The Sound Effect

The craft of podcasting can be a very detailed and complicated one. Well, at least for me it seems that way. When I listen to a podcast, which in all honesty I haven’t done a whole lot, I tend to think of it as just a one time interview that may have minimal editing and then it is released on the air. But this is not true in the slightest.

The art of podcasting is complex. It takes a lot of planning, organizing and overall thought to create an efficient podcast. Being that a podcast relies solely on audio stimuli, it is limited in what it can do. This again reiterates the need for much thought to be put behind its creation. One of the most useful tools in creating a podcast is to exploit the power of sound.

Sound can come in many forms. The sound of one’s voice. Whether is be soft or harsh, quiet or loud. The pitch can create a specific mood for the listener: excitement, suspense, tranquility, comfort, anticipation, etc. Sound can also be used with sound effects. One can use sound effects to illustrate certain actions: the hammering of a nail, the swing of a bat, the sound of a crowd, etc. This can create more realistic imagery within the listener. Lastly, music is quite possibly the most powerful use of sound that can be used within a podcast.

Within the Invisibilia podcast episode called True You, the most efficient use of sound that I recognized was the use of music. In both stories, music was utilized as both a mood setter and as a point of transition. The music would alter from happy to something a bit more darker to indicate a change from positive to negative was about to happen or vice versa. Music was also used with questions. After the narrator would ask a question, music would appear or change if it was already being used to que in the answer.

At the end of the episode they ended with the song lyrics, “What you know, what you know about me?” Which went along with the whole idea of the episode: the true selves we tend to repress.

The Stories of our Lives

As I sit in thought trying to conjure up story ideas, naturally, I tend to resort to my own life experiences. I am also resorting to the cliche ideas centered around life, thinking of moments in my life where I had the most profound epiphanies. When I think of these moments I mold to them the question of “when does hardship become triumph” or “when does adversity become a source of hidden beauty”. I’m not even quite sure if that’s how I would phrase my story ideas, but that’s the best I can come up with at this late hour.

One such story is the tale of my freshman year at college. I had attended Rutgers University in New Jersey my entire freshmen year. I remember going there and just being in complete shock. Nearly 50,00 kids and not a single one I knew, living on the international floor with a roommate from China in the basement of my dorm building- a weeping sense of loneliness and a loud solitude ended up enwrapping me like a blanket, and I snuggled right up into it. As time persisted, I learned how to put myself out there. I really had no choice though, it was nearly a matter of survival. Thank god I did. There’s a whole lot more that I can add to this story, but long story short, I made a lot of meaningful friendships during this process. Friendships that still persist to this day believe it or not. Most importantly, I learned alot about myself along the way (I know this is not exactly the most desired phrase for a story, but again, I can add to it). Having almost transferred back here to UVM after the first semester, I’ll be forever grateful towards my mother for pushing me to ride out the full year. I guess one’s comfort zone can be ones worst kryptonite.

The next story is a bit more profound and more recent. It occurred the very first week of school during the first semester this year. It was a Friday, the first Friday back in school, so everyone was home. Naturally, my friend and I were excited to go out.

There were a few situations that happened earlier that day and during that night that foreshadowed the darkness that was to erupt in the night’s climax at around 3am. Essentially, my friend and I met up with a kid we sort of knew while at Rasputin’s. He invited us over to his place to smoke once the bar closed, all we had to do was buy rolling papers. Being the Cheech and Chong we are, it was a no brainer. Fuck yeah we’ll buy papers.

When we got to the house I could sense the hostility that had been fumigating in the air, but god knows for how long. Eventually, for reasons I’m not quite sure of, fighting broke out amongst everyone that was there. My friend and I knew none of the kids so we had no reason to participate in the fighting. Instead, which was also a mistake, we tried to break it up. I remember grabbing a hold of one of the instigators, who happened to be the kid that invited us over, and shoving him on his bed telling him that the fighting needed to stop. As I walked into the hall way my friend was getting jumped. I ran over to help him, but by the time I got there he had stood up and was stumbling. As he was stumbling by the top of the stairs I watched him get sucker punched. He flew down the stairs, not even tumbling, and smashed his head wide open against the wall at the bottom of the stairway. I can go into bitter detail, but I’ll just say that there are things in life that you will never unfeel or unsee. This is one of those moments for me.

For now I’ll just say this: not only is life short, but life also owes you nothing. No matter who you are, how old you are, what you’ve done, what you haven’t done, what you want to do; life owes you nothing. But, maybe you owe something to life. I just can’t say what that is quite yet.  

Telling a Story

Radio is a thing of the past. Sitting around the radio and listening to talk shows used to be the main source of entertainment. Now, with the visual stimulation of the television, internet and new forms of media, radio talk shows have nearly deceased. But, the power of storytelling has not. Neither has the idea of listening to these stories without the added visual stimulation. The modern day radio talk shows have taken a new form- the podcast. Podcasts have a lot of pressure on them. They need to not only compete with each other, but also compete with all the more engaging forms of entertainment as well. So how does one produce a successful podcast?

Well, the answer mainly resides in good story telling. Storytelling that keeps the listener hooked. Hooked and intrigued enough to resist going on instagram, FaceBook, or going to listen to that new song they just heard and can’t get enough of. So, what does good storytelling entail? For starters, its character driven. The story follows an individual who goes through a chain of events and comes out at the end changed in one way or another.

Within the two podcasts I listened to, both from Invisibilia, the stories centered around one individual. In one, the individual is living their dream life, and then one day it all comes crumbling down when she wakes up in the hospital unable to speak. The story starts out blissful, reminiscing on childhood memories and leading up to a dream life, but then suddenly it shatters. This dichotomy creates the tension and suspense needed for a good story. It also creates a strong sense of empathy from the listener. This was further reiterated through the usage of real recordings of the individual slowly but surely trying to regain their ability to speak. The story also used symbolism. The speaker reminisced on a prayer that she used to practice with her father as a kid, this prayer was then the tool she used to try to speak again. It instills in the listener a symbol of hope and importance of family.

The second podcast I listened to was centered around an individual who hated talking on the phone. And probably like most people, he especially hated it with his own mother. In turn, he wouldn’t answer her calls leaving her no option but to leave voicemails. The turn in the story happens when his mother becomes very ill with cancer; eventually losing her life to it. He realized that the most special thing he had from his mother were those voicemails. Those annoying unnecessary wordy voicemails from a caring mother. This podcast was not only emotionally intriguing, but it was relatable and eye opening. Essentially the listener is left with the cliche realization that “you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone”.

I guess that lesson was similar in both the podcasts when I think about it. The things we take for granted are the most noticeable when gone. Whether it’s just having the ability to talk, or having a caring mother annoy you with their phone calls.

Research is Gross…But it Doesn’t Have to be…

Research papers. We’ve all had to read them. And, chances are, if you’re anything like me, you’ve dreaded it. Just the sound of hearing the phrase “research paper” brings a sense of disdain to my heart. The complexly worded long sentences that I really don’t have a clue about…gross. But, apart from an entire research paper, research can be essential in a piece of writing- especially when one is trying to prove a point about something. Utilizing efficient research can exponentially increase the legitimacy to a piece of work. The important thing is, though, how does one incorporate research in such a way that is tasteful and keeps the reader engaged?

Within  Douglas Emlen’s piece for The New York Times Magazine entitled “The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles”, Emlen is able to present research in an efficient manner. Having done background research on specific types of dung beetles, he is able to both enhance the reader’s scientific understanding behind these creatures while simultaneously evoking a sense of anticipation within the reader to continue on until the end.

Emlen does a great job at taking the research and making it more relatable through his word choice, specifically, how he phrases certain things. Emlen takes advantage of the fact that his piece is about beetles, and therefore utilizes personification. Personifying certain aspects of the beetles not only makes it relatable to the reader (a human) but also makes it minorly humorous.

Firstly, Emlen refers to their horns as “weapons” throughout the entire paper. Then, staying in tune with the ideas of weaponry, he refers to Charles Darwin’s process of evolution/natural selection, as an “arms race”. In replacing what was probably phrased scientifically in his research with common terms that personify the beetles, the reader doesn’t need to put as much thought behind what Emlen is trying to explain. It also made it slightly humorous, at least for me, because I then pictured in my head actual beetles with weapons fighting each other. I guess you just never know how your reader is going to digest your writing.  

Writing in a World of Distractions

In a technologically driven world, with all the capabilities the internet poses, it can be difficult to write a magazine feature that will be engaging enough for its reader to stay interested in until the end. In other words, how does one compose an extended feature so engaging that the reader will resist their urges to venture elsewhere? A lot of it has to do with the way the writer is able to initially engage the reader, indirectly both ask and answer questions regarding the topic, and organize the information in a way that there is a sense of balance throughout.

Within Leslie Jamison’s feature written for the New York Magazine titled, “In the Shadow of a Fairytale”, Leslie is able to successfully create a feature that is both interesting, possibly relatable, and overall engaging for the reader. She starts off by instantly telling a personal story about her stepdaughter and their relationship. She then takes that story and is able to relate it to a bigger picture; the classic evil stepdaughter stepmother relationship depicted in fairy tales.  

She continues on with personal background stories related to her relationship to her stepdaughter, her husband and just her overall personal emotions regarding both. In doing this, Leslie is able to make the reader feel personally connected to the story, whether or not they can relate to the idea of being an actual stepmother themselves. She also throughout the entire feature makes effective allusions to many of the classic fairy tales all readers would be able to connect with. Leslie even points out specific aspects to these fairy tales that parallel her own situation. Not only does this act as a catalyst in engaging the reader, but it also further demonstrates Leslie’s own concern over the topic. In other words, she is so concerned about her relationship as a stepmother to her step daughter that she seeks out the negatively depicting fairy tales as a source of solace.

Leslie incorporates references to studies and quotes from psychologists and other intellectual resources in order to enhance the legitimacy of her feature. Doing this in the magazine feature turns a personal and opinionated story into a tale with real world legitimacy. All the while, she is still able to interweave her own personal story simultaneously, creating a stronger sense of empathy within the reader.

In terms of structure and overall visual layout of the feature, one thing that was particularly satisfying was the interspersed usage of the large gothic lettering that one would usually see in a fairy tale. It added to the piece’s authenticity. Also, the usage of imagery was very satisfying. Instead of using normal images from the disney fairy tale movies, actual creativity was put behind creating collage style pieces of art; giving a non-living piece of writing life and further conveying a sense of personality that was already transpired within the writing. Upon fully reading Leslie’s magazine feature, one can see how it is an effective piece of writing that will have its reader committed all the way through.


Digital Personality

With the fruition of the new digital age, one of the many positive side effects has been the birth of new creative mediums. One has the ability to display their creative intellect and its products to the entire world in ways that were never possible in the past. Apart from the conjunction of social media, one such way is by creating a website. By creating a website, one can use the website as a means to not only showcase their art in a tasteful way, but also their personality and life story. With this being said, one can see the creation of a website as a piece of art within itself.

Now, as a predecessor to creating my own website, it was important to study and observe some examples that efficiently function in their objectives. One that stood out to me in achieving this was a multimedia site. It was created by Jimmy Chin to display all of his creative avenues in which he portrays the natural beauty and excitement that entails his adventurous lifestyle. Being that he uses both photography and videos, I was interested in how he would set up his site in a tasteful way that wasn’t  overly dressed to impress. 

Upon visiting his site and exploring its features, I realized that Jimmy seems to have value in simplicity and efficiency.  The home page was as simple as it be. One eye catching picture of a snow covered mountain, who’s jagged white tips surpass the clouds, made up the background with three sub-links going across it: one titled ‘motion’ for his videos, another titled ‘about’ that gives Jimmy’s background story on how he became a photographer/ filmmaker and his achievements, and lastly the third titled ‘still’ showing Jimmy’s photography. 

It seems that Jimmy’s stylistic taste is a minimalist one, which he makes up for in his audacious lifestyle. In my opinion, the minimalist approach to his site does the more to expose the thrill/eye catching beauty he enjoys during his adventures. I personally found this to be inspiring and even relatable because I enjoy simplicity and have the aspiration to one day live adventurously, although I don’t see myself ever skiing Mt. Everest (as Jimmy has).

When I moved my cursor over the sub-links, a mini slideshow would appear highlighting some of the media within it. For instance, when I put the cursor over the ‘still’ sub-link’ some of his images would start to flash across the screen, and when I put it over ‘motion’, a small trailer for one of his videos started to play. I also found this to be effective for it made it more engaging for the user. Then once I fully clicked on the sub-links I was able to scroll through and easily choose what I wanted to view or watch. The background color was white, which may be seen as boring to some, but with the sharp colors captured in his media, it makes no difference. I’d even say the plain white background is a nice offset to the sharp colors captured by Jimmy. Overall, as I said earlier, Jimmy achieves great efficiency through his use of simplicity.