A lot on his mind during his big day…


Snuffles trained his whole life for this moment, and nothing could stop him now… As the clock counted down to the start of his first Olympic extreme squirrel water surfing finals, he took a moment to reflect. He remember his squirrelfriend Elizabeth, all the fights they’d had, all the fun they had, that one time she got scared when running across a power line a pooped on the head of some unknowing passerby down below… Without her support, and all the hours she spent gathering nuts and searching for shiny things none of this would have been possible. The gun sounded, the race had begun, and Dr. Snuffles MacArthur squishytail had work to do.


I chose this assignment because it seemed fun.  I’m a big fan a memes, and they often come with a bit of context with the original image so you can understand who the person or animal being depicted is and why they are the figurehead for that particular subject.  Since I’m so used to having context for the crazy pictures I see on the internet, I sort of automatically start building it for things that don’t have any.  Thus, this assignment came pretty naturally.

For this assignment, I googled crazy pictures, and found this near the top.  As soon as a saw it I had a picture of this squirrel training so hard to get to the Olympics.  Then I thought about the things he was probably neglecting in his life to accomplish that, so I gave him a girlfriend to establish a foundation for his success.  I figured they would’ve been together for some time, since it’s a big liability to accept the responsibilities of someone else’s life on their shoulders, so I wanted them to have some endearing memories together.

I imagined them hanging out, and was trying to decide what a squirrel couple would do together.  I remember a few week ago my girlfriend and I were leaving poppy hill restaurant in downtown, and I saw a squirrel running across a power line, I said to her “careful, you don’t want it to poop on you.”  That gave me the idea, and rounded out the story well.  I wanted the story to end with a moment of solitude and triumph for the squirrel, since he was so unique I wanted to make sure he got his moment in the sun at the end of the piece (also, for him being such a good sport and letting me write about him).


They’re coming to get you… One ankle at a time. The attack of the killer dolls!!!

What makes these stories scary?
I don’t find the evil doll stories particularly scary. Maybe because it’s hard to be afraid of something so small and innocuous. I also never had dolls growing up, so I never had any experiences like lying in bed and having them stare at me, or having their eyes follow me across the room, so maybe I’m missing the visceral side of the phobia.
For example, in “Amelia” the monster was almost comical. A tiny angry spastic thing that seemed like it could easily be taken on if not for the irrational fear of its perceived ability to harm you. The only part I found scary in that bit was the end when the smoke possessed the girl, and she became the demon. That to me was scary because you can’t fight or stop smoke, and you don’t even know what’s happening until it is too late.
The twilight zone story was my favorite, even though the way the doll killed the husband was kind of cheesy, because that doll held real psychological power over the husband. I think the story would have been scarier if the doll had just leveraged this and tortured the husband into committing suicide after his family left. I can be scared of psychological torment from a small package, but laying inconveniently on the stairs and “murdering” him doesn’t really do it for me.
What makes them effective?
I think they can be effectively scary to some because dolls are something a lot of people actually have in their home. I can imagine if I had children and they had a doll sitting out while I was watching these becoming a little uneasy, and maybe keeping my eye on it.
I can also see it in a strange way as a personification of death. The doll is a small lifeless version of us, so in a lot of ways it resembles a corpse. The fact that when it animates and comes after us but still has that unchanging emotionless gaze is extremely creepy.
What doesn’t work?
I’ve already touched on this a bit, but I’ll beat that dead horse, because that seems pretty macabre. It’s difficult to take the threat seriously. The size alone makes it seem innocuous, and it doesn’t look outwardly threatening in most cases. Not to mention the items themselves are often trivialized as children’s toys, which in my mind, makes them seem like the safest things in the world. I mean, we’ve designed them specifically to give to children, they come with an inherent degree of trust. But I can see how betraying that trust and murdering everyone can add a bit to the unease and fear of the stories.
What is your favorite phobia?
My favorite phobia is papaphobia – or fear of the pope. It just seems so silly that it’s endearing. It makes me smile to image the nicest man in the world (the pope) chasing some scared dude down the street yelling “let me bless you my son!”
#phobia #ds106

What is the “digital” in digital storytelling?

How did web storytelling enable the slender man?
Slender man is a great villain because he was the product of a collaborative nightmare. When you write a story, it’s based on what you think is scary in your limited time and experience. When you build a story over the internet with others, man hours can be poured in at no great cost to one individual, and the horrible aspects of the story can be critiqued and refined constantly by a great number of opinions. It’s a process that creates great depth of story that can’t really be replicated by other means.

Take “Secure. Contain. Protect.” For example, it has 1,000’s of user generated entries of paranormal items collected under the guise of a secretive government agency trying to protect the public from them. Anyone can submit an SCP article (which would be an awesome daily assignment by the way), and the best ones get added to the wiki. The stories play off of each other and create a vast and sprawling universe for fans to play in and interact with through submissions. It has also spawned some YouTube shows, here are a few links (I highly recommend the first one, so creepy…):


Do you see it as a new means of storytelling, or traditional storytelling in a new medium?
I think it’s similar to more traditional storytelling from days past, when people would sit around a fire and tell stories. The people listening would add things, and the person telling it would tweak things every time they told it to make it better, scarier, etc. I think internet storytelling is a resurgence of this, just on a much larger scale.
But, the internet also offers new storytelling elements. Such as time stamped dated blog posts, Photoshop, YouTube, forums, etc. In that way, the internet has taken traditional storytelling and added several richer layers of context.
How do you see “digital” as being different in storytelling?
Using the internet to tell a story is similar to a found footage horror movie. It grounds and humanizes the story and characters in a way that makes it more relatable and realistic, and thus more scary. It’s like the Mark Danielewski book “House of Leaves”, in which a guy steals a box of notes out of a dead old man’s apartment and starts piecing together the story of a house with paranormal properties. The pages of the book are made to look like cocktail napkins, notebook entries, or whatever else the old man’s notes were scrawled on. It creates engrossment into what the main character is finding out. I see the digital element of storytelling doing the same thing by adding diverse elements that add texture and context that more traditional means can’t offer.
#web20story #ds106

Week 1 Summary

I think I’ve finished out everything for the first week, hopefully properly, so it’s time to reflect.  I’m a big horror fan, but because of that, I feel like I may be a bit jaded on the genre.  I’ve seen so many movies, read so many books, and played so many games that it takes a lot to really stand out and scare me.  I don’t say this to sound tough, I say it because I feel a bit desensitized to the stimulus.  I’ve noticed over the years that every monster scares me less and less, because in the end, they are all interchangeable.

It all gets a little too formulaic too, there’s a good guy and an evil force, and the only ones who die are the ones who deserve it for some reason or another.  It sets the precedence that even in the chaos there are ways to keep safe.  I don’t like my horror safe.  I like unpredictable, unavoidable, and unyielding.  I don’t think horror should have a happy ending.

As an example of something I find truly horrifying, I’ll tell a story from work.  I work as a Paramedic, one day another Paramedic was telling me about a call he went on in Ashland on route 54.  Out of nowhere, a tree just fell into the road and crushed a car, killing the driver.  THAT is terrifying.  They weren’t doing anything wrong, they didn’t deserve to die by anyone’s reckoning, and when things started to go down, there was nothing they could’ve done to make the situation turn out alright.

In the short story I wrote about the lab worker I explored another facet of life that I’m terrified of, the failings of the human psyche.  Have you ever been on the top of a high building and been afraid you might jump?  I have.  I’m a completely sane and reasonable person (opinions my vary), I have a happy life, and would never consider killing myself.  Standing on top of a building and looking down, a tiny part of me says “I wonder what would happen if I jumped right now.”

I think it’s therapeutic to explore the things that scare us, as it helps us to deal with them.  It lets us take things too horrible to think about and put them in a context where it’s OK to think about them.  I’m excited to explore these things in myself, and participate in the journey of others to do the same.


Here are my other posts for the week:




My scary story

“It’s just a vial” he told himself, as he stared at the tray full of small cylindrical glass containers. “You’ve been doing this same thing every day for years!” he exclaimed. “Today is no different” he said his final act of self-cajolement before reaching into the container and lifting the vial filled three quarters full with an unassuming clear liquid. It could have easily been mistaken for water, had he not known in intricate detail that was not, in fact, water.
Percy had been working at the same job for four years. Every day he came in and followed the same routine. Every day except today. “Who cares about some sealant tape over a zipper? It’s just a redundancy anyway, this suit is so well made I could probably poor this stuff all over me and be fine.” Percy slowly and carefully started towards the other side of the room, vial in hand.
He couldn’t figure out how he could have forgotten to tape up his zipper this morning. Every morning for four years, he had come in, put on his yellow suit, applied the blue sealant strip to the zipper that ran down the front of the suit, and walked through the decontamination area into the disposal room. But there was no time for self-pity now, he was in here, and he’d be damned if he was going to waste a whole half an hour going back through decon just to put a piece of tape on.
He was so close, just a few more feet and he was home free. He would set the vial down into the sterilizer, shut the door, and press the start button. That was it. No huge fuss, no need to put all those extra steps into his process, besides, he had never dropped a vial before.
He hadn’t noticed how badly his hands had begun to shake until he was about halfway between the container and the sterilizer. His hands were so sweaty, was he getting nervous? “Maybe you let this get a little too far into your head, Percy. You’ve done this a million times. You. Are. Fine.” By the time he had finished talking he realized that he had been standing in front the machine for more than a few seconds, just staring at the vial.
The work was almost done, he was almost safe. He opened the top of the machine wide, not much left to do at all now. His hand rose up to place the vial into the slot, its final resting place. He was so focused on the slot that he barely realized when the vial hit the side of the machine and cracked.

Here is a horror experience I suggest you try

One thing I’ve always found particularly scary are video games.  Just like film, there are many sub-genres, but my favorite has to be survival horror.  In survival horror, your character is hopelessly outmatched by some evil force, and only by running, hiding, and setting traps can you survive.  A great example of this genre is a game called Clock Tower, in which you play a 12 year old girl fleeing from a giant demon through an abandoned city. I think these are the scariest because of the mismatch in power between the character you are playing and the thing trying to get you.  The helplessness of the situation causes me to get anxious and puts me into a frantic mindset.

Another more recent example that I think is a bit more immersive is Outlast.  In outlast, you play as a reported who receives an anonymous E-mail that a corporation is conducting illegal experiments on the mentally infirm at an abandoned mental hospital in the hills.  your character goes to investigate and quickly becomes trapped in the hospital with the genetically altered mentally ill inhabitants, who have taken over.  You have no weapons or skills to speak of, just a camera.  Most of the power is out in the building, so the only way to see is the night vision on the camera, which you have limited batteries for.  You spend most of the game running and hiding while trying to conserve what little camera battery you have so you can see in the dark long enough to navigate the hospital to an exit.

I’ve added a video of a popular YouTube gamer named Markiplier doing what’s called a “let’s play” (basically commenting on the game as he plays).  I’ve chosen to start the video during a particularly scary part near the beginning, but if you want the full effect of atmosphere and ramp up, I suggest you start the video from the very beginning.

Hello DS106!!

Hello DS106, My name is Michael Young.  I gave you guys a shoutout on Twitter!


I already have a soudcloud I use to share acoustic cover songs I’ve done.  Here’s my most popular track!

I already have a YouTube channel I use to do video game tutorials and commentary.  Here’s a video of me flying a helicopter on Battlefield 4

I’m totally new to flickr, so I don’t have anything interesting about myself to show you there.  Here’s a picture of me at work that one of my employees took though.  I thought it was pretty funny.