This is How You Will Die

Jason Nelson’s “This is How You Will Die” is described as digital fiction and poetry, but I found that the imagery and the sounds are just as responsible for the haunting and confusing aura around this piece.  I agree that it can be considered e-lit as the prose and poetry inform the experience that we are having (which is all about death, dying and how we treat the subject), but the text to me was often confusing and was displayed in such a way that made it hard to read and absorb. More on that in a bit.  The sounds and imagery are bizarre. The sounds are like a slow heartbeat with an electronic chord that may sound like the wind or a voice depending on how you hear it. The imagery is crude – the frame pixilated which what looks like frayed wires sticking out of it. It all feels very rough. There are only two real choices. One is to “explain death”. In doing so, the author puts text on essentially a blank screen, describing human beings like animals, referring to them as bovines that are just going through the motions of living like a mindless creature (styling your hair, adjusting your clothes). The idea of your career as a “gulley” makes life seem predictable and predetermined – all of our days running in the same direction toward death, which the author calls “the last doorway”. The whole tone of this reading is that life is essentially pointless – that you will be unknown and your life will make little to no distance (he says your “brief bell” which I took as a metaphor for life will swing the herd three steps – in other words, move the needle very very little). I found it interesting that he describes the “game” as having a way to win. This message never changes throughout the game. The only other real option is to hit “death spin”, so I did.

The text that appears on the one-armed bandit style strip across the middle is a somewhat absurd, bizarre accounting of possible deaths.. My rough break down is as follows: So first column of the spin is when – then the second column is what happens to you to kill you – the third is the moment of your death – the fourth is the moments immediately after your death and what happens to your spirit/soul/remains…..The real action is in the clips that appear as numbers on crudely drawn colored doorways.

It was hard for me to get a read on the meaning of the text that popped up in the Death spin – nonsensical in a sense – a “box knife used to restock your face”?  “The cab driver hides your body in an off season amusement park”?  I guess the whole thing points to the absurdity of death – that basically, sh*t happens and it happens for ridiculous reasons and in ridiculous ways and that death has no more meaning than life does. As for the numbered doorways, I found those videos and clips to be much more interesting. These seem to be where the real meaning of the piece lies – thoughtful little audio plays that underscore the ways people see the juxtaposition of life and death – some light-heartedly, others more somberly… Some of them are positively haunting and morbid. For instance the clip about dying while driving – the line “their heads were wrecked, everything around them was wrecked” is disturbing.  I thought the line that “Some cars don’t have drivers that don’t die” was particularly thought-provoking.

There is a clip about birds – the voice is flat and lifeless – talking about birds and the forest being burned i think – says things dont really die, or maybe they do. All we see are images of nature – grasses and birds.  One problem I have with a number of these clips is that the words are hard to read – they change quickly and have a shadow on them that makes them difficult to make out. In addition, the poems don’t really have a beginning or an end. Both the poems in print and the audio readings continue to loop – they circle around unendingly.  Perhaps, I thought it is something to do with the circle of life, or the way you can’t get a thought – particularly a notion of death – out of your head.  In clip 6, the reading is about how its an effort to die, a hassle, an obstacle and the girl ends up comparing it to a playground with slides – a take that I found to be somewhat nonsensical, but also demonstrating the way some people may want to view death – as something that simply gets in the way of having a good time.  The poem has a little more meaning – it points out the chain of killing, leading from soap killing germs to germs killing cells to cells killing organs to organs killing us to “we kill others.  others kill us.”  That seemed more like a statement about man’s inhumanity to man and, frankly, seemed a little jarring when juxtaposed with the audio clip I just mentioned. Other clips show trees and tombstones. One shows a figure in white near what could be cemetery gates. This is another light-hearted (?) exchange about death in which a girl tells a man that her death will be fun for him because it will be a surprise. She also points out that when she dies he will get her material things…

 

I wanted to point out something that struck me in clip 7 because it was the only one that seemed to reference religion or God . In the audio clip, the man is talking about people that “like to die” – and says the only people that like to die hold flashlights over others who are dying to confuse them. So he is referring to people in the afterlife perhaps – that are trapped in this world playing a joke on people dying to make them think they are seeing God’s light?  There’s an allusion to this in the poetry in which is says some deities hold flashlights on bitter dead, on richly worn..  That’s another allusion to God (or gods).  And it also makes the point that the people that will be disappointed by their final destination are those that are bitter or unhappy anyway or those that are rich (which sounds Biblical to me – like the rich man has a better chance of passing through the eye of a needle rather than enter the kingdom of heaven).

The actual idea of getting or losing spins seemed all beside the point, but enjoyable nonetheless. The first time I plated the game I kept “winning” additional “demise credits” by getting blood diseases, etc.  It doesn’t seem so much like “gambling” as the opening scene makes it sound. This time I got 443 demise credits and its singing (when you die, you die) which I guess is the point here, as it is putting an absurd spin on death and also seeming to poke a little fun at those expecting God or some great answer to be revealed. Here it says that although I have won extra death spins, parts of me are erased. Erased from others’ memories? Erased from the game?  No I continue to get additional spins every time, but the warnings are getting more dire.  The music is speeding up and becoming more chaotic, including organ chords. It predicts that I will do something in 72 hours to lead to my death.

I notice that as I spin, little facts about death appear on the center strip behind the main text – like the increasing method of death is blunt trauma. The markings on the side of the frame look like frayed wires, and when you spin it looks like veins or blood or wires… with some splotches of blood. I cant tell whats behind the bottom of the page – maybe two eyes, make two zeros…. Despite all of this, there doesn’t seem to be anything to learn and the tab that says “explain death” never reveals a different message.  So looking at another link, it says that the more death credits you have, the further away your death is.  But when I get bad news like I have a blood disease or something, it adds death credits meaning my death gets =further= away. That doesn’t make sense. Finally, I decided to start over to see if I could deliberately run my number of death credits down to zero but I got as low as 6 and it wouldn’t let me spin anymore. At that point, the game didn’t appear to be over, but there was nothing more that I was able to do.

In conclusion, I found the game to be an interesting commentary on death, dying and how as humans cope with how we will die. Nelson clearly sees an element of absurdity here and I think he shares it. The game idea just seems to be a platform for the audio commentary and poetry, but it works well. It definitely qualifies as e-lit, although I think it was somewhat disappointing in that there was no end to the game. In a game about death, shouldn’t there be some finality?

deathspin

 

 

 


E-Lit Storyboard

This story is about how a father and teenage son communicate (or fail to communicate). It is important because it will illustrate how music and lyrics can both separate the generations but can also bring generations together. It will also show how music and lyrics can help speak for us, can help us channel our emotions and can help us express our true feelings.

The two main characters in the story will be the father and son. Both will appear as either sketch drawings or as guitars (appropriate for the type of music they represent). I’m thinking hard rock/metal for the boy and more of a 50’s R&B or blues for the father)  An image of the two of them can be the home page.

There will be multiple settings.  The first will be a living room/domestic setting (perhaps a dinner table) that will position the two main characters as adversaries.

The second will be a concert hall – the ultimate destination for the teen and the cause of the argument/conflict between him and his father.

The third will be back in the domestic setting where the two will find common ground through a shared love of a certain type of music, serving to heal their rift.

There will be non-linear aspects of this – each based around music, giving the person exploring the story more insight into the two characters. They can be stills (with audio? with text?) showing how music fits into their lives. For example, still photos of man and wife at a concert – telling story of how they met with a song playing…. For the son, a picture from behind the wheel, a story of learning to drive and the song that was on the radio….

They can be accessed through various icons distributed through the story

The scene at the concert hall will include more audio – possibly guitar solo’s

It will include text indicating that the son is feeling guilty/frustrated about arguing with his father

I believe this story is best told through still photos, audio, text and possibly GIF’s.

Direct interactions between father and son will be represented by clips of music videos/live performances – isolating lyrics that are meaningful to the interaction

Additional information will be accessed through icons around the screen – they will be still photos with text and possible audio (perhaps just music, no lyrics).  Some can be GIF’s of scenes from a video or a concert if they accurately convey a situation/interaction or an emotion

The concert scene can include clips of video (and audio) or GIF’s.

No need for a map with this story.

It is essentially linear storytelling in that there will be the home scene that advances to the concert scene and then advances to the home scene again for resolution, but within those scenes, the viewer will have free rein as to how they proceed through the icons.  Although I wish I could, I do not anticipate being able to arrange the sound clips from the two main characters in a way that one can trigger a response from the other. The goal will be that they are in two randomly generated sets – one set accessed by clicking the father’s icon and the other set accessed by clicking the son’s icon.

elitsketch-copy

sketch2

Another option is to use the following icons as cursors to represent the father or the son and they elicit different responses from the items depending on which one you use

External johnleehooker

 

 


Pieces of Herself

“Pieces of Herself” is an obviously feminist e-lit narrative that utilizes multimedia (still imagery, moving video and audio clips) to illustrate different ways that women see themselves against a backdrop of an idealized American culture. I felt that this was a unique way of exploring the female character, in that it allowed me to go step by step, using different environments to help me understand how women see themselves in relation to those environments. I’m sure that my female colleagues will see this interactive differently than I do and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in class.

The opening imagery is small – almost like a doorway. The way the images can be slid across the screen and transferred to the cutout of a person made me think of germs (especially in the bathroom) and I thought that the metaphor was somewhat apropos in that the imagery piled up. It was as if the aspects of their character (as discovered in the various environments) became stuck to them and difficult to shake. A lot of the symbolism and clips referenced self-doubt or personal insecurities, particularly about their bodies. One clip referenced gray hair, another referenced not wanting her children to see her naked. Interesting that you don’t actually see any women at any point in the entire narrative except for the back of one woman in the bathroom scene.  In the bedroom, the references are to a woman who is missing (either physically or mentally) and the voice of a man is predominant.  There is nothing sexual or intimate or romantic or even very personal about the bedroom scene which I found interesting. In fact, the imagery seemed very impersonal although the audio clips were.

 

Going outside, we see a number of what I believe are “beginning of life” references – the baby, the monkey that turns into a man (a symbol of evolution), the apple in the tree that meshes with the church.  (The apple reveals a sermon about conception – talks about pain and a man ruling over her – not a very uplifting message about having kids and a family.) The song, “Que Sera Sera”, I took as channeling a woman’s mindset of saying whatever will be will be as it pertains to actually having a child. The imagery here is kind of a standard checklist of the bedrock of American family life – the 4×4, the flag, the house with the basketball net (implying a family) and the playground for kids. But the audio clips – both from the sermon which talks about the man ruling over the woman and the woman saying “i always said i would give my child the best that i could possibly give them” – seem to position the woman as subservient to her environment, even her family, putting the husband and the children first. In fact, the statement from the woman felt to me to be as much a promise from the protagonist as a challenge to her – making her feel guilty about the possibility that she wont be able to fulfill that promise.

 

In the kitchen, the voices that speak – the one talking about a recipe and the one talking about wanting to be spicy – sound like voices channeling the voice or thoughts of the so-called ideal wife and mother – appealing to her husband and making something delicious for the family. (also telling her kid to wash their hands and talking about underwear that makes her look skinny revisits the idea of body consciousness)  The imagery is all black-and-white – giving it a very 50’s feel – a time in America when the family units were elevated and expectations for husbands and wives were more (publicly) clear-cut.  I get the sense that those are the expectations that some women believe they are still fighting against.

In the living room, the clip is of an contrary view in which the woman goes through a whole list of what she wears and what she drives but says none of it matters to her. The whole thing is rather contradictory. A note that none of the environments represented are overly lavish. The fact that the TV is tuned to Oprah speaks to the middle class and middle class striving to have more, even while (as the woman does in the clip) saying that material goods don’t really mean anything.  I don’t think we can take her statement at face value. The sex toy under the pillow adds an interesting wrinkle – hiding something they are ashamed of?

In the office, its about limitations for women – not being able to show emotion.  I found it fascinating that the spine and brain are located here in the office, not at home. In other words, the office is where the spine and brain come in handy or get used, not at home. But there is imagery here that speaks to the outdated old-fashioned roles for women in the workplace as well – the desk and the filing cabinet, for example. The dialogue box here says “where she fought to keep them all”, which I took to reference the difficulty in balancing all of her tasks, both at work and at home.

Outside  again, we hear a teacher talking about how education tends to take a back seat to social issues – like looks. There’s imagery here to back that up, including the image of a breast at Dairy Queen where the message is about girl trying to be beautiful or attractive in social situations.  I wondered here if the author was remembering how it was in high school for her – or is it an “idealized” or stereotypical version of what’s going on in American high schools across the country.  This was not quite as groundbreaking to me – the imagery and message was more blunt than it was in other scenes, although the idea that looks are prioritized over education in the minds of women and girls is a troubling one (and all too prevalent I’m sure).

I found this to be an extraordinary way to demonstrate how women see themselves personally and their place in American culture. In addition, it seems to me that the point of doing this was to show how women continue to fight against outdated stereotypes, even if in some cases it is women themselves consciously or unconsciously fulfilling or perpetuating them. I thought that this was less e-literature (there’s very little writing) and more of a multimedia presentation, but it made great use of – not only imagery and sound – but color, image positioning, backgrounds, etc…

 


Inanimate Alice

Inanimate Alice is a digital novel that incorporates visual, sound and interactive elements. In one description I read, it is called “transmedial” – a storytelling technique that utilizes multiple digital platforms and formats. It even includes a game within the game for the player if they choose. The overarching theme of this story for me was a sense of loneliness and feeling out of place. In this Episode 4 (of which I discovered there at least six episodes), Alice discusses moving to a new city  in England. There is heavy digital/electronic/industrial overtones here – from the staticky soundtrack that accompanies most of the game to the repeated imagery of buildings, factories and urban decay.  I get the sense that it’s important we recognize that this is not just a story about a human individual, but how she relates to the urban landscape and (as I found out later) to the digital world. In the telling of the immediate setting for the story (Alice climbing the stairs of a rickety factory and getting stuck), I notice that the words take on the motions of a person – like climbing the stairs or “struggling” to get up on the platform after the stairs collapsed. Interesting to see human characteristics animating previously inanimate words. I notice early on that as the scenes progress, boxes are revealed on the right side of the screen, making it possible to view any section of the story at any time, but only after the scenes have been revealed in order the first time. I would note that this is kind of like memories of how you got to a certain point in your life (or predicament) – like once it happens, you can think back and try to figure out how you got there, but can run through the memories in any order you choose.

Alice’s recollections of Moscow show that she reflects on the same parts of that city as the one she’s in. Very industrial with fences, lots of buildings and walls and even stairs. The stairs I sense are a critical symbol in her story.  The literal stairs that brought her to where she is can also be a metaphor for the experiences she’s had that brought her out of Russia and into England. Yet, just as the stairs are swept out from under her, the experiences that brought her to England haven’t necessarily given her the sense of belonging or satisfaction she had hoped for, and now she’s left, marooned or stuck in a sense, in a new place, with no way to go back and only an unmarked path to go forward.

It’s clear through her recollections at school and with her project that she is allied with digital technology and uses it as a pathway to make friends. She is trying to make the best of the situation she finds herself in, but has her doubts of whether it will work out. She wonders if her new friends really like her or is she is just a “novelty”. We see the indications of her wanting to do what it takes to fit in. Her parents are obviously not try to make things better for her, and both the imagery and the way she discusses her parents she tons of limitations. The home is limited because its skinny and outdated and the layout is bad (with walls everywhere and long stairs – again!). She calls it horrible but says she likes the idea that they are staying, again trying to make the best of a bad situation. Her parents seem incapable of the same emotion and its interesting how she makes a literal list of things she doesn’t like about them (very teenager-like). We never see any images of her parents. I think its interesting that school, home, friends, her project and her city are the only options to click on – like they are the only things in her world.

I should mention that I liked the idea of her building projects on her phone, but I felt it could have been more interactive for the player.  We could only really click one place at a time and had limited options.

I think her imagery of the city is fascinating. Based on everything I had seen and experienced up to this point, I expected the imagery and sounds would have been much more industrial. But the imagery was almost pastoral – the music calmer and less urgent and she even mentions how she likes the weeds and we see drawings of geese – showing us she is working to see the natural part of the city (or maybe again trying to find the silver lining in a nasty situation.)

Back to the factory, I felt like the creators did a great job using the imagery and the sounds to communicate a haunting loneliness. The idea that Alice keeps going even when she runs into obstacles is a good metaphor for how we’ve seen her conduct herself in this new city up to this point. I didn’t realize who the sketch of the boy was until I googled the story series and discovered its her imaginary digital friend Brad. This part of the story adds another layer, in that it allows the reader to either play the game by trying to escape the catacombs by themselves (or with help from Brad) or to simply read a narrative that walks them through. Both are effective, although there were images I felt like I saw in one or the other experience that weren’t present in both. I like the idea that you could get a different experience depending on what you chose. The constant image of urban decay, abandoned industry and desolate, crumbing rooms and tunnels simply underscored the loneliness that Alice must have felt and several times, she starts to give  in to paranoia, wondering if someone is watching her or if she hears something that she cannot see. The multiple faces that show up on the walls in graffiti form are very distressing. Especially this one:

alicescream

Maybe they are the ones she senses are watching her? The fact that she emerges to triumphant music and to a scene of more buildings is almost disappointing.  What about her friends? Her home? Instead, for her, the moment of success seems to be that she can see with true perspective – no longer limited, she sees the city before her – “like it all belongs to me”. Being able to see everything with clarity seems to be her victory. But I must say, that throughout the story I had assumed that getting out, or overcoming the challenge of being trapped in an abandoned building meant getting out on the ground floor. It wasn’t until the end that I realized she was escaping upward… Is the key to her happiness to not look to the next challenge until she has to, namely how to get down from the top of the building?

As for my ideas, I am sticking with my idea of using musical lyrics to tell a story between a father and son. They will each be represented by guitars. The plot structure will be an encounter between the two, in which each tries to communicate in his own “voice” (the boy with rock and roll or heavy metal lyrics and the father with blues or ’50’s rock lyrics), but they will be unable to communicate or understand each other. At the point in which clicking between the two builds the conversation to an impasse, we will transition to a scene of a concert (where the boy will have fled) and the player can hit different points on the screen to play guitar solos.  It will then transition back to the home scene and the father and son will attempt to communicate again. At some point in the back-and-forth, they will strike the correct “chord” and they will begin speaking in a common “voice” to resolve the conflict. I will need imagery of guitars for the main characters, as well as a concert and home image for the two scenes. I will then need a bank of prechosen audio snippets to represent each character’s voice, with one set for the before-concert conversation and one set for the after-concert conversation. They will be randomly chosen when the player clicks the guitars. At some point, clicking two “correct” snippets in succession will erase all of the audio snippets except two – which will represent the final exchange between the two. (in the same “voice” or song).


High Muck a Muck

I actually looked at High Muck a Muck initially for my own project and I am glad to get a chance to play. The phrase itself means an important or influential person, especially one who is pompous or conceited. It comes from Chinook Jargon in the period (later 1800’s) and area (Pacific Northwest) in which the story is set. The first screen appears to be the Pak Ah Pu lottery card that they reference. Interesting that it seems the game is set up to be multimodal (text, video and sound) and it indicates that the player has final decision on how the game unfolds, since the front page promises that the site can be explored “in any order and for any length of time”. No other part of the page is clickable except Enter. The text reveals slowly. The poem begins two lines at a time, referencing the lottery book which then replaces the poem large in the center of the screen. Some of the Chinese letters seem to be darker than others and I found that at least one was clickable, but while I was checking the others, blue ink stains appeared over some of the letters and then it all disappeared, replaced by a map. Starting over, I tried clicking on the one spot and all it does is erase the spots and then they come back again. So I let it go to the map. The lottery  card in the corner acts as a kid of a map key and reveals a list of places you can explore if you cursor over it. There is the sound of Chinese flute music – very calm at first, but soon replaced with conversations and silverware, etc – sounds very much like a restaurant. The blue stains are now on a person’s back covered with a drawing that looks like a map. By messing with the key, I discover that this is the home page. If you click on the book that says “British Columbia” in the left corner, it takes you to a poem. The seven biggest and darkest blue dots correspond to the seven locations in the lottery key. Clicking on “Everywhere and Nowhere“, you get a mystical horn sound, like a digeridoo. There are the images of two men facing away from each other and a ying yang between them. The ying yang takes you to a video that shows an old man emerging very slowly from the black screen – so slowly I thought the link was broken. It then pushes in on him. Is this the man with the lottery card from the beginning of the story? Discordant music plays over the video which just keeps pushing into the old man’s left eye. At about the halfway point, it dissolves into a bay’s eye and slowly pulls back. The juxtaposition of old and young is interesting – perhaps it means that if we look closely enough, we find things about us that are all the same? Just like the baby and the old man’s eyes are the same when you look closely?

Back to the home page and I’m trying to figure out what this is a map of. The opening page mentions that the idea of this game is to explore the difficulties of Chinese immigrants in North America’s Gold Mountain, which I discovered is a reference to both San Francisco and Canada’s British Columbia. The closest parallel I can find using Google Maps is Vancouver Island just north of Washington state. The lighter blue dots on the map reveal short poems, seeming to channel Chinese immigrants’ experiences and perhaps the locals as well (dealing with the wave of immigrants). One poem talks about villages a hundred years ago and describes them as “elegance in tune” – perhaps a reference to life before the immigrants came. But another says he marks his time “in sluice” – a type of gate that can be used in panning gold (a big part of what drew immigrants to the region). There are references to Chinese cuisine and names. By the way, interesting that each poem has an FW at the bottom – I’m guessing a reference to Fred Wah, one of the makers of the game. Click on the Pacific Rim, I realize that it has a book in the corner. I go back and check and the Everywhere and Nowhere page does not have a book. Clicking the book, I get a poem about the location. It seems to be referencing the troubles for someone going back and forth between China and Canada – “the counterbalance to the Mainland not so man at home” – maybe means the man is no longer welcome back home?  “Here and back again, stopped stunned and caught in this double-bind of information, Chinese-Canadian, China Chinese tongue-tied”… maybe the man is finding it difficult to jump back and forth both physically and mentally and getting caught unable to speak the language fluently either place. On the man page for the Pacific Rim, there are three ships (actually the middle one is several ships).  That middle one shows a bunch of stuff shipped by China and the label “Made in China”, so perhaps this is about how critical China is to other parts of the world and how Chinese immigrants want to be recognized for that? In Richmond, the poems and images are about Chinese immigrants longing for you and complaining about being disillusioned by the U.S. One video shows expensive American houses and complains about this “empty life”, saying “it’s just not me.” Interesting that this is a modern story with modern images – not so much a reference to life in the 1800’s (although the sensibilities may have been the same).

The overarching theme is of someone who doesn’t feel like they belong – either in the homeland they have left or in the new land they now inhabit. Canada is similar – it shows a map of the Northern U.S. along with the Great Lakes and images of workers and the railroad. The poems speak of loneliness (ancestors who wont remember you) even though it seems to refer to a lot of ancestors being in the area (or maybe just a lot of Chinese). Interesting to note all of these maps are on images of a body, showing that the land and the experiences of these lands are ingrained in the people and that the people and land start to become inseparable for better or for worse. When these immigrants came to these areas, it changed them forever.”Nelson” is another dot (a city I discovered). The images you can click on are more modern – restaurants and shops and a small house… The poems again speak of homesickness – of dreaming of a land across the water – and disconnectedness from the Chinese people who are living there – the “uncle” in the shop, the people playing mah jong. The main character questions everything – how are they related to him?  or more likely, how are they like him? Another image of a man with a camera takes us to a video. More action in this one – mostly showing people playing mah jong, with a close up on the game (not a lot of faces) and an odd toy or something showing a figure with a Chinese hat on a string leash of some kind. Again, faceless and unidentifiable. In the poem, it’s interesting that the narrator admires a man named “Charley” who he says “is China”. Apparently he finds it easy to move between the two worlds – a trait our  narrator finds admirable.

After I clicked through the locations, I tried the “Legend” which I should have looked at first. It told me what all the images meant (and I went back to look at another video hidden behind a character in Vancouver. It showed people moving cups around) And it told me that ears had audio from people who told stories about the places they lived and their experiences. The key also had an option to learn about the making of the game and all their awards, as well as an option to tweet about it or share the game on Facebook. All in all, this is a very involved, multi-layered game with lots of different options for the player. The drawings and audio put you very much in the mind of an Asian/Chinese experience and with the different text, video and audio options, there are lots of places to draw a sense of what the authors are trying to do. That said, the entire game seems very much to stay with the theme which, to me, is that of people coming to a new land, trying to maintain identity and yet feeling disconnected, at odds with the new culture even as they try to maintain their own, and in some ways disillusioned with where they find themselves. And yet, the sense is they don’t really have an option to go back (although they admire those that can move between the two worlds) and so therefore are stuck to try and make the best of it. Looking back, I think the image of the lottery card may simply be telling us that all of life is a game of chance. You make your choice, buy your card, and hope to come out ahead.