Podcasts – New but Old

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2019 by pgudeman

One of the most interesting things about the rise of the internet is that, in some ways, it’s letting communication and news return to some of its older roots while on a new, digital platform. I’m talking, of course, about podcasts. Podcasts are audio clips that can vary in length, from the twenty-minute long ghost story podcasts I used to (and sometimes still do) enjoy, to the staggering, four or five hour long Joe Rogan podcasts, in which Joe and some guest will discuss a variety of things in a conversation manner. Sound familiar? It should – podcasts, in a lot of ways, feel just like talk radio, one of the oldest forms of mass communication.

The examples I gave earlier – the ghost stories and the Joe Rogan conversational pieces, point not only to the wide range of length the podcasts can be, but also the vast amount of different kinds of material one can find on podcasts. From the tales of the supernatural to the ideas of a stoned Elon Musk. At some point in between, you can find more reportive, journalistic type podcasts, including podcasts from the famous “This American Life” segment from NPR.

I hadn’t listened to NPR at all in a while since coming to college, since I was rarely in a car anymore and therefore rarely near a radio. But, as I said, I discovered that NPR had a presence in the podcast realm. One of their podcasts immediately caught my eye. Titled “Beware the Jabberwock”, the subtitle claimed it was about the strange, dark world of conspiracy theorists. I started listening, and was hooked immediately.

The podcast follows the story of Lenny Pozner, the father of one of the children murdered at the Sandy Hook massacre, and how he fights back against rabid conspiracy theorists who think he is a “crisis actor”, and harass him both online and, sometimes, in the real world.

In the book Out on the Wire, Ira Glass, who also did the prologue for the podcast segment, says that when he and his team are trying to find a good story to report on, they always need a hook – something surprising that draws the listener in right away. Going into the podcast, I was just thinking it would be about conspiracy theorists and their nutty beliefs about things like Sandy Hook (I had heard on the news about people like this), but the hook is that the person battling them isn’t any normal person – he’s a parent of one of the kids murdered, and is staging a sort of virtual war with many of the conspiracy theorists.

The podcast though, didn’t seem to be using many sound effects, which is also mentioned in Out on the Wire, but they do use music in certain points to accentuate a particularly sad, shocking or suspenseful moment.

It is an excellent podcast and I highly recommend that you take a look at it if you want to hear a gripping story of a man’s battle with the conspiracy-theorist underworld.

Mental Health Remix

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2019 by pgudeman

Let’s face it, one of the reasons we follow Kanye West is that we’re always waiting for him to do something crazy – to go on a rant in the TMZ office, to express his love for Donald Trump at a concert. And when he decided to get hospitalization for his mental health issues, it was a media frenzy.

Pete Davidson, the comedian from Saturday Night Live, has a similar sort of unpredictability. He was recently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder a couple years ago, seems to have episodes of mental breakdowns, recently even publicly announcing that he was tired of being on this earth. The media was all over it, and jokes were being made almost instantly at his expense.

This is a somewhat troubling trend in the history of media – whenever a celebrity suffers from some sort of mental health issues, from Britney Spears to Demi Lovato to Kanye West and Pete Davidson, it simply becomes a media frenzy, and is often not taken as seriously as these things should be.

I think a remix video, that crammed together all these snippets of news reporting on celebrities with mental health issues could help show that this sort of ridicule only serves to perpetuate an already strong stigma against things like mental disorders in this country.

I think my generation, with the prevalence of social media, are all probably very aware of the celebrities that will be featured, as well as their respective stories. I think that the message would be received best among people my age, because my generation has certainly tried to pull mental health issues out into the open and reduce the stigma associated with them.

People my age are also very cognisant of social media, and all the opinions that are shared there, on places such as Facebook and Youtube. I think part of my remix would be inserting photos of the comments sections on certain clips, showing that the media reporting might just reinforce the harmful beliefs that many have about mental health, and that there is still a large stigma against it.

With an understanding audience and a plethora of sources that I would be able to use, I hope that I’ll be able to make an effective argument with my remix.

Remixes in the Digital Age

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2019 by pgudeman

In this day an age, videos are everywhere. Sites like Youtube ushered in a new era in which videos made by people from all over the world of could be seen by anyone else. Facebook is more and more becoming a platform where people simply share videos – political and otherwise. The app Vine (RIP) gave anyone with a phone, no matter how armature, the ability to create videos of short length. Among the vast plethora of videos people can find remixes – that is, previously-made videos that have been mashed together to make something new. A lot of them are funny or just plain ridiculous – these types of remixes were a significant portion of Vine. But, not all of them are serious; in fact, the nature of the remix lends itself to making political statements.

One such video, made originally by Brennan Houlihan, and which can be found posted on Youtube by the user politicalremix, is titled “Keeping America Scared (2004)”. It is composed of little clips taken from the 2004 Republican National Convention, and features speakers such as George Bush, Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani and others. The argument Brennan seems to be making is relatively straightforward: that the republican establishment at this time was trying to hold on to power by simple fear-mongering. They could more easily persuade Americans to accept republican policies if they stayed in a state of fear.

He unfolds this argument simply by showing the sheer amount of times the speakers at the convention used fear-packed words like “September 11th”, “Terrorist”, “Saddam Hussein”  and “Weapons of Mass Destruction”.

I think that for the most part it was a very effective video. When you watch these long speeches, you don’t always really notice how many times a speaker might use a word. Remixing it like this makes it all too obvious that these speakers were really trying to ramp up the fear by saying, over and over again, these emotion-charged words.

I only really had two gripes with this video. The first is that I think the creator made it a little too obvious what his intention  was – before each section that featured a new word a screen would come up, basically informing us what was coming. It still worked well, but I think it might even more powerful if he had just let the video speak for itself. Second, although I completely agree with his argument, I am always aware that things can be taken out of context, especially when he’s just mashing up individual words. I don’t think it would be too hard to go to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and find a collection of similar buzzwords. I think if he had been able to mash together more complete sentences it also would have been more convincing.

Remixes are a really interesting way to express opinions and make arguments, I really recommend you go look at some, and maybe make one of your own.

You Will Read This and You Will Like It

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30, 2019 by pgudeman

Almost anyone who has gone through high school, and certainly everyone who has gone through college, knows the feeling: reading, with screen burned, tired, bloodshot eyes, a dense research article and trying to find the little bits of information that you need. Then you move the mouse over the screen, and see how tiny the scroll bar is, way at the top of the page. You still have miles to go. But this isn’t even the hardest part. Once you have the information you need, how do you put it to use in your own paper in a way that’s engaging, interesting, and easy to swallow? How can you word it so you don’t end up just quoting massive paragraphs of the original research? How can you make readers actually enjoy a research driven essay, instead of just forcing it down like a kid eating steamed veggies?

I have a couple pieces that might help you out with this (if you’re still in high school or college) and are just plain fun to read (if you’re not). One of the most interesting articles I’ve read in a while, “The City Solution”, by Robert Kunzig, is found in National Geographic. Mr. Kunzig discusses at length the massive benefits urban development has – a far cry from the fears that cities bring too much poverty and squalor. Crucial to his piece is the many bits of information he undoubtedly had to dig tirelessly for. This comes in the form of economic, environmental, and historical statistics. However, he never seems to beat you over the head with it; Instead, he weaves it nicely into his own writing, putting it in digestible chunks that aren’t too wording or confusing. In fact, it’s all quite memorable and sensible, yet there’s lots to take in.

Similarly, in Kitra Cahana’s article “Beautiful Brains”, dense research is refined and placed in an article that is fun and fascinating. Ms. Cahana’s piece centers around the misconceptions we have regarding the reasons we think teenagers act the way they do. She uses neurology, evolutionary, and developmental psychology to make her case. Each of these topics is dense and can be very confusing, yet she was able to make it easy to read and understandable. Much like Kunzig’s article, you learn a lot without the feeling that you are slugging through a dense, wordy research article.

As an end-note, try not to do something like Daniel Engber did in his piece “LOL Something Matters”. He over-saturated his piece with research and the names of scientists, which made it somewhat convoluted and compelled me to reread several sections just to be sure I got the jist.

The Good, the Bad, and the Article Explaining the Two

Posted in Uncategorized on January 24, 2019 by pgudeman

When I was younger, maybe in 3rd or 4th grade, one of my best friends at the time (and still now) got into a fight with a bully at school. I was not there for this, as we lived nearby but went to two different elementary schools, but I would hear the story many times over from my friend Dan himself and other various, tether ball-playing eye-witnesses. The bully had pinned a smaller kid down underneath him on a concrete part of the playground, and, grabbing the kid by his hair, was smashing his face into the ground over and over again. Dan, without thinking, ran to the victim’s aid and jumped on the bully’s back, allowing the bloodied boy to escape from underneath the bully and run off. Teacher’s arrived shortly after, ending the debacle.

In this story are two characters people all over the world have probably met at some point or another: the psychopath and the hero – although these titles may be somewhat extravagant for a schoolyard scuffle, you get my point. We have all probably met some people who are cold, callous, mean, and with the potential to harm people, and others that would put themselves in extraordinary danger to save someone else. Have you ever wondered why two such groups of people exist?

An online National Geographic article set out to answer just that. Besides being informative and fascinating, it is also excellently written. The whole top of the page was news story videos and photos of horrible crimes, most of them still fresh in the collective American conscious – the Las Vegas massacre, Sandy Hook, Columbine, and others. However, the first piece of text we read is about nearly the exact opposite: we are introduced to Ashley Aldridge, a 19-year-old woman who saved a man in a wheelchair from being hit by a train – and nearly died herself. The juxtaposition between the photos of the scenes of murder and the story of heroism captured me immediately. The article then jumped into the question it would be exploring; something that most of us have probably pondered at some point or another, without answer: how, and why, could such extremes of humans exist?

The author, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, delves into this normally religious or philosophical debate from a scientific perspective, drawing evidence from fields such as evolutionary psychology and neuroscience, and experts in these fields, to explain why the two extremes of behaviors, evil and altruism, exists in humans, and to greater extent than others. He discusses the biological influences that affect empathy, a major contributor to either altruism or evil, to the nurturing styles that might help children who may be predisposed to antisocial behavior. The information is scientific without being too complex and losing the reader along the way. Touching, informative, well written and professional, Bhattacharjee has written one of the most fascinating magazine features I’ve ever read.

Rezo Zero Web Design

Posted in Uncategorized on January 22, 2019 by pgudeman

Rezo Zero is a studio that designs websites for other companies, with an emphasis on an avant-garde appearance and great performance. Rezo Zero’s website excels in a multitude of ways in terms of aesthetics, user friendliness, and showcasing of the artist’s works. Upon opening the website, the viewer sees, in sleek, large black font the belief statement of Rezo Zero, which hovers over two stylish, black-and-white photos. On the right hand side of the page are links to Rezo Zero’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Github. These links are easy to find but not in-your-face, and navigate you quickly to their various social media pages. As you scroll down, one thing that becomes immediately obvious is that the website’s designers knew how to take advantage of empty space – the webpage never feels crowded or over-saturated. On the contrary, in fact, the ample white space against the black font and pictures gives the page a modern, minimalist (if I can invoke a little pop-philosophy) vibe that feels young and artsy and purposeful. Scrolling down, – the scroll mechanics, by the way, are smooth and effect the words and pictures in an interesting, eye-grabbing way – the viewer is met with a short paragraph that introduces the studio (Rezo Zero), as well as the vision statement and a list of the services they can provide for their clients. Following this is a short timeline showcasing various works they have done before. Each photo comes with a link that allows us to look deeper into that particular work. In each of these links, there is a fluid transition to the new page, without the blocky function of going to a new tab – it all feels seamless. They give lots of detail as to the work they have done with their other clients, and offer ample photos to back up their work. At the top of the page, when you scroll the mouse over it, a drop down menu appears, with links to their projects, a page devoted to explaining their studio, and contact information.

Rezo Zero’s website was spot-on with their aesthetics, which is sleek, new-age, avant-garde, and minimalist all at the same time, and did well to showcase their various projects. However, I think it is the user-friendliness that really made me like it. The links are clear and easy to find, and offer seamless transitions to new pages – in fact, the screen never goes completely blank, it looks instead as if the new page simply slides in as the old one slides out. Well done, Rezo Zero, you’d have my business in a heartbeat.

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