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Which Nautical Type Book Should I Read? (2013)

This project was the swan song of my college experience. If you want a real glimpse into where I was at, mentally, at this point in my college life, this interactive project, which was a final project for a class of some kind, does a sublime job. To summarize - I dressed up as a sailor captain or some kind and over the course of filming this I got actually underage drunk and got drunker and drunker and eventually I took my shirt off during an inebriated rant about Taylor Swift. And I actually turned this in. And I got a great grade on it.


I can't exactly remember what class this was, but it was technically part of the film program. However, I seem to recall it having a narrow focus on, like, coding and website building. The professor, though a good guy, kinda seemed like he was in the wrong department. I do remember learning a bit of practical information about designing websites, which I am grateful for because I hadn't signed up for that but the guy still managed to sneak something useful into my film school experience.


However, this was the end of the first year I believe and by this time I was already growing quite disillusioned and weary and worn out. I would return the next fall for my sophomore year but I would only manage to hobble along for a month or two before throwing in the towel. This thing was my last hurrah, more or less.


I did put a lot of work into it, and it did turn out how I wanted it to. It is quite a slow burn but I think that's what makes it one of my more fully realized projects. The website I made, called Which Nautical Type Book Should I Read? (with the URL being booksaboutwhales.wix.com) promises to assist users in providing a solution to the age old dilemma of selecting a specific book to read that is vaguely sea-adjacent or that focuses mainly on nautical, maritime adventures. This includes a litany of novels from Moby Dick to The Old Man and the Sea to Treasure Island to Robinson Crusoe to Das Boot. The joke, other than that not being a common problem that anybody would require an in-depth resource to resolve, was that me, Reuben, the host of the guided website, bites off more than he can chew and this slowly dawns on him as he realizes that there are in fact a LOT of books about the ocean and sailors and whales and thing and that each path would require him to make many, many, many different videos about a topic he knows nothing about that could only be accessed depending on user selection.


I believe they call this a decision tree and it's how they do dialogue or progress storylines in certain directions in video games depending on user input. Mine was a much more watered down and simplified version but the principle was the same.


For example, the first choice users have to make is which of the following four locations they wish to begin their journey at:


  1. A sea shanty

  2. A medium sized sea shanty

  3. An old, spooky, surly inn, with pirates, and captains, with the white beards, where they order up ale

  4. An island

In my first video, the dread begins to settle in so I crack a PBR. And then it only progresses and I devolve into more and more of an absurd/pathetic/desperate state. I gradually get more confused by my own rules that I have imposed and I lose track and become hostile and overwhelmed. The cans of PBR leads to bottles of Schlitz and Guinness leads to cans of Billy Beer from the 1970s.


If, say, you choose the Medium Shanty, it brings you to this video:



The user is then tasked with choosing a "mode of transportation," and is presented with four more options:

  1. A small little paddleboat with a guy in it, and the oars

  2. A SCHOONER. A schooner, it's like a medium, a teenager boat

  3. A large ship. One of those with a lot of guys on it

  4. "Let's go subterranean!" with a submarine. With a submarine. Not the sandwich!

Let's say we choose "A large ship. One of those with a lot of guys on it." This leads to another page with this video:


The four options this time aren't even really categorized anymore and really don't have anything in common. They are:

  1. Apples

  2. Some knife, and a (dirty) hand

  3. A harpoon

  4. A whale

And finally, if you choose, oh, let's say #1, apples, you are lead to the page for Treasure Island. You have now chosen - Treasure Island is the nautical type book you should read. This results in a video of me, at full drunkenness, summarizing a completely inaccurate version of the storyline of the novel by Robert "Juice" Stevenson. In my telling, the main antagonist is actually the character Israel Hands, who has HUGE hands that are the size of his face, and he is mean to Jim Hawkins which makes Long John Silver very sad, and eventually Ben Gunn shows up and lectures all of them so they make up and decide to give up on treasure stuff and to instead open up an honest novelty T-shirt business with a storefront "off the coast of Malborita."



So, you get the idea. There were many moving parts that I am surprised I kept this together. I did cut some corners, though. Not everything lead to things that made sense and there were so many weird avenues somebody could go down depending on the sequence of selections. These were also possibilities your choices could lead to:


- Choosing a picture of Hitler and then being berated for choosing Hitler and being required to go back and choose a different answer

- A full screen video of me being apparently possessed by Cthulhu where I warn the viewer that "all roads lead to Cthulhu"

- The user accidentally ending up on a page for the book "How To Eat Fried Worms"

- Me making fun of Ernest Hemingway for maybe being gay, which is a joke that has not aged well in the past decade

- Going on a brief rant against Tom Cruise

- Me being asleep


Looking at the video view counts now, it is apparent that absolutely nobody outside of my college class ever spent any time navigating this thing, and that's because I hardly ever told anybody about it. But given the very first video you see has less than 15 views, it suggests that few people besides myself, my professor, and my friend Matt Schneider who reminds me I did this ever few years, have ever spent any time on this. That's okay, I guess. It's just another project where the scrawny, brace-faced teenaged version of myself rambles aimlessly. My improv was on point with this one, though. I am happy with many of the quotes, including this one:


"Pubs. Lots of cool stuff happens at those things. A lot of people get girlfriends there. That's what they do, they go to the pub, and - I don't care of it's pirates, I don't care if it's yuppies, I don't care of it's beatniks, I don't care if it's Salvador Dali or Casey Kasem. People go to the pubs and meet friends."


I almost forgot that we went over this project in class in front of all of my classmates. I had to sit there as near strangers watched me drunkenly rant about how Captain Nemo was actually a black guy who went by the name "Big Doc" who loved to drink whale milk. Surely they all warily thought "what the fuck is this guy's deal?" They were never going to find out, though, as I would be dropping out of college altogether in the near future! So who really won?

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