Category Archives: Analysis

Age of The Breakout

If you’re a movie star, you get the girl, you lose the girl, then you get her back. But if you’re a character like me, you lose the girl, then you get another one, and then you get another one, then you lose them all, then you lose your life. It’s all very different. And it’s fascinating for me.

Academy Award Winning Actor Michael Caine (

Fall is on its way and I can’t wait to see some of my favorite characters again: Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper, Community‘s Troy and Abed, and my favorite, New Girl‘s Schmidt. Take note: I didn’t mention any protagonists or main characters among this list of favorites. Not Jessica Day (New Girl), not Richard Castle (Castle), and definitely not that winey Ted Mosby (How I Met Your Mother). Great actors like Christoph Waltz, Olivia Spencer, and Michael Caine prefer roles like these, the supporting roles. Why? There are many reasons. I’ll name a few.

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Storytelling Lessons from an Unlikely Source

Don’t refresh your screen. Don’t rub your eyes. What you see above is a championship that has stood the test of time in one form or another. The stories surrounding this belt and its lesser counterparts bring in a loyal audience, providing dependable ratings and life blood for up and coming television networks like USA Network and SyFy (we’ll talk about that questionable name change at a later date).

These stories have been retold for more than four decades with new cast members and new twists, using various forms of media to immerse fans in a complex milieu. They manage to sell out stadiums made for teams that couldn’t hope to do the same. And the man that holds this belt has managed to develop an extremely diverse skillset: stage fighting, choreography, stunt work, public speaking, improvisation, marketing, and acting. Trust me. He’s earned this, and the fanfare that comes along with it. We’re not here just to talk about the WWE Championship, but World Wrestling Entertainment as a whole, and how it taught me a few very important lessons in storytelling.

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Storytelling in Video Games Pt. 2

In last week’s feature, I unveiled what I believe to be the next great storytelling medium, video games. Coincidence would have it that yesterday (when I should have been writing this post) I was at a book signing for The Big Bad: An Anthology of Evil. A lot of my friends were there, but John Hartness and Jay Requard were having a conversation with a fan about video games and the direction the industry seems to be headed in. It made me realize I missed something in my last post – a disclaimer.

For those of you who aren’t fans of video games, but fans of great storytelling, I must warn you that the games that get the most publicity and sell the most units are shitty in the storytelling department. They’re first person shooters and sports simulations focused on a competitive multiplayer experience. These are the games you’d play online with a headset and an asshole of a kid on the other side either telling you off or his mother off. I know I featured Battlefield 4 in the last post, but it really is the exception to the first person shooter rule. When people familiar with the video game industry think of storytelling three letters usually come to mind, RPG (role-playing game). In this genre, you assume the role of a character(or a party of characters) in a fictional setting. However, even some RPG’s are terrible at telling a story. Massively Multiplayer Online RPG’s, like World of Warcraft, are superb at worldbuilding, but you and I both know it takes much more than that to tell a good story.

For more than a decade there’s been a steady trend towards so-called open world games, where the players decisions affect the outcome of events, hopefully lending more realism to the in character world. Games like Fable and Knights of The Old Republic come to mind. However, game designers only have so much time, money, and imagination, and it seems as though the more open an in game world is, the less characterization you see. In that last example, the main character, whom you name, customize and control, doesn’t have a voice at all. Depending on the decisions you make for this character, he/she will either become a Jedi knight or a Sith lord. It was fun to play, but it wasn’t compelling at all to me. It takes games like that to fully appreciate other mediums in which the story is completely out of my hands. It made me appreciate JK Rowling‘s choice to make Harry Potter so whiney in the Order of The Phoenix. We may not like the choices an author makes, but it’s almost always better than the choices we’d be given.

The following is only my opinion, but I regard it very highly in this situation, seeing as I’ve played video games for as long as I’ve read books, watched movies, and gone to the theatre. The best examples of storytelling in games has, and always will, use elements we find in literature and cinema. Therefore, games geared towards a multiplayer experience will never be good in this respect. I’m antagonizing a lot of Call of Duty and Halo fans by saying that, but how are you going to insert a cut scene into a king of the hill competition involving fifty players and a thousand bullets flying in the air? You can’t, and that’s okay. You guys aren’t looking for a good story (even though you should :p ).

A game that does well with this is most likely to be single-player, action-adventure, with RPG elements (take note that I did not mention turn-based). It will be linear, with enough optional side projects to satisfy a player’s curiosity about the fictional world, but it will only have one ending, with maybe an alternate for replay value. When you bring all the elements of great fiction together, do them well, and use them to compliment the interactive nature of a video game, you can create a story that the audience is more likely to feel and relate to. It’ll hit home. One did that for me. It’s pretty old, it’s pretty well known, and I get misty eyed every time I hear it’s music.

This game deserves its own post, and I’m working on it. Promise. Until then, scroll past the cast picture and enjoy the beautiful music of Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy VII

(top left to right) Yufie, Aerith, Barret & Marlene, Cloud, Sephiroth
(bottom left to right) Vincent, Tifa, Zak, Rufus Shinra & The Turks, Kadaj

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The Next Great Storytelling Medium

Dear Fellow Writers,

Consider the following: you’ve got a story, with compelling characters, a well-defined setting, a strong plot, and a decent amount of action, but you want your prospective audience to experience your story as best as they possibly can. You want them to deal with the failures and successes of a character’s journey, and immerse themselves in a world with as many senses as they can. If audience experience is your primary goal, which storytelling medium should you go with? Do you turn this story into a screenplay, a book, a song? Maybe, but I have another option for you. Why not turn your next great story into…

a Video Game?

Don’t rub your eyes! You read it correctly. I said a video game. If you’re over a certain age and if you’re a woman, you’re likely to turn away. I don’t mean any offense by that. My seventy year old father loves playing the Civilization and Sim City series and I know plenty of female gamers, but the numbers don’t lie – although 41% of gamers are women, most women still aren’t gamers (Entertainment Software Association). I’m saying this to urge you not to turn away. This young medium has something the others do not – immersive interaction. When you play a video game, you’re investing not just your time, but your effort, your wits, and inevitably your emotion. It’s been years since I’ve regularly played, but I can still speak from experience. When used correctly with traditional storytelling elements video games immersed me in a world that sparked my imagination, made me care about heroes and despise villains, and one game even drove me to tears. You’ll want to stick around for that one.

If you’ve read my stuff before you know I like to back up what I’m saying with research. So far I haven’t found any academic studies on video games that would be relevant to this conversation. Most of them are focused on violence and hand eye coordination. Those don’t do me any good, so let’s take three storytelling elements that video games have a unique advantage in Point of View, World Building, and Stakes/Tension.

Point of View

First person shooters are games focused on using projectile based weapons in which the player experiences the action through the eyes of the protagonist. When a work of fiction is in first person, the writer uses the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘Me’, and there is a sense of intimacy the reader gets from this. If done well, the reader feels as though they’re privy to the point-of-view character’s thoughts. They feel like they’re taking part in that character’s actions. The interactive nature of video games gives this, and a little bit more. Not only is the audience in on the main character’s thoughts, they are in control of the character’s actions. You’d think that would take some of the creative power out of the storyteller’s hands but it doesn’t. The following clip is a gameplay preview of Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 4. The term gameplay preview means that this is what we’ll experience when we have full control of the game. Therefore someone is at the controller, playing the game as you’re watching this.

Turn the volume up and the lights down, and put this on full screen when you watch it. You don’t have to watch the whole thing. It’s seventeen minutes long, but at least watch he first two minutes and take note of the various storytelling elements the game is using. Tell me, fellow writers, how many paragraphs or pages would it take to explain the following? And what’s to say that your particular style of writing doesn’t pull certain readers out of the experience?

Notice the beginning, and the elements at play here. You and three of your companions are trapped in a car underwater. Your superior officer is stuck, the doors are stuck. He gives you his firearm and orders you to shoot your way out of the car and save yourselves. As the player you’re immediately asking yourself “How did I get here?” and the flashback ensues. In the case of the video game’s story, however, you get to play the flashback. It doesn’t kill the pace the way it could in a book. The ordeal is even more effective when the controller is in your hands.

World Building

Storytellers, from Stephen King and George RR Martin to Woody Allen and Christopher Nolan, need to build worlds, from Middle Earth and the sparkly vampire infested Pacific Northwest to the Upper East Side of Manhattan and South Fork Ranch of Dallas, Texas. Some might have to do it more than others, but just about everyone has to do it. The writer must acquaint the reader with an alien world without shoving a textbook down their throats. In television and film, a screenwriter must do the same through dialogue alone and trust that the set designers will do the production justice. While video game culture is diversifying, its roots are steeped in science fiction and fantasy, in which world building is critical.

Star Fox, released in 1993, takes place in a futuristic system inhabited by anthropomorphic animal races. You play Fox Mcloud, the leader of a team of elite mercenaries, you’ve been given state of the art Arwing fighters, and you’ve been charged with saving the star system from the mad scientist Andros. I feel old just talking about it, but back in these days games didn’t have voice actors. They just had dialogue boxes that you had to read as they scrolled down on their own sweet time. In spite of the limited technology, these worlds were impressive, vivid, and they gave rise to the best example of world building I’ve seen so far.

Ladies and gentlemen, the steampunk masterpiece Bioshock Infinite. (Watch this one all the way through)

Despite the relatively slow beginning, the first two lines that you hear are compelling enough to make you stick with it. Once the point of view character makes it to the floating city of Columbia, world building goes into hyper drive. Less than thirty seconds of gameplay could amount to a page of description. Observe the signs, the dialogue and banter you hear from the people around you, and other details that may take pages to read. I particularly love that quick flashback in which we discover the point-of-view character’s name. This is also a gameplay preview, so you’re watching this player stop and observe the things around him, not because he has to, but because he wants to. He could just as easy run right through to the next objective, and he’d still hear a revealing line or two.

Video games can do much to enhance Point of View and World Building, both elements which are crucial to telling a good story. I’ve saved the best for last, but it deserves its own post. In their immersive interaction, video games can do so much to raise the stakes of a story. I’ll get into this, and the one video game that brought me to tears on Saturday.

Superbowl XLVII: Setting The Stage II

Lot’s of Roman Numerals up there, right? In the first installation of this series I began to set the stage for the ensemble masterpiece that was the 2013 Superbowl. If you haven’t checked it out, you may want to, especially if you aren’t a fan of football or sports. We established the amorphous narrator of friends, family, fans, and commentators, the best of them being Showtime’s Inside The NFL. We made a milieu with the NFL Playoffs and the many story worthy teams that inhabited the landscape. And we were introduced to the San Francisco 49ers, their challenging coach, Jim Harbaugh, and their wunderkind Quarterback,  Colin Kaepernick.

Now it’s time to get acquainted with the Baltimore Ravens, the redemptive story of their de facto leader, Rey Lewis, and the unlikely connection they have with the 49ers.

Baltimore Ravens


I cannot tell you, how proud I am of this organization…To the people of Baltimore and the state of Maryland, this belongs to you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Art Modell, Owner 1961-2003

The origin of the Baltimore Ravens is often the subject of heated debate. Fevered fans turn into intellectual historians when it’s brought up. That’s because the team can be as old as sixty eight years old, or as young as eighteen years old depending on the point of view. The current incarnation of the Baltimore Ravens was founded in 1996 amidst a fire of controversy. After several clashes with the city of Cleveland, owner of the Cleveland Browns, Art Modell endeavored to move the historical franchise to Baltimore Maryland. After contentious negotiations over naming rights, property, and other things, Cleveland let Modell move the franchise on one condition: Cleveland would keep the Browns name, logo, and color scheme. Thus the Ravens were born.

Some would like to say the Ravens hadn’t existed before this point, but others point out that when Art Modell left for Baltimore, he took players, managers, and administrators with him that were once a part of the fifty-one year old Cleveland Browns, and thus they were the Browns in Ravens skin.  They weren’t plagued with he lack of funds, infrastructure, or administrative experience other new franchises, like the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers.This argument reared its head again when the Ravens won the Superbowl in 2000,  a mere four years after they were founded. Whether the NFL record books decide to put an asterisk beside their win, being the youngest team to ever win the big one, there would always be one in some fans’ minds.

The irony came the two seasons after, when the Ravens were presented with two challenges befitting new franchises, finding a good quarterback and salary cap space (translation: money). They didn’t find one, and their fall from grace was as fast. While their defense excelled, their offense failed to score points. One man was there to see all of this, the defacto father of the team. No, I’m not talking about Art Modell. I’m talking about the man you saw in the preview video, a man who might deserve his own post, Linebacker Ray Lewis.

NFL: Super Bowl XLVII-Baltimore Ravens Media Day

Dance: The Body’s Narrative

Gentlemen, let’s talk. For an eternity I have had to hear your excuses for not joining me and my increasingly small number on the dance floor. Dudes don’t dance. Dancing’s gay. It’s not in my DNA, just take a look at that chromosome! I didn’t have a response to any of those excuses when I heard them, often drawing a blank. But I’m a man, I’m straight, I enjoy dancing, but let me tell you why.

I need you to recall the last time you were at a club, bar, lounge, or any kind of social gathering. That’s not too difficult. Now imagine you’ve met a beautiful woman. You’re chatting her up, she seems receptive, and you both seem to be attracted to each other, but let me ask you something. How can you be sure she’s genuine? Will she disappear after you buy her a drink? Is she just a nice person who doesn’t realize she’s leading you on (not likely)? The answer to those questions comes in the form of another question (I promise it’s the last one). Do you look at her body?

Because I do.

No, I’m not talking about salivating at the sight of her curvature like Pavlov’s dog. I’m talking about observing her body language. You see, before we learn how to use verbal language as our primary tool of conscious expression, we have our bodies and nothing else. Even after we have learned to use our words, we continue use our bodies as a means of expression until our last breath, even if we don’t know it. The human form is fundamental to our expression, and it will always tell a story, no matter how simple or complex, whether we want it to or not. So it is no wonder dancing predates almost every form of storytelling mankind has devised. It’s a part of who we are. It’s ingrained in our DNA, and yet so many men in the modern world deny it, brand it as feminine.

I could try to sell you on it, claiming the greatest warriors of the pre-modern world were often the best dancers, or that Football players take ballet to maintain flexibility and prevent injury. If I’m being honest though, your loss is my gain. We’re here to appreciate dance as a form of storytelling.

Let’s start with The Nutcracker. Choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (op. 71), this ballet classic is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann‘s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The heroine of this story is Marie Stahlbaum. Its Christmas morning, she and her family are opening their presents under the tree, and she finds a nutcracker fashioned after a soldier. Although it belongs to the family, she takes a particular liking to it and appoints herself as its primary caretaker. She and her siblings use it liberally until her brother, Fitz, inadvertently breaks it on a large nut. An upset Marie takes the toy away from him and uses her ribbon to repair its broken jaw. Later on the Nutcracker comes alive and transports Marie to a magical kingdom populated by dolls.


This is only my opinion, but when The Nutcracker premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg, the feminization of dance was already under way. While this was not choreographer Marius Pepita’s most successful premiere it helped continue this trend. Like the majority of Pepita’s productions it had a female heroine, an ambiguous romance, and a brightly colored set. Productions that may have appealed to the men of the era like Don Quixote, were far outnumbered by the likes of Swan Lake, The Pharaoh’s Daughter, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella.

Many friends of mine claim to have a difficult time interpreting these dances, but the truth is people from this era had help. Take another look at those titles I just listed. Like many movies of our time, a large chunk of the productions of Pepita’s era were adaptations of popular books. Certain movements and formations became associated with events in a novel or expressions of a character. Audiences caught on to this, and recognized it when choreographers retooled them for an original story. I often imagine contemporaries claiming “The book is better than the ballet” just to sound intelligent.

So who’s responsibility is it to fill in the gaps of modern dance, to take that extra step so that dance can be appreciated as one of the most genuine forms of storytelling? Writers will tell you it is the responsibility of the storyteller to do that. It seems most modern dance companies are inclined to agree. My favorite example for storytelling in dance is the now defunct LXD, or Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Yes, it is a less than subtle play on the Legion of Extraordinary Gentlemen. You may recognize these guys. Those crazy dance numbers for the Microsoft Surface Ads – that was The LXD. They were even featured on TED Talks.


This web series, directed by Jon Chu, is about two groups of rival dancers: The Alliance of the Dark who are the villains and The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, the heroes, who discover they have superpowers referred to as “the Ra” through their dance abilities. The entire story takes place over hundreds of years, beginning in the 1920s up to the year 3000. It features more than twelve styles of dance, including ballet, hip hop, contemporary, break dance and tap. There are little to no special effects, the choreography and stunts are real, and everything is shot on location.

I had a hard time figuring out which episode of The LXD to leave you with, which best demonstrates the storytelling power of dance, and how Jon Chu’s series manages to close the gap. They’re all pretty good, but I think the comic book style of Episode 3: Robot Love Story, is a great place to start. Before you play this video, make sure your internet connection is good, and put on your headphones.

See you on the dance floor.

A.T. Augustine

Superbowl XLVII: Setting The Stage

Alright so… I’m a day late and a dollar short. It’s not because of a busy life, or anything of the sort. It’s because of the following three posts. I wrote the whole thing up and realized that I didn’t want something as unwieldy as my Wonder Woman piece, so I proceeded to split this into three parts and format them accordingly.

This blog is dedicated to the exploration of storytelling in all its forms, and today we’ll explore a form many of us take for granted: sports, the National Football League in particular. And it’s not necessarily the sport itself that tells the story, but the spectators around it. For those of us who spend their waking hours exploring the more intellectually rewarding mediums, we can scoff at the droves of men in tights as they put their wellbeing on the line for one inflated morsel of pigskin, and we can write it off as unworthy. But there’s more going on in one game than we expect. Character development, thematic elements, and subtext are abound. And this past year, during Superbowl XLVII, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens clashed in the climax of a story none of us could have made up.

The Narrator


For me the most exciting element about the story of Superbowl XLVII, and sports in general, is how it’s told, and who is telling it. The concept of the narrator becomes an abstract entity that possesses your friends, or your family. The major networks and sports radio have had a long tradition of providing that narration in the form of commentary, naming players you may not know, giving you statistics that may come to play during the game, and perhaps adding their own opinion into the mix. Every fan has their favorite place to turn for their narrator, but my favorite by far is Showtime’s Inside The NFL. Unlike ESPN, who does an amazing job of accomplishing very little with the twenty four hours they have in a day, Inside The NFL strays from the traditional (and highly unappealing) sportscasting style. If you’re a lover of storytelling like me, you owe it to yourself to do the following.

  1. Record Inside The NFL when it resumes in the fall. Don’t watch it when it’s on. Don’t even watch a game on Sunday. Just find this show, and record it.
  2. When you have the time, play back an episode of this show, but don’t just watch it. As a story lover you need to do it a bit differently.
  3. Fast forward to the recaps. You’ll know when these start when you see two team logos side by side.
  4. Take in the cinematography, the masterful narration, and candid sound bites of players and coaches. Instead of the 15-30 second token recap of most other sports shows, these guys take a good 3-5 minutes per game, take from official footage from NFL Films, and they’re narrated by Scott Graham, who has an amazing voice. To be honest, I’m reluctant to call them recaps. They’re more like miniature documentaries with Hollywood cinimatography.
  5. Now enjoy the in depth and enlightening discussions between host James Brown, former wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, and former quarterback Phil Simms. Because this is on Showtime, there are no commercials, so the three of them and their guests can go more in depth. Their chemistry and banter is entertaining as well. Their interviews are also very intimate, and hard hitting. ESPN and the major networks are just now beginning to catch up.

Trust me. No one does it better than these guys. Now to set the stage.

The NFL Playoffs

At the end of every regular season, the twelve teams with the best record face off in a single elimination tournament lasting about one month until there are two teams left standing. These two teams will face of at the superbowl. It is here that our stage is set. Many of the teams who have made it to the playoffs this year have amazing stories of their own, like the Washington Redskins and their rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, who led them from having one of the worst records the year before to making it to the playoffs this year. It was a dramatic turnaround only matched by the Indianapolis Colts, who also had a rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck, who redeemed their team from an abysmal record in the previous year. What made the Colts story different was their coach, Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of the season, and gave a tear jerking speech that propelled them to the playoffs. Many people considered them the team to beat, if for nothing else, than their motivation. As we know, neither team made it to the Superbowl. A little more on them in part two of this article. Let’s talk about the two teams that did.

San Francisco 49ers


I came to the San Francisco 49ers with a specific goal, to implement what I call the Standard of Performance. It was a way of doing things, a leadership philosophy, that has as much to do with core values, principles, and ideals as with blocking, tackling, and passing; more to do with the mental than with the physical.

Bill Walsh, Head Coach 1979-1988 

Based in San Francisco, California, this team was founded in 1946 as a charter member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and joined the NFL in 1949 after the two leagues merged. The 49ers have a legacy of one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties, winning five Super Bowl championships in just 14 years, between 1981 and 1994, with four of those championships in the 1980s. The Super Bowl teams were led by Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young, and coach Bill Walsh. Those are some massive shoes to fill. With five Super Bowl wins, the 49ers are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the second-most Super Bowl wins. What a legacy… and what pressure. An ownership change at the turn of the millennium saw turbulence at all levels in the organization, and the pressure became too much for those involved. For nearly a decade the 49ers were reduced from a Superbowl contender to a pushover. They were at the bottom of the ladder, in the back of the line, in a place they had never been before. After a series of bad choices on an off the field the organization made two key hires.

Jim Harbaugh, General of the 49ers Army.

Jim Harbaugh, General of the 49ers Army.

Coach Jim Harbaugh – If football were war, the Head Coach would be the general of an army. He chooses which soldiers to recruit, which captains to appoint, what weapons to use, how to engage the enemy (the opposing team), so on and so forth. These duties/liberties vary from organization to the next. But in San Fran the coach is a lynchpin, who receives far too little credit for the work he does. After more than a decade playing as a decent quarterback, Jim turned his aspirations towards coaching, beginning with a few assistant gigs around the league and in college football. He gained notoriety when he became head coach for Stanford (yes, that Stanford) and led them to success. The San Francisco 49ers tapped him for the 2011-12 season after firing Mike Singletary and interim coach Jim Tomsula, who led the team for (count em) one game. To add to the chaos, a players union lockout suspended off season activities until less than a month before the 2011-12 season began. So if this were war, Jim Harbaugh was appointed general of the San Francisco army after two generals had been fired, and he wasn’t able to train his troops until about a month before they went into war.

On top of the circumstances, we can add the man’s demanding personality. He’s known to be very good at getting under people’s skin. All around the league there are cornerbacks, weighing in at 250 lbs, who want to hurt the man, and cornerbacks are trained to catch and hurt people.  His brother, John recalled their childhood during an interview with the Sacramento Bee.

“He would alienate the other kids, so I was really the only friend he had. We joke that dad’s profession was the perfect profession for Jim… We were in Iowa one time and dad felt bad because we were leaving for Michigan. He tried to break it to us, and Jim goes, ‘Just in time, dad. I just ran out of my last friend.’ “

In this same interview, John recalls one baseball game where a young Jim drilled a girl between the numbers because she was crowding the plate. I’m annoyed and amused all at once when Inside the NFL puts the mic on him. He’s like a combination of Coach Carter, Gregory House, and Sheldon Cooper. In spite of his challenging personality and the circumstances the NFL put him in, his team was unexpectedly successful, and in the 2012-13 season, he led them to the Superbowl. Of course, he had help.

Vanguard Captain

Vanguard Captain Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick – Continuing the war analogy, if the coach is the general of an army, the quarterback is the captain of the Vanguard, and this captain was drafted into the 49ers the same year Harbaugh was hired. They were the two new kids on the block, but during the 2011-12 season, Colin was quiet. He was mostly relegated to the sidelines as he learned the ins and outs of a system that was in flux due to the fact that the general (Harbaugh) was just getting to know his troops. Alex Smith remained the quarterback for the majority of Colin’s first season in the NFL. It wasn’t until Alex Smith got injured halfway through the 2012-13 season that Colin was called up from the bench.

For those of you in the Carolinas, this was the same season we drafted Auburn quarterback Cam Newton to the Panthers. Newton was the first pick in the entire draft. Colin Kaepernick was pick #36. Newton’s started every game since he came to the Panthers (32 in all). Kaepernick has started ten games in the NFL… Including the Superbowl. There are rookies that came in the year after Colin who played more games than him. This is not speaking to the detriment of Cam or any of the other rookies, it’s more so speaking to the talent and circumstances surrounding Colin.

But how did a green quarterback, a newly appointed head coach, and a franchise on the mend defy the odds and make their way to the national championship in 2013? More on that, their opponents, and the outcome in the next two installments.

The Historical Case for a Wonder Woman Film

Man of Steel has debuted with spectacular results. Good job, Kal’El! I applaud you. Now its time for Diana of Themyscira to take over. It’s time for a Wonder Woman feature film, not a television series. No, not because I want to see one of Hollywood’s leading ladies in that sexy costume. Okay, not just because I want to see one of Hollywood’s leading ladies in that sexy costume (here’s to you Adrianne Palicki). There’s one very big reason as to why this needs to happen. History.

Warrior Princess Diana

For those of you who don’t know much about Wonder Woman, let me give you a brief synopsis before I make my argument. To comic book fans, she is the female equivalent of Superman. She first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in 1941, donning that iconic one-piece, the lasso of truth and those indestructible bracelets. She was born Diana of Themyscira, warrior princess of the Amazons.

There are several origin stories, but the one I like most is the one from Crisis on Infinite Earths, where her mother, wishing for a child, crafts her from clay, and the Greek gods give her “beauty from Aphrodite, strength from Demeter, wisdom from Athena, speed and flight from Hermes, Eyes of the Hunter and unity with beasts from Artemis and sisterhood with fire and the ability to discern the truth from Hestia”. Through a series of conflicts, the Amazons of Themyscira are forced to reveal themselves to the world, and Diana is to be their ambassador, charged with the mission of bringing ‘peace’ to the outside world. I put that word in quotation marks because she does so by kicking ass, and lots of it.

Diana’s adventures in the patriarchal world force her to fight not only for peace, but for gender equality, however she shows a brutality that we rarely see from other superheroes. If law enforcement get in her way, she will hurt them, and not in a ‘collateral damage’ way. She’s not quick to anger, but she’s aware that she has no room to let insults slide in a male dominated society. Last but not least, unlike Superman or Batman, she will kill without thinking twice. Don’t let the suit fool you. To some, she’s already a feminist icon, but why should we make a movie? She’s not nearly as popular as some of the other superheroes, and her cast of villains aren’t very impressive. So why?

The Evolution of Academics

Because eventually educational institutions all over the world will be offering courses called American Mythology. It’s already happening, though the name is different: American Folklore or Intro to Folklore. It’s offered as an elective, and sometimes as a requirement, for Humanities and Anthropology students in Universities all over the world. One need only to refer to the websites and admissions officers of University of Illinois, University of California at Berkley, and Oxford University. It’s a shame my friends over at haven’t found one professor in their vast network of 83 institutions to offer the course online, but I digress. What does all this have to do with Diana of Themyscira?

I’d love to bridge that gap for you in an eloquent manor, but I think I’ll leave it to Professor Adele Barker of University of Arizona. She had some very enlightening observations about the evolution of cultural studies in the academic forum Cultural Anthropology: The State of the Field.

I think there has definitely been  shift in how we study culture, not only among Russian specialists but among scholars in other fields as well… For years what dominated studies in both the US and Europe was the notion of canon. And that canon was made up of works generally written by white males, with some notable exceptions such as the works of Jane Austin, the Bronte Sisters… Apart from gender, age was definitely a factor in determining the worth of a cultural product. I remember a college professor telling us that it wasn’t clear whether Hemmingway’s works were going to enter the canon because Hemmingway had not been dead long enough to enable critics to make a determination.

Translation: the dead white guys used to take the spotlight. When you signed up for a class on cultural studies, unless it had ‘Modern’ somewhere in the title, you’d be dealing with Shakespeare, Gilgamesh, and Beowolf. But by her estimation, things are changing, and fast…

But the relationship between age and cultural value was not consistent… The boundary between ‘literature’ and ‘folklore’ began to be interrogated. At the same time the idea that material was of interest simply because it was old came into question. The shift from past to present, from older traditional forms to newer ones, was a central part of the cultural studies movement.

Translation: the academics are turning their critical eye to a greater variety of sources. Now she doesn’t go as far as to say the comic books of the modern age should be included in that re-evaluation. Not even close, but if we were to look at comics, and the Amazon heroine in particular, they seem to fall under this wide net she’s casting. The Wonder Woman comic books have been written by both men and women, but the most critically acclaimed point of the heroine’s history was when Gail Simone was at the helm. And having been around for only half a century, Wonder Woman, along with all other comics, can definitely be considered new. In fact, there already exists literature that analyzes the American Superhero with an academic eye. Just type in Supeheroes and Philosophy in Amazon’s search engine. Even the Guardian (yes, that Guardian) has an article for teachers about teaching various subjects through superheroes and comic books.

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This is my roundabout way of saying this future course called American Mythology will include notable characters from our comic books. So in addition to Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and Tom Sawyer, our descendants will be studying Superman, Batman, The X-Men, and most definitely Wonder Woman, if for no other reason than to be the token woman. But do we really want Diana to be a mere token? Of course you’d say no to that question. You’re a modern, intellectual individual with erudite tastes, but why? Here’s my reasoning.

Because nothing’s new under the sun. Superman is our Heracles, Batman is our combination of Sherlock Holmes and Odysseus, but with Wonder Woman, we have the chance to break away from other cultures (also with X-Men, but that’s another post altogether). Yes, she has an origin story steeped in Greek Mythology, and there have been other strong female mythological figures in other cultures, but the average person would be hard pressed to name even one of them off the top of their head.

And what do women have to look forward to in Greek Mythology? Have your pick: the girl with the Electra complex (Athena), the jealous and scorned wife (Hera), the Goddess of sex, not love (Aphrodite), the prettiest bargaining chip in history (Helen of Troy), or a mother with such severe empty nest syndrome that the seasons change with her daughter’s absence (Demeter). I’m not a woman, so I dare not speak for them, but I’ve heard the complaints that Mythology has failed to provide strong female characters. I agree. I’m also aware that I’m being quite critical of Greek Mythology, but I’m using it as a primary reference point due to Wonder Woman’s connection to it, and the sad fact is that what you saw was the norm in mythology all around the world. I see Diana, and especially her origin story, as a respectful nod to our western roots and a much needed balance against the weakness we see from most of these characters. So the next question is how do we go about cementing her legacy?

Get Ready!


I know. I know. You’re cringing. There’s this intellectual reflex people have when one speaks that name. ‘You can either do it the right way, or the Hollywood way.’ a fellow [begrudged] actor once told me. In my opinion, they are getting better in their treatment of superheroes, and fans are meeting them halfway by managing their expectations. Even though the film-industrial complex is quickly decentralizing, Hollywood is still the only film headquarters in the world that has the resources to create an international blockbuster. With the notable exception of Great Britain, audiences in other countries go to the theatre and homegrown movies dominate their choices. For the most part, the French watch French movies, the Russians watch Russian movies, so on and so forth until a big budget franchise film like Star Wars, Man of Steel, and Harry Potter is released.

Therefore, these films are more and more defining other people’s perception of our culture (let’s not get into international relations, the news, and other things). With a hit Wonder Woman movie audiences all over the world will attach the Amazon, already considered a feminist icon to some, to America’s pantheon. Her connection to Greek Mythology won’t matter. When scholars look back, that connection may even enhance things. It may be interpreted as our intentional ode to those that came before us. The execution of said movie is a whole other Feature Post-perhaps a sequel to this one. But what’s important is for the world to remember our mythology for what sets it apart from the others. It won’t be our remix of Heracles with Superman or our combination of Sherlock Holmes and Odysseus with Batman. It will be how we created a strong female character that frequently bested the men around her and demanded respect and equality. It will be Wonder Woman. And with that, I’ll end my first Feature with the following salute.

Here’s hoping Warner Bros. will see the forest for the trees.

A.T. Augustine


16 Bars, 3 Acts: A Preview of Stories Told Through Albums

I just did something amazing. I listened to an album all the way through. No pauses, no shuffles, no repeats. When was the last time you did that? Don’t feel bad. It had been quite some time for me, but it got me thinking about what seems to be rare in music these days, storytelling through the album. When we hear a single on the radio, we’re listening to a fixed point, and by that I mean a fixed key, mood, and subject. This is all in spite of a clear presence of a rise and fall in energy as the song progresses.

Most popular songs progress like so: an introduction, the rising action in the first two verses and the repeated chorus, the climax in the bridge, and the falling action as the song fades away. Artists, producers, and bands are well aware of this. Great vocalists save their best high notes, producers delay their best mixing, and bands hold off on their best solos until the right time. Many of them have and will tell you that they’re telling a story in a song, but when we look at lyrics that story is usually focused on a fixed point in time. They’re up to individual interpretation, but let’s take a look at some of Billboard’s top songs and see what they’re about.

1. Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell

Translation – Those other guys will try to sexually tame you. I won’t.

3. Radioactive, Imagine Dragons

Translation – It’s the end of the world as we know it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

4. Cruise, Florida Georgia Line featuring Nelly

Translation… Baby, you a song! Okay, I’m being mean, but this one actually tells a story. The narrator, having already gotten the girl who inspired the song, is telling a simple story of when he first saw her, how he approached her, courted her, and won her over. Songs like this are still outnumbered by those with fixed point lyrics.

Now this isn’t a bad thing. An artist has three minutes to convey all of this, so I don’t blame Robin Thicke, Imagine Dragons or any other artist for doing what they gotta do. In this series I want to focus on the album, a grouping of several of these fixed points we call tracks, and those rare instances in which they are intentionally organized to tell a complex, compelling story. Yes, classical music and Broadway have been telling stories for quite some time, and while I’m a fan of both, I want to focus on the music that has saturated our daily lives. I’ve already put together a list of albums that I could ramble on about. They include (but are not limited to)…

The quintessential rock opera in Queen’s A Night At The Opera.(was that redundant?)

Their musical descendants, My Chemical Romance, and their tale of insanity in The Black Parade.

A disturbingly personal retelling of Jekyl & Hyde in southern rapper T.I.’s   T.I. vs T.I.P.

The crisis of life, death, failing relationships, and recovery in John Mayer’s Continuum.

The story of scandal, marriage and divorce in Usher’s trio (yea! trio!) of albums, Confessions, Here I Stand, and Reymond vs. Reymond.

Dave Matthews Band’s ode to late band member, saxophonist LeRoi Moore, and their grieving journey in Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King.

Actor/rapper, Donald Glover/Childish Gambino’s struggles as an African American born between two worlds and eras in Camp.

Each post of 16 Bars, 3 Acts will be my take on one of the above albums. It won’t be in any particular order, and given the research I’ll have to do, I won’t screw myself over and give you a set schedule. I’ll post this in addition to my weekly featured piece. I’m really excited about this series and hope to get started soon, but I want to hear from you! When was the last time you listened to an album all the way through and heard a unique, compelling and complex story? Hit me up on the blog or, better yet, via Twitter. A.T. Augustine

Another Blog? How Many More Do We Need?!

Ah Summer. It’s a wonderful time of year, is it not? The kids are out of school. Families all over are taking trips to the beach and other vacation hotspots. And others, like myself, are taking a reprieve from the muggy heat to start their own blog. That’s right. Right now, I’m sitting on the front porch, rocking seersucker pants, deck shoes, a white linen shirt and a Jason Mraz fedora, watching my niece and nephew play under the shade of a giant oak, and writing my very first post for the Crown Town Scribe.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, this is yet another blog on an internet oversaturated by blogs. The only thing more numerous than blogs on the internet… dating websites and porn. I consider this the lesser of the three evils, and so I’ll try my hand at it. I’d also like to think that what I plan is a bit different from the norm. Crown Town Scribe will be an exploration of storytelling in it’s various forms, from the staples we know and love to the more unorthodox sources we may not expect. Stories are everywhere: in books, sports, music, science and everyday life (ie My everyday life). This all will be filtered through the lens of me, A.T. Augustine, an aspiring writer currently based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Some of my articles will have a local focus on them, but if I’m telling these stories properly, those of you tuning in from elsewhere will have no problem getting acclimated.

A little bit about myself: A.T. Augustine is a pen name, and I must confess I haven’t decided what the A.T. stands for, so maybe you guys can help me figure that out one day. In addition to writing, I dance (particularly Latin), act on stage and in film, and wait tables. For the sake of following the trend you must be catching on to, I’ve been known to sing a song here or there, but I don’t bring home the bread with that talent. My tastes are wild and varied, but there’s one common denominator among them all. I see a story being told. So in essence, Crown Town Scribe will be 1/4 analysis, 1/4 op-ed, 1/4 journal, and 1/4 writer’s platform.

Simple enough?

Too bad! :p That’s the best I can do. There will be at least one feature post a week, but I’ll occasionally get other entries in between. Be forewarned, I am an adult, who will use adult language where appropriate. The milestone widget to the right will count down to that feature post. The about page is self explanatory, and the projects page will preview and track the progress of some of my own work. All posts after this one will be categorized and taged, so that nonexistent tag cloud should start to take form in the near future. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Facebook (once the page is up). And check out my picks on Goodreads if you’re as much of a lover of stories as I am.

As I don’t consider this a real post, I’ll be putting my first feature up later this week. Until then…

Be Cool
A.T. Augustine