“There Is But One Family”

Hello! Welcome back to another audio assignment. This assignment is called Quote With A New Feeling, submitted by Christopher Vasquez. The description is as follows: “Most people have a favorite quote or saying that they know, use that and record yourself speaking it using programs like (audacity, garage band, etc..). After that mash up your audio recording with a sounds, song, or instrumental in the background too better explain the feeling that this quote or saying has on you.”

I chose the following quote from an interview with Bruce Lee. This one in particular resonates with my experience as a Eurasian martial artist who wants to appear on screen. In American media, we make a big deal about racial identity when in the end, we’re all just human –

Interviewer: “You ever think of yourself as Chinese or do you think of yourself as North American?”

Lee: “You know what, I want to think of myself as a human being. Because, I mean, I don’t want to sound like you know, ‘as Confucius say.’ But under the sky, under the heavens man, there is but one family. It just so happens, man, that people are different.”

I then combined it to some music from one of my favorite TV shows, Avatar: the Last Airbender. To see these Asian influences growing up and to see something so different than standard cartoons was amazing. This show teaches major life lessons for all ages. I chose this soundtrack for this quote not only because it blends the ‘East’ and the ‘West,’ but it is called the “Avatar’s Love.” As people, we need to love each other and not mind our differences. In the show, four nations, each representing an element, are at war. The orchestration shifts from something tender into something strong: the unification of humanity.

I also incorporated a heartbeat sound effect to represent this unity. We all have a heartbeat; we are all human. Editing was minimal, for I only changed the volume of each clip, split the quote into two parts so I could separate the last statement, and increased the reverb of the interview. Please listen:

Good lord I love Bruce Lee! I have so many Bruce Lee books. This is how my friends decorated my framed posters for my birthday:

The Whispering Sea But You’re In Another Room…

… and It’s Raining Outside and Your Siblings Are Playing In It and Your Parents Are Making Dinner and You’re Playing Video Games. That’s the title. (Cover art by Matt Rockefeller!) Inspiration taken from the following (anyone else have a Minecraft phase?):

For this assignment, I decided to kind of combine two into one: the Sound Effect Story as well as the Played From Another Room assignment. For the Sound Effect Story (by Martha and Jim Groom), one is supposed to tell a “story using nothing but sound effects. There can be no verbal communication, only sound effects. Use at least five different sounds that you find online. The story can be no longer than 90 seconds.” As one can tell below, I have kind of broken the rule by implementing vocals, but I feel like I used enough sound effects simply accompanied by music to tell this story: I added rain, footsteps, sliding door sounds, button clicking, video game controller mashing, kitchen noises, pots/pans clinging, and some voice acting (from yours truly). I recommend you listen to the whole thing and read the following description since there are some surprises –

Honolulu, HI (August 1988) – You watch your dad come out at the sound of rain, his dark hair tousled with fatigue from working all day. It had been oddly dry recently for Hawaii, though Tropical Storm Gilma had finally arrived and had suddenly unleashed the heaviest of rains. Your two younger siblings cheered, jumping up from their NES controllers and hopping over to the glass window. Ian decided to run back and squeeze in one last punch, almost finishing off your character while you were distracted. “Hey!” you exclaim with a voice crack, though he was already off at the window. Your father told them that he would call them in for dinner and they ran outside, baring themselves to the elements. You turn back to your video game, a familiar hand ruffling your hair before Dad went to join your Mom – your Ina – in the kitchen. Listen to fill in the blanks of what happens next:

Before I go into the technicalities, I will include the description of Played From Another Room: “This media assignment has two parts. First, edit a song to sound like it is playing from another room. The audio should sound muffled and the bass should be prominent… The second part of this assignment is to write a weirdly specific description of your song.” I assume the narrative I wrote could be considered a weirdly specific description. This story was inspired by love since it is Valentine’s Day. I don’t really know what it’s like to be with family like that, but this is what I imagine it is like. Something comforting, surrounded by noise and family, yet also having enough space to be alone. Having a mom and dad and siblings – laughter and light – all at once.

Cough. ANYWAYS, I talked about this song a couple of weeks ago and the nostalgia it gives me. My first step was actually to find the cover art, which took a while since I had originally planned to just find a picture of someone using a laptop in bed with a light on in the hallway. I stumbled on this picture by Matt Rockefeller and used what I saw to choose which sounds went into this mix. I converted all the clips I wanted using a YouTube to MP3 converter and combined the auxiliary/one-time sound effects into one track. The music, rain, button-pushing, and other constant noises had their own tracks. I wrote a little script and recorded the lines with Audacity in the Vocal Booth at my university to have the best quality. After that, I cleaned them up with the Noise-Equalize-Normalize process in my last post, though I targeted more bass for the man’s voice and treble for the woman’s.

After that, it was a matter of timing the sounds and balancing them. I had to quiet the kitchen noises when the parents started speaking and increase the volume of the rain for when the sliding door opened. To make each sound distant, I lowered their ‘gain’ before increasing the reverb so they echo throughout their spaces (thus showing distance). Then, I made the sounds more muffled by applying a Low Limit Filter at about 600 Hz to shorten the frequencies and indicate that there is some kind of wall between you and your parents. I used a ‘Studio Fade Out’ (which sounds much fancier than the ‘Fade Out’ tool) to isolate the ambient sounds at the end. That way people can enjoy a brief moment of reflection and lose themselves to this new setting. I wanted to add more sounds like a cat purring and the kids cheering, but it was starting to get rather complex and could take away from the music. I hope you enjoyed it and let your imagination wander!

Radio Blah Blah

(Title a reference to a song… can you guess it? Enjoy a selfie of me in the Vocal Booth!)

Greetings! This is Sterling, and I am back with some more content. This week is audio-focused. We were tasked to create a ‘radio bumper’ between 15-30 seconds to go onto the DS106 radio. I will write about the experience below, as well as the tweet-along to the DS106 broadcast.

For my bumper, I was inspired by the radio stations at home that normally use a glitch-type effect in theirs. Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” has a nice, catchy intro and I used their more-percussive instrumental version to spice it up a little:

I actually used Audacity a whole lot as a teen since I thought I wanted to do voice acting and music, so it was second nature to go through my amateur editing regimen. I reserved UMW’s Vocal Booth for a couple hours so I could have a good quality recording. It took a few tries to get the ‘right’ intonation (aka level of enthusiasm) without sounding too cheesy like they do on the radios. Then, I used the Noise Removal tool to get a profile of the white noise to remove it from the recording. After that, I used the Equalize tool to make the soundwave more level with a subtle Bass Boost. The Normalize tool came in handy to make it peak less and maintain a normal volume.

Following my clean-up of the vocals, I used a YouTube to MP3 converter website to download the instrumental. I then timed it the way I wanted before using the Equalizer again with the ‘Telephone’ and ‘Radio’ effects. Then, a Google Search suggested that I use the High Limit Filter to create the muffled ‘radio’ effect better; not 100% sure what this one does other than potentially expanding some of the lower frequencies, but it did the trick! Duplicating the word “to” in my audio clip helped make the ‘glitch’ effect. I thought Soundcloud would copyright my clip, but it looks like it passed.

Next, I wanted to discuss the DS106 radio tweet-along. Unfortunately, I was in-and-out and had to miss quite a bit of the last part. I’m participating in my school’s musical backstage and it’s a little hard to pay attention with one thing in one ear and something else in the other. We also performed during all of the times the radio was on this week – I should have emailed about it, but I didn’t notice that I would have this problem until Wednesday. However, I’ll share what I thought and observed about it!

This is when the concept of escape was introduced. To be honest, I didn’t expect this to be so much like a documentary (though I suppose it is). However, it was a good preface to the tale of the Vanishing Lady. It reminded me of an English paper in that regard.

Here are more ramblings; I wish I could’ve caught all of the context since this post is a bit disjointed. Though I like how the story explained these concepts early on, planting the seeds of observation in mind so that the listener can potentially figure out a mystery.

Just the general play on innocence reminded me of A Streetcar Named Desire and how they spoke in the Marlon Brando movie. And, of course, Hitchcock movies. I’m not the greatest at French, though I’ve been taking classes for 8 years and it was quite a blatant mispronunciation (which is OK).

Hey – I got a response! Learned something new. And to answer it, wouldn’t be too surprised.

… Yep. I’m a Theatre major.

That’s where I had to stop because the show was wrapping up, but it was really neat to be able to visualize what was being spoken about. I liked how it went from explanation to story, though it felt like the story took a while to actually begin. This method of storytelling was also nice because I could do things with my hands while I listened. I’ve never really tried audiobooks, but I certainly understand the appeal now. Until next time!

Marty McFly, Guitar Hero

Hello, and welcome back to my blog! This assignment is called “The Forest Gump Project” by Bill Genereux. It is worth 3.5 stars and contains the description: “Good ole’ Forrest Gump. He always manages to find himself at the center of history, and using photo editing software, so can you. Find a historic photograph and place yourself into the scene, just like Forrest Gump.”

I decided to slip myself into the Enchantment Under the Sea prom in Back to the Future (1985). I play guitar with Marty McFly and the band, though as you can see, I play an instrument of the future: a Guitar Hero/Rock Band guitar for the Wii. It would be pretty great to ‘play’ with them, and to make a cameo representing the future. I will walk my audience through my process, which was done on Pixlr Editor.

Here is the original picture of me playing Rock Band in December 2018!
I cropped away the area around the original picture. I also resized myself, and then erased where my body intersected with the students at the dance.
Then, I added a shadow to match the lighting of the students in the foreground. I also decreased the saturation of my body since the lighting in the image is less warm and older films were not quite as vibrant as they are today.
Lastly, I used the unsharpen mask tool and add some ‘noise,’ or graininess, to my body to match the quality of the film. I also had to re-construct my knee since I had accidentally edited it too short.

Macbeth Episode IV: A New Hope (1606)

Hello! This assignment is called “Create A Silly Movie Poster” by Richard Barnes. It is worth 3.5 stars and has the following description: “Take an existing movie poster and make it look silly. My final project involved an Ewok who wanted to be in a movie with Arnold Schwarzengger. This is his idea of a poster.”

Therefore, I decided to work on something I started in my junior year of high school: what I affectionately call Macbeth Episode IV: A New Hope (1606). It has been a long time since I have read Macbeth or watched Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), but they seem to share vague similarities. I decided to take most of my images from Justin Kurzel’s film adaptation of Macbeth (2015). As the protagonist with a grand destiny, Macbeth is Luke Skywalker, of course. Lady Macbeth is Leia as his lover (nothing else). The Three Witches are odd and I almost could consider them comic relief, much like R2-D2, C-3PO, and Chewbacca. Banquo, the friend, is Han Solo. King Duncan, who was killed by Macbeth, is the ghost of Moff Tarkin – they are both killed by their respective protagonists.

Of course, this was done with my favored image editor Pixlr Editor (I sure hope this doesn’t end with Flash!) It was difficult to size the proportions of the characters’ heads, for some either had hair that needed to be covered up or their heads were in angles that I could not match a picture to. To replicate the colorfulness of the original poster, the saturation had to be tinkered with quite a lot. Shadows had to be added in large quantities to mask lighting differences and match skin tones. As for the logo, I used the Star Wars font generator on Fontmeme. A paintbrush tool with a slight smear was used in various sizes to speckle the logo with stars. I am not quite sure why I used a more vignette-type of filter on the border of the image, as that is one of the things I did back in high school, but I enjoy how it looks instead of being blindingly white.

One thing I would consider doing if I decide to keep editing this is to reduce the saturation and eliminate the vignette to reach a more ‘vintage’ image. To unify these elements into a favored aesthetic would help reduce evidence of my status as an amateur. This activity fit into the 80s theme, for while Star Wars was first released in 1977, its sequels and the popularity of its characters flourished in the 80s. Overall, this assignment grew my experience as an editor and to just have fun. This image isn’t supposed to be taken seriously, although I am proud to reflect on what I did in the past (2017) and see how far I’ve come today. It is worth 3.5 stars and then some!

Look at this “Photoblitz”

Hello, and welcome to my Photoblitz, started at 4:20-21 PM! The images are Imgur-embedded and contain their information in captions –

  • Get close! Photograph an ordinary object from as close as you can manage.
  • Texture adds a dimensional quality to photos, and changes with scale.
  • “Music is what feelings sound like.” Make a photo of something musical.
  • Someone else’s artwork in an interesting way to make it yours.
  • Glasses help many folks bring the world into focus each day.
  • Make a photo of a scene looking out a window.
  • The theme is red. Red hot? Red paint? Or something else? You decide.

click for another list.

I actually got relatively far pretty past, though I found myself stuck on a few: especially the music one. As you can read from the posts below, I had to switch some around. I also had to resist running to the set of UMW’s current musical Ordinary Days by Adam Gwon, which will premiere this Thursday!

“Get close! Photograph an ordinary object from as close as you can manage.” Here is an image of a cobweb in the window. The sun just started to peek out of the clouds, and I managed to line it up right in the center. The other lines of the cobweb are probably what makes this my favorite image.
“Texture adds a dimensional quality to photos, and changes with scale.” This is actually a the seat of a chair. I tried to do it closer, but it blurred quite a lot and couldn’t focus. This distance is better, showing off the unique matrices and the crumbs, which look much larger with their own shadows. If one looks closely, they can see where the cushion curves.
“‘Music is what feelings sound like.’ Make a photo of something musical.” Beyoncé is god – there is a lot of musical fierceness to that statement. On such an elementary medium, its simplicity strikes pointedly. I’ll admit that this category is the hardest to find, and that this picture was originally for the “texture” category.
“Someone else’s artwork in an interesting way to make it yours.” Of course, ‘art’ includes writing such as scripts for plays. The highlight on Jared’s line in Body Awareness by Annie Baker next to a cup of soup was just too fitting. For the record, I don’t expect Panera soup to be gross!
“Glasses help many folks bring the world into focus each day.” Quite literal, but they certainly provide a certain amount of clarity and focus. Every pair is different: smudges and all. Mine have been a bit dusty all day from working in the scene shop. Observe how the lenses distort the view.
“Make a photo of a scene looking out a window.” This has the same view as some of my other pictures, except from a different part of the window. I enjoy the little arch and its reflection. I wish I could’ve leaned over the table to make it a bit more symmetrical, but it works!
“The theme is red. Red hot? Red paint? Or something else? You decide.” Big red button! These are instructions on how to use the air hockey table. I liked how glossy the button is, as well as the red carpet reflecting on the side of the table. Also, I encourage you to try to read the steps! Especially #4.
I finished with a few minutes to spare! The music and texture ones had me in a bit of a panic, though it all worked out in the end.
And here is the physical timestamp.

That was my Photoblitz! Overall, it was simple and not too stress-inducing despite the time limit. This activity lets you see what is around you, and I got to discover what lengths I would go to for a photograph. It is interesting to see what others view around them and to gain a new awareness for familiar spaces. I would certainly consider doing this activity again!

Update:「Week 3」+ Analysis

Again, I recommend more 80s Japanese music to listen to as you read: this one in particular struck a chord of tender nostalgia. I’ve listened to something similar as a kid, but every time I hum the tune I remember to my mom, she cannot place the song. It’ll take me a few days to remember the tune myself. Regardless, this kind of music is like elevator music but with words. And I mean that in the best way possible.

This one is from Tatsuro Yamashita called “Whispering Sea.” It actually came out in 1978, but this release with Mahi Mahi Rider from the old KIKI radio station of Honolulu (which is now FOX Sports) was done in 1984. I have a lot of family in Hawai’i, and having spent some time there in 2018, I can imagine listening to that on a cassette as I walk near the beach. In fact, listening to this song on my way to class made me feel like a protagonist. Do you find that your favorite songs make you feel like a main character?

Anyways, enough with the rambling. One thing I made sure to implement this week was Google Keep. It’s the Google version of a notes app, so I can access it on my computer and my phone. I used a checklist of the assignments and crossed them off as I went. Another thing I did recently was watch Back to the Future (1985), which was really fun. Certainly worth re-watching: especially with friends. I’m discussing it in my story analysis. Hoping to draw some inspiration from it in my future assignments as well!

A screenshot of Google Keep.

Challenges this week again included time management. Even though I did start on Monday, I spread myself too thin and worked a bit on all of my assignments at once, which was overwhelming and not very effective. However, little ideas would keep popping up for each that I couldn’t deny. I also had a bit too much fun with the Daily Creates, the one for today taking me hours. The fact that I’ve been cast in the play doesn’t help. This early start is still progress, though, so I hope I can complete all assignments with enough time to sleep on them next week.

I only finished three assignments with a total of 8 stars, though I like to think that I put enough effort and meaning into each of them to collectively amount to something close to 12 stars. They were all assignments that I enjoyed, and even though there aren’t any more writing weeks, I hope to write more since it is probably my favorite creative medium. A bit off-topic, but it was neat to see how I was featured in Professor Bond’s Week 2 Reflection. His responses to my ideas, especially on perfection, were meaningful. I am here, able to “write it up, say what we were trying to do, how we tried, where we think it went wrong, what we could have done differently, and evaluate what we learned for our efforts.”

For the story analysis, I was very happy to read about hypertext fiction. As I’ve established in Week 1, I’m a huge fan of interactive fiction, and it brought me back to the mid-late 2000s when I was first exposed to hypertext works. I’ve used Inky to write a few stories of my own that revolve around the same concept of clicking on words to progress in a story. If you’d like to read further on my thoughts of interactive fiction (including hypertext), please consider reading this report I wrote last semester (or my final project). I enjoy how Szumer discussed video games as a form of interactive storytelling, and that “we often get ‘a million-dollar game with a five-dollar script’” as people prioritize graphics and game mechanics over the story, which is absolutely my favorite part of any video game. I’ve been playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt lately, and I agonize over my story choices far more than my lack of virtual combat skills.

This week, I’ve decided to analyze Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future (1985) using Kurt Vonnegut’s method of visualizing stories. One could argue that it looks something like this (a la cafe napkin):

Though, of course, it follows a more general story pattern that involves an overall increase in fortune:

BttF should probably be exaggerated more than what I drew, though the movie’s whimsical yet thrilling nature kept me from leaping to either extreme. Of course, his family’s complete 180 in fortune is notable but Marty McFly doesn’t seem to dwell on it all too much. BttF is a great story to analyze because many of the situations are hilariously ambiguous and produces an interesting waver mid-plot. It was great to see how the curve was not as simple as the basic plots outlined by Vonnegut. Even though the second video doesn’t apply quite as much to this aspect of fictional storytelling, I really enjoyed the concept of us – people – making up the machine. The system learns from people drawing connections, for a mere Google search suggestion tells all.

Here are my materials, please check them out:

The Apex of Megalomania, the Ultimate In-Control

As I mentioned in my last week’s summary, I was hoping to watch They Live (1988) on my roommate’s Hulu. Unfortunately, that requires another subscription to something called Starz – which, as you can infer, my roommate doesn’t have. So I’m left again to rely on summaries and my memories of watching the movie 5 years ago. Trust me. I’ll find a way! I considered doing something else for this assignment, but the concept in my mind was too strong for me to ignore.

The assignment I chose was called “Facing Your Fears” and submitted by Rachel Harris. It is worth three stars. The summary is as follows: “What is your biggest fear? Is it spiders… heights… snakes… needles? Have you ever thought about what your fear might think of you?  Write a short story of a terrifying event from the perspective of your fear. You never know… they might be just as scared as you are!”

Thinking about They Live, I had trouble deciding about what was the primary fear: the fear of being controlled or the fear of losing control. Even though both imply the same concept of loss of autonomy, I believe that the former targets a purposeful removal of free will. The latter targets a more subtle attack on one’s autonomy, whether it be in illness or invisible aliens plotting to dominate the world. I felt like this fear of losing control might be more effective, so I decided to write a short story from the point-of-view of Losing Control. I apologize if this any of this content is disrespectful – I do not intend any kind of offense, for everything is in the mind of this character. Here we go, again with the second-person perspective!

You linger in every human; every being that cherishes their individualism. You’ve brought about several undoings, making it only so that they can become redone if they form an alliance with your nemesis: Truth. However, you still succeed most of the time, sending people to places they can never return from. It brings you joy when you take up these jobs. After all, Fear is the family business. You are good at your job, having found the most profit from hospitals. Paraplegics. Alzheimer’s victims. They were all very delicious, most surrendering their will to you on a silver platter that looks an awful lot like a table.

As time went on, the numbers of those people have decreased. People are more brave and determined to overcome since modern medicine and storytelling. It’s unfortunate, though you’re still popular for being a “dark horse” among the fears. You manage to take annual business trips to the Worldwide Web, where you and your colleagues get a lot of work done. Your stomach rumbles just thinking about the Dependence Buffet and how many people lose themselves to the system. It’s pretty great! Your life has been swell, apart from one pitfall. The worst time in your career was when you met the infamous Nada. It was a true tragedy indeed.

You were well on your way to a promotion, having been put in charge of a project called Operation They Live. Back in ‘88, things were a lot simpler. It took only a month to process the contract with the skeleton-like aliens. They infiltrated Los Angeles at the snap of your fingers, and they proceeded to re-do the billboards in a way that was unerringly straightforward. You made sure that their messages were hidden, but that their influence was still there, slipping quietly into the subconscience of all who viewed them. Their reward? The ability to terraform the Earth with global warming.

Some people had unveiled the true messages, but they were far too scared of you to act on it. You chased them in the night when it was too dark for them to see the truth and told them otherwise. Either that, or their cries fell onto unlistening ears: their ignorance orchestrated by yours truly, of course. That was until Nada put the sunglasses on.

Always observant, he saw your shadow as you peered from an alley. This man didn’t see you then, but he saw your plans and he would certainly have the ability to see you soon. You clenched your teeth, turning around in cold determination. It was time to take this man down. You couldn’t control him, but you could put this fear into a woman named Holly Thompson that he seemed to feel for. Your alien subordinates ‘eased’ her fear of losing control by bribing her into a better position, though only you know that having power makes the fear of losing control even worse.

Things proceed against your plan, and Nada shoots Holly. Suddenly, you clench your stomach. You’ve been discovered, and it hurts. You falter, crouching in pain. You’ve always worn a strong suit and tie, though Nada stands taller in his plaid shirt and imposing figure. Even though he does not see you in the material world, he is somehow looking at you straight in the eye. His gun is pointed at your head. Death is only temporary for those of your occupation, but that does not keep the fear from racking your body like a fevered shudder. It rattles your spine, your eyes widening as you lose control. You tremble in vulnerability.

“F*** it.”

Those were the last words you heard as Nada pulled the trigger, shooting the transmitter you built to mask the presence of your aliens. You scream as your head explodes in pain, the bullet penetrating your incorporeal skull. He must have allied with Truth. Sparks explode everywhere, searing your skin even though you aren’t supposed to feel them. You’re going to die. You lie on the ground, fear bleeding from your body as Nada’s bullet-ridden body collapses beside you. Your final sight is of Nada giving you the middle finger.

Your talent is your undoing.

Here is the scene I detailed. It’s spoilers for the movie, but if you don’t mind them I think it helps to view it: