(Ear)nest Writing

Before I begin my dissection on how sound can heighten the experience of a podcast, I did want to point out that, while sound is an important part for hearing audiences who listen to podcasts, I don’t support the strong suggestions that many websites give to “listen to the podcasts instead of reading the transcription”. I think it’s important to point out that the deaf community should have access to — and be able to learn from — podcasts as well. While hearing people do rely on sounds in podcasts that is not to say that other audiences should be excluded. 

Reading the podcast “True You” and listening to the podcast were distinct, almost disparate, experiences. This podcast in particular relies on contrast between the sounds and does have individual sections that are not as easily interpreted when read. The beginning of the podcast, upon reading, did not make sense as it stood out as an individual event. If it were in an article this part would not work to frame the ensuing stories about identity and how a vocabulary is built from within a single person. 

The first story’s impact is muddled, at best, when read in the transcript. The giggles coming from a piercing-clad punk woman gives little impact when in between sections of text. The sleep talking takes on a mundane character rather than one that drives the listener to want to find out more about her story. Moreover, it was impossible to decipher through reading alone what Marquardt felt about X — or her inner child — and how her past has affected her. In reading, often times writers can compensate by mentioning what their face looked like as they said something, or modifying adjectives, but no other information is available from the transcript. 

In a way, the use of sound modulates the tone. For example: “I’m dead” she said, laughing. Is a lot different from: “I’m dead!” She screamed, bleeding. 

Emotion that is carried from the voice is not the podcaster’s choice, however it is an inevitable advantage to listening to a podcast. What a podcaster can do, and what Abel recommends, is to carve out a space where that emotion, with all its pauses and pockmarks, can linger. There are moments in the podcast where people are comfortable enough to let their thoughts wander, which gives the story appropriate emotion in pacing. 

Despair is not the only emotion that is lost when there is no sound, the elements of mystique and hopefulness are lost to. It is easy to read something on paper and immediately feel as if everything is bleak and the whole story is a tragedy. A change in music can alter the tone of the piece and transition us from what is depressing to what is hopeful, this also helps a character arc develop as the characters find out more about themselves and life. 

A transcript will give us no pace. One can either zoom through the piece, or read and come back to it. Either concept is not typically allowed in podcasting, which is formatted to force the listener to follow a distinct pace. Due to this, the audio must be intentional and of interest. The music and sound bites especially help the mind rest and transition. 

The emotion is reflected by sound, and even ambiguous sounds create more meaning. When reading a transcript, there is a lack of an “aha” moment, due to the way it is written. The emphasis is more on seeing what’s going to be read next, but the didactic nature is almost lost when sound is absent. 

The concept of a void, which Abel mentions, is an important concept in human nature. The idea sounds almost cliche in the transcript, but in the actual podcast it is actually a headlining element of the story. The silence contrasted with the background music heightens this concept and gives it purpose. The sound interacts with the story that is being told, augmenting every concept.

What may seem banal, such as grasshoppers, is suddenly exciting when you hear the persistent buzzing of a locust. Even sound of pencil markings guide the reader to conjure up an image of their own cartoons.

The questioning background music almost transports us to another dimension. The characters seem to be in a dreamland confronting themselves through a gap in time-space rather than a story of sleep talk or self-defense. 

The sound gives us cues, reminds us what is learned, what is to be learned, and what could be most important. The story elevates a one dimensional page to an actual world through which a listener can travel. 

Possible Podcasts (Possicasts)

There are podcasts out there for almost everyone, which means finding an interesting topic can be tricky. Fortunately, a character driven inquiry based podcast tends to draw people in due to the people involved. I imagine making a podcast about human behaviors that are common, yet questionable.

I’ve always found human intimate relationships to be interesting, because in essence they are impractical and inconvenient. While a monogamous, lifelong relationship is not a cultural universal, it is a cultural ideal in America. With the rise of alterations on the typical monogamous relationship, I’m certain there is a sense of controversy.

I think some possible interesting scenarios are people who choose to be single into their older ages, and how they feel around their peers. Does this decrease their quality of life? Other than that, I’ve thought a lot about why people often do things to others that they do not want to be done to them? Why do we make allowances for ourselves but not others?

Why do some couples recover from infidelity? Why do some couples separate over even a single glance at another human?

Another incomplete idea is how secularity has been affecting America. I feel as if the lack of cohesive groups cause people to make connections with others based on things other than faith. I want to know what makes a small group benign versus hateful and exclusive.

Hopefully, however, my ideas intertwine to something practical. We shall see!

Are Some Podcasts Loved Unconditionally?

Podcasts seem easy enough. If you know how to speak, can obtain a microphone and can access to a computer, you (yes you) could become a podcaster. Due to this, the market has become very saturated with storytellers vying to curate a space where they can communicate with a loving, expectant, audience. As with all things that seem easy, creating a successful podcast is a lot different than just sitting in front of a microphone and spewing out words. 

The podcast “Unconditional Love” by This American Life is successful for several reasons that Ira Glass has explained.

A podcast works in a similar way to a web feature — we need character, we need to learn something new, and we need variety. Ira has sad that podcasts are “didactic in nature” and this is highlighted immediately in “Unconditional Love”. 

The podcast drops us right in the middle of an experiment involving several rhesus monkeys and researchers trying to disprove the notion that someone could give too much love.  An intriguing tactic is used here, Ira Glass is keen to the fact that most listeners live in an era where they know that unconditional love is essential, so he presents this experiment with 1960s-esque context so the listener understand that the knowledge they live with now — almost an innate idea — had not always been in vogue. 

  So, I did say that a podcast does most of the work that you’d see in a web feature, however, there are elements that set a podcast apart. The reason this particular story works better as a podcast is because of the conversation set by Deborah Blum, Glass, Heidi and her husband. Their dialogue moves along the story in a way that anticipates the questions the listener is asking themselves, and then immediately answering them. The casual tone offsets the initial psychological background, and makes the listener feel as though they are a part of the conversation as Glass travels back and forth throughout time to present the prevailing idea of excessive love as a toxic habit. 

I imagine the writers pitched this very generally, as with most of the podcasts I’ve listened to, I think that a general cultural value or idea is presented and then the writers conjure a hot take. Love, for example, has been iterated, reiterated, and reinterpreted several times. For the writers, they had to frame the construct of love in a way that has not often been communicated — at least currently.

Media portrays love as undying, unconditional and always positive. The prevailing movement in this decade is that love is all you need, which has been prevalent since the 70s.

The writers had to take that idea and turn it on its head. Collecting evidence and characters that oppose the idea of love as this natural phenomenon helped shape the story and create a meaningful script.

Each section presents a new question, but the main idea is still retained — what work does love actually do? The music also adds coherency between separate acts and ideas, matching the tone of the speakers. Music adds emotions that are often not able to be articulated clearly, which makes the podcast alive, wrapping around the viewer and encapsulating their thoughts. 

The characters of the story are presented later in the podcast, but not so late that the listener would click off due to a lack of human emphasis or connection. 

The story of Daniel and his adoptive parents is enthralling because love is exactly what the adoptive child was uncomfortable with — another idea that is diametrically opposed to what most people believe. Their voices are haunting, as you can still hear the yearning and need to help their child. The listener is confronted with dissonance from conflicting ideas, yet they are met with a journey that leads them back to a truth they believed all along. 

This drives the story because it is not just a repetitive tennis match question and answer interview, the voices peak through when a narrator is not able to completely translate the raw emotion.

Interviews in podcasts are not the succinct interviews that are broadcast on daily news channels, instead Heidi and her husband are able to trail off and are not interrupted. There is no five minute cutoff, instead there is a lingering sense of openness granted to all those involved in the stories. This is a space for us to learn and, in a way, speak with another human being who has been through unimaginable strife. 

I’ve gained a skillset from listening to famed podcasts. I realize now that it is more than a talkshow style radio show, podcasts aim to make you think and connect. The goal of the podcast is to teach and entertain, and to help the viewer walk away from the show with something new to share with others.

Proposal: Why are underaged people in movies framed so sexually?

Remixing has always been a form of art I have dabbled in, considering I like Hip-Hop and find it entertaining to examine how songs evolve through sampling means.

Often times, I only considered remixing splicing together a new creature made for humorous material, as it is easy to highlight fallacies by hyperbolizing opposite ideologies. Watching several political remixed videos altered my views about the tone of remixing material.

There is a way to adjust the narrative in a remixed video by altering the approach — focusing less on hyperbole and more on the contrariness of cultural ideals. 

I aim to create a video that has a more serious context, since I am already familiar with the creation of humorous videos throughout years of creating content with my friends through spoofing videos or songs. The challenge of creating a serious video will inspire me to find resources that I would not normally examine, and help me examine how I consume entertainment. 

My remix video will be reviewing the hyper-sexualization of youth in movies. The preponderance of scenes of underaged characters in movies had often slipped into my sources of entertainment unbeknownst to me until allegations against several producers have come to light. I presume that many people my age may not notice how often a young character is framed to be sexual or directed to be in compromising scenarios, even when it has little to do with the point of the movies. 

It will be a challenge without the actual allegations backing up my point of view, due to the commonplace tropes that are in most movies. Repetition will be my greatest advantage, and I have collected movies about teenagers and youth aimed at teenagers and youth. The repetition will be done under a framework of a culture that simultaneously condemns women for appearing old. 

The video will have several phases that will, hopefully, create a cohesive message of Hollywood’s obsession with youth. The movies will begin with movies from older times and I hope to pair these scenes with recent scenes that parallel what has been filmed in the past, in an attempt to outline the stagnancy of cultural issues such as these.

I will include news pieces towards the end to provide a factual slant, so the persuasion is not simply implied by cherry-picking movies that support my argument.

I have read scholarly sources that portend damaging effects on women that watch movies like this, and I will include the movies that they compiled for their studies. I think that this will be helpful in keeping the video not only based on my preferences for movies, so it is not an amalgamation of movies that are popular to me. Adding in immensely popular movies that I may have not seen is essential so it can reach a wider scope of people that may adore movies that I do not tend to watch. 

With this video I do not want to accuse movies of being perverse, instead I want the viewer to ask themselves why younger characters frequently seem overtly sexual. 

“Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth”, local man reports.

Your living room T.V could be lying to you.

In a video taken of local news providers giving a script on fake news, we are given the impression that local news is scripted by a conglomerate named Sinclair Broadcasting. Although we expect our local news reporters to be working for the communities they speak of, this video communicates the opposite.

The video starts by showing just a couple of the same lines, ones that could easily be a case of parallel thinking. As the video continues, the eerily similar lines multiply. The lines get longer, and the viewer is now convinced there must be something deeper happening. By starting with a small scope, it primes the viewer to think of a rational explanation for the what is unfolding, however, when the explanation cannot persist when there are over 20 clips of the same word-for-word sentences, we are left with no counter-arguments.

When something is portrayed with stark visual evidence, it is difficult to rationalize what is happening. If the public had to rely on their own memory when encountering this repetition, it is easy to think that what has happened is imagined, but the unison chant that is seen here is undeniable 

To enhance the message in this video, the creator should have posted some screenshots of Sinclair or explanations to what the group is and what their supposed biases are. Without that key piece of evidence, the point made only exists in the title. If another user were to take this video for their own purposes they could blame the synchronicity on mind-control or reptilian species.

In order for us to understand that our local media is propaganda, a wise choice could be to compare our news to news in countries that we believe are “controlled” and “not free”. The freedom of America is put into question if press is not free, this tension can be dramatized by explaining more of the sinister possibilities of media being controlled. 

As the comment on the video says,

“Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth”

Mentally Ill? You Must Be Joking

 “She’s coo-coo.” My grandfather said, his index finger orbiting his ear. Whenever he would tell me this, I would laugh and nod my head. The joke never seemed to get old. As a child, I would have laughed at the word coo-coo regardless of the context. As I grew older, however, I realized he reserved this term for my aunt, who always responded with a hearty, resounding laugh.

“Coo-coo” began to take on a darker connotation only when I became an adult, because it always seemed to follow bouts of sickness, during which my aunt would remain in her bed for days. It was no doubt that my grandfather loved his children, he would have done anything for them and even shelled out an exorbitant amount of money for different treatment facilities, but he sternly disapproved of lengthy conversations. If he were to talk, he’d just ask about which numbers were reported for The Numbers Game, or about the impending weather that could alter his plans to do construction on his home. Whenever his daughter’s mental illness had become more pronounced, so did his silence. 

There was not shame and it was no secret. All that lingered was a haze of discomfort that lacked a proper outlet. The rest of the family responded in the same way, ensheathed in silence, only to speak when there was a joke to be told.

 “You know me, I’m goofy!” My aunt would agree when she finally emerged from the grip of her mental illness and the spotlight shone on her.

It’s a growing trope — the depressed comedian whose alter-ego is their persona on stage. With social media as a platform that elevates the regular person from the funny one of their friend group to an online comedian, there has been a shift in humor itself. The internet can conjure a laugh from even the most mundane pictures or videos. Clever editing or a relatable caption can turn a wholesome picture of an overweight cat to the topic of the year, taking on several reiterations. As the once amorphous tone of internet comedy starts to gain clarity, the most popular memes take on personal undertones, namely of mental health struggles. 

Humor has always been about the taboo — from Joan Rivers making raunchy sex jokes to Chris Rock’s opinions about black wealth in America — but it has not seemed to be so explicitly based around mental health as it is today. Pete Davidson, an SNL comedian, has an entire skit based around his mental health and openly broadcasts this on air. Several memes skip over the dark undercurrent of suicide and superimpose a picture for comic relief. 

On the contrary, what makes that material for humor? The premise of a joke is based around the taboo. If mental health jokes are decreasing stigma, how are they material for humor? Wouldn’t the issue be so benign to society as a whole that it would not be worth laughing about?

An argument for this is that it lends us an outlet, we have all heard the stories of women being locked away for having impure thoughts and a wandering eye. True emancipation from an illness can only be reached if one is able to speak of it freely without damnation or fear of retribution, yet there seems to be a divide between acceptable and unacceptable mental illness.

After my aunt’s mother died, my grandmother, she had a hard time recuperating. Her attendance at work had milled down to zero days a week, and she would remain in her house for days at a time. Always thin, she withered to gaunt and ghastly, her eyes receding deeply into her skull leaving saucer-sized craters. My aunt was the closest thing I had to a mother, so naturally we shared everything with one another. She echoed to me, faintly, one night that she had visions of her mother at times that caused her to panic. While I was grateful for the transparency, I was disappointed that she would never truly receive the care she needed. Even after speculating that being dishonest about these key elements of her spiraling mental health were possibly fatal she only ever responded, “I only have anxiety.” 

Society has not accepted mental illness in the way we like to boast on headlines every time a song is released about thoughts of death or suicide. While every other week a headline comes along applauding someone for opening a conversation on mental health, the conversation stops at depression and anxiety. This is not an open conversation on mental health, it is a conversation on the acceptable forms of mental illness we have labelled safe.

Contemporary movies still display the scary, crazed, villains as schizophrenic maniacs. A majority of movies portray these characters as malicious and dangerous, almost all of them posing a threat to others. A majority of those suffering from schizophrenia are not harmful, and are more likely to end their lives out of their own misery rather than go on a massive killing spree.


Many psychologists have been reporting that there is not a definite effect of humor on mental illness. We still seem unsure if humor can exacerbate mental illness or alleviate it. 

Still, being unsure is not a good enough answer. The U.S suicide rate has recently reached a 30 year high. If the stigma is supposedly lessening, then there must be a missing piece.

scores of clinical language score the highest

Often times the jokes about mental illness have the effect of trivializing the illness and reducing it to a couple of characteristics that are a nuisance, but not the debilitating horrific experiences they truly can be. Thirteen reasons why has been criticized for this portrayal, as it erases the permanence of suicide by having a dead girl live on, and misconstrue an act made of unbearable pain to an act of righteous revenge. As a result, some people find mental illness something people use a “dog ate my homework” excuse for behavior. Rachel L. Pavelko’s study on the #OCD usage on twitter has made the effects of glossing over the serious implications of mental illnesses more lucid: those who trivialized a mental disorder are seen as unlikeable even when they self-identify with having the disorder. This could be due to an array of factors, however it seems that sympathy and understanding does not increase when people discuss mental health using terms that are flippant and non-clinical. The researchers conclude that communication about mental illness must be authentic, not reduced to a simplistic level. 

These memes, often times, can have the same effect. Some memes that are relatable about depression are just not funny when they are about a certain disorder. While this is not equitable to most memes about depression or anxiety, 30 million people have an eating disorder, yet websites that focus on eating disorders (even when the intent is not to encourage others) are even liable to be criminalized in countries such as Italy. After signing up for an infamous eating disorder site in order to understand their function, I realized a lot of the content is about sharing experiences or being humorous — much like the content you would see in a meme.  

Some people seem to find solace in sharing their troubles, but this may be the same reason why a recovering abuse victim writes a book and others choose to leave that life behind them completely — the same solution cannot be applied to every individual. In a way, these memes open up conversation and shut them down simultaneously. Would someone who is impaired greatly by mental illness really want to correspond with someone who thinks it is something to be joked about? 

My aunt, being a generally funny person and able to light up a room with her laugh, never escaped the perceptions that had been cast upon her. After coping with humor for so many years, even when her mental illness declined more than it had before, no one took it seriously — not even her therapists.  My aunt’s laugh was often met with a mix of reactions, it was fire-cracker loud and as long as a fireworks show on the Forth of July. Due to this, she appeared perpetually happy because almost any emotion could provoke her outburst of laughter. People who did not even know her could recognize that laugh that often ricocheted, breaking the silence in any room.

After a therapy session that she had attended right after her father’s death, my aunt came from an appointment fuming, “she laughed!”

“What?” I responded, unsure of what she meant. 

“She just laughed! I can’t see her anymore.” 

It was then when I noticed that any glimmer of hope had been drained from her. Her body moved as if it were made of marble, as if she had given up. Of course, there were thousands of therapists to see in our area, but this had solidified one of her greatest fears. None of this was serious.


It was a joke. 

Ed for the Uneducated Entomologist!

There is a bold divide between the scientific world and the world of popular media. While the two are worlds apart, like star-crossed lovers, they need each other to function. Scientific research is usually meant to better humanity and create understanding, from which even the least scientific person can benefit. When the public is unaware of recent research, it can lead to extremist ideologies, seen in groups such as anti-vaxers. 

Writers often elect to take the responsibility of translating technical jargon into readable entertainment for those that don’t have time to take out of their day to peruse Pub Med or pay egregious prices for access to databases. Some writers use this authority in an unwieldy way, basing their articles off of bogus statistics or misrepresenting a study for the sake of a catchy headline. Fortunately, some writers have the talent to make us learn without giving off that nauseating feeling of cramming for a high-school chemistry exam. 

boring “real” science

Douglas Emlen is the latter writer, able to turn the everyday web surfer into an entomologist. In The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles, Emlen humanizes beetle interactions second only to Eliza Thornberry from The Wild Thornberrys (sorry, talking to animals is slightly more exciting than personifying them). Even though Emlen is talking about insects, the images he chooses of their armory and attacks conjures up Sparta rather than a couple of bugs milling about. 

To answer why we should care about specific species of beetles, Emlen describes their horns in a way that is more tangible than abstract. The Onthophagus raffrayi has a horn that stems from its head that is twice the size of its body. This is more frightening of an image than a couple of American Revolutionaries with bayonets, the history that all of us are more than familiar with seeing. If Emlen had reported that the horns were an inch long, I might have yawned and went back to my American Revolution picture book, but now I understand the type of equipment the beetles are working with. 


This is not to say Emlen spares all scientific meaning in his article, he informs us of the impossibly long species names of the Onthophagus raffrayi, Onthophagus nigriventris and S. Pius. The reader encounters concepts such as evolution and the reason behind the mutations of specific beetles, as well. The questions are not unanswered and we have a chance to learn about why armament of beetles is effective and why it isn’t. Using terms such as “genetic trigger” are successful because they touch on the theory of genetics without delving into epigenetics or even reiterating Mendel’s infamous yellow and green peapods. Emlen remains self-aware throughout the piece. After discussing complex concepts about beetles and how they mate, he immediately changes the topic to human beings. Most people care more about learning about other people than beetles, so the article switches immediately to famous arms races throughout history. 

It is remarkably easy to learn a few facts about beetles when the beetles seem more like warriors than lowly bugs. 

How to Convince the World it’s All Gonna Be Ok (Maybe)

Are you good or evil?

The world is rife with injustice, and many of us demand an explanation. In the article The Science Behind Psychopaths and Extreme Altruists, the writer confronts us with a dichotomy, comparing psychopaths and extreme altruists, but does not indulge us with an immediate answer. The placement of this as a header primes the reader to question his or her own actions and examine how mere humans can exist on opposite ends of this spectrum.

Haunting black and white images span the center of the page, usurping the attention of the viewer. The photos are accompanied by death tolls that are in bold under each image. Although the images are deafeningly serene, the number of lives lost shatter that guise and the writer presents us with more contradiction. The dissonance keeps the reader on the edge of every word written, asking for some coherent conclusion that will solve the discomfort that arises. Instead of releasing tension, the writer tightens their scope — choosing to focus on an individual story rather than an entire moment in history. The moment is suddenly magnified, as the chosen women’s story of heroism encapsulates the attention of the reader. The writer uses scope and detail to introduce the two concepts in a way that makes it appear that horror and heroism may occur in equal frequency.

After delving into personal scenarios and national events that the reader can emphasize with, the writer introduces the heart of the article; attempting to tell the world why. Using research on child psychology along with infographics, the writer appeals to the reader’s rational side, the one that craves logic and reason. The article uses logos, pathos, and ethos to convey to the reader that there is an answer to be found within a sometimes non-sensical world. Citing research, researchers, and even arguments the writer convinces the reader that there is hope. This resolves the initial disconcerting reality, offering a way out from the despair that initially seemed senseless.

It seems that there could be a scientific solution to quelling the inner psychopathic animal inside every man, though the writer does not espouse a single answer, they bring flesh to the bare bone concept of true evil.

in awww-nor of The awwwards

 

I’ve always been a pretty big fan of the triptych, not only were they used pretty often to represent the holy trinity for Daddy Jesus, but they give you that unsymmetrical yet cohesive feeling of poetic triplets. The parallel images on either side seem austere and logical, but the off-kilter middle panel gives the page a pop, pizzazz, or oomph if you will. I want my websites to be organized so I’m not bombarded by one hundred images, anxious my computer might overheat and malfunction (I don’t know how the internet works). However, I don’t want it to be too official like I’m on one of those .edu or .gov type websites. I’m a fun, money-hungry, .com type. The website is clean and crisp, with a lot of negative space. Negative space allows your eye to rest a little as you scroll about the page, focusing on what is most important. The graphic designers chose to introduce an animation as soon as you open the page. This did not work for me. It reminds me of back when people still had Myspace or Tumblrs and put music that automatically played when you opened their pages. Not only does it get old, but the extra effort puts me on edge — what are you really hiding? Some online shops do this, and it always deters me because I feel like they spent their money on the animation rather than on their security. This is probably incorrect, let’s face it those sites are loaded, but too much fanciness keeps me on edge. The style itself is unique enough with the entire hocus-pocus internet voodoo.

This website is user friendly, but there is infinite scroll enabled on my browser when I access the website. As with most insignificant aspects of life, this functionality makes me nervous. Some chic websites include this for optimal sleekness, but at times it can seem as if the page is endless, which is daunting. The color scheme reminds me of the graphic novel Asterious Polyp, in which the author uses indigo and pinks rather than blacks.

The use of color instead of neutrals makes the website seem current, but since they are analogous in color scheme it does not seem elementary or gaudy. A tab on their website outlines their use of characters and handmade icons — I believe this is risky and I am not sure how I feel about it. While this is fresh and inimitable, when icons are not standardized this can come across too daring for those that are visiting the website from an older demographic. Some of the symbols are less obvious than other ones, I spent a couple minutes trying to figure out some of them and I’m not even in my mid-twenties yet. Not that older people would toss their laptop across the room in a fit of rage upon seeing customized icons, but not every business could pull this branding off. The characters in the project are for the purpose of creating a neighborhood that serves as a networking platform for professionals. The website crafts it deliberately to represent a The Sims style suburb with houses that represent different people.

This is appealing because it gives the client an ability to create a community without the team-building platitudes of yesteryear. Daring, appealing, yet user-friendly, this website reminds me of a Rihanna. She has that down-to-earth approachable vibe, yet there are things about her that only certain people could ever pull off.

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