones began to hit me as I was writing the script for the men responding to Lizzie's ad. Although they were still over the top caricatures, there was a more realistic resonance and ugliness that Jessie's cute lovability masked in previous episodes. So here's the uncut version, without the mitigation of Jessie's presence:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Seeking Arrangements

Life is stranger than fiction. In the course of putting together a new episode of Life with Jess, I created an account on,  a site where hot young women can establish Sugar Daddy relationships, trading company and sexual services for cash and gifts. I needed a screenshot for the video, so I set up an account for "That bitch Lizzie."

Given the user name, the image and her description as "The Fictional Girl of Your Dreams," I figured the account wouldn't generate must interest from roving Sugar Daddies. To my surprise, I started getting inquiries within a few minutes: Invites to view private photos, private mail and loads of profile views.

I was a little tempted to turn this into performance art and do a little Catfishing. But I made the ethical decision to just take the screenshot and cancel the account. But guess what? They won't let me delete the account for ten days.

Oh well. I tried, right? If you want to follow the ever more bizarre story of Life with Jess, you can follow her on Twitter and bookmark her new website.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Welcome To My Parts Party

There was a discussion on Twitter the other day about whether an author's fictional characters and stories were necessarily representations of her real self.

After mulling the idea over for a couple of days, I was reminded of a group therapeutic process I once participated in called a Parts Party. One person in the group is the subject. Others take on different characters that represent aspects of the subject's personality. (I got to play drunken lust.) The subject interacts with those external representations, resulting in interesting and sometimes very deep insights. The process was created by Virginia Satir.
Each one of us has a medley of "faces" that composes our individual personality: intelligence, anger, love, jealousy, helplessness, courage, and many more. We're often quick to judge these characteristics as either positive or negative, without recognizing that we need each of them in order to become fuller, more balanced human beings. From the preface to Your Many Faces: The First Step to Being Loved by Virginia Satir
Dialoguing with characters I create doesn't feel that much different than participating in a Parts Party. Instead of projecting an aspect of myself onto another person, I project it onto a fictional character. Although it doesn't feel like Jessie James is an extension of my self, it's quite possible that she represents a shadow aspect of my personality. If so, there's some subconscious issue I need to work on that's pushing me to express and interact with this particular character. Uh oh.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Writing the Micro-Sitcom

It's been interesting trying to sustain Life with Jess over the course of ten episodes. The simplicity of the Plotagon platform makes it easy to turn dialogue into animated scenes. But the limitations are challenging. Only two characters can appear at a time. There are very few animated actions available, and no ability to move the characters around a scene, other than jump-cutting to a small number of preset locations.

The main puzzle has been figuring out how to bring in plot points that can't be visualized. The solution so far has been exposition, which is not ideal, but has proven to be an opportunity to add humor, as Jess describes her plans and exploits while Samir plays the naive straight man.

Although there's been a number of running jokes, like "that bitch Lizzie," these two videos are my first attempt to sustain a major narrative through two episodes. Although some of the jokes depend upon having viewed prior episodes, they hopefully stand up okay on their own. These are edited versions of the raw video from Plotagon.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Art, Ego and Social Sharing

My name is Botgirl Questi and I'm a compulsive social sharer. (Hi, Botgirl!) Over the past six years I've posted 15,000 tweets, 2000 blog posts, 250 videos and 3000 images on Flickr. Not to mention Facebook, Plurk, Tumblr, etc. And do you know how much money I've made from all this effort? Zero. So why do I keep doing it?

It's complicated. Or if not complicated, at least complex: A twisted web of reasons tangled so tightly that it's hard to discern between art and ego, creativity and compulsion. In any case, I'm happier when I'm doing it than when I'm not. Happier creatively lubricated than blocked. So fuck it, right?

Here's my new favorite character musing over the topic.