A Walk Through a Different World

Howdy! This is Sterling, back with another week of content. This assignment began as one and kind of turned into another. My original intent was to do a modified form of “Exercise And Socialize” by Jeremy Hillberry, which has the following description: “Neighborhood walks used to be a good form of exercise and a good way to meet your neighbors. Nowadays, exercise is at the gym and socializing is online. Record a video of yourself taking a neighborhood walk and play a song in the backgorund of the video that your neighbors would enjoy. Get out there, exercise and socialize!” It is rated 2.5 stars.

I’m pretty camera shy as you will find out from the video, though I needed to get out of the house for a bit and figured I would record it. This lead to me doing a bit of narration, which made it morph a bit into “VLOG ONE DAY” by Eric, rated 3 stars. “For one day, attempt to vlog your day! What did you today? What was your favorit part about today? Who did you encounter? Let’s hear all about it!” Of course, this is quite abridged since it only centers on one walk. It also deviates from the ‘socialize’ part of the first assignment because, well, I’m practicing social distancing. And I don’t know my neighbors well enough to play music for them.

In brainstorming this assignment, I had some clear, cinematic ideas as you can tell by the clips of me getting ready to leave and opening doors. It took a lot of revisions because half of my in-house clips I had recorded in portrait mode rather than landscape. Eventually, though, I made it out the door and I found myself stumped. Vloggers don’t seem to have it as easy as I thought. I consider myself a pretty decent conversationalist, and I knew I had a lot to talk about regarding COVID-19 and my feelings on social distancing. However, as soon as I pressed the record button, I was lost for words. I was suddenly hyper-aware of the people around me even though they were several feet away.

I didn’t want to make it obvious I was recording, so I recorded my feet as I walked. I got to greet a neighbor as well. I had to delete and speed up a lot of clips of my shoes since I imagine they get quite boring after a while. Finally, I arrived at the plaza that has the grocery store. It was alarming to see so many store closures: they weren’t like that last time I was out. Marty’s (a restaurant) is only doing takeout. The beer shop is leaving. The nail salon has clearly closed. It isn’t shown, but the Great Clips that is always open has closed its doors. That is why my family and I are doing our best to support local restaurants when we can. I hadn’t considered the impact on cosmetology businesses: those involve close contact and tools used multiple times.

Then, I went into Kroger. There was a surprising number of people there. I found that the best solution was to make it into a montage of sorts so as to avoid filming people directly. The toilet paper carnage was interesting to witness for myself. Practicing social distancing was difficult: it was quite packed, and as I remark in my video, I couldn’t maintain six feet between myself and others. I also saw quite a few people I knew, and it would’ve been impossible to talk more then 4 feet apart. The end of the video tends more towards this “vlog” format as I attempt to gauge in conversation (but keep looking in the distance anyways). Definitely turned into word vomit at the end, but I hope you could garner something from it.

While I enjoyed my massage, I worked on editing the video with my phone. My first step was to delete all of the clips I messed up on (I’ve locked the door more times than I have unlocked it). After that, I still had about 60 clips to combine, crop, and edit. The app I used was YouCut: a free phone app that one can use to edit videos. It features all of the basic editing functions one might need to put together a decent video. I separated my clips into 5 sections: getting ready, walking to the store, inside the store, heading home from the store, and final words. Each section was between 1 and 2 minutes.

As you can see, YouCut offers quite a few editing options. My first step was to trim the cut down to omit the parts where I am turning the camera on or off. Then, I muted the audio if it was a montage clip and sped it up (walking was 1.6x). In clips like the one where I say goodbye to my big gray cat, it was all in that one recording. Therefore, I had to split the walking part from the cat part in order to speed it up as I wished. Finally, I combined all of my parts and put a brightening filter over all of the footage. Overall, it took around two hours to edit. It probably would’ve been easier if I used something like Windows Movie Maker or Adobe Premiere, but I wanted to curl up and make a day out of this.

My next step was to edit the audio. I uploaded the video to my computer and then used a MP4 to MP3 converter to allow me to edit it in Audacity. I did a quick little clean-up where I took out some wind and unnecessary background noise. I did not edit my voice much since it was difficult to eliminate some of the background sounds. After that, I layered Plastic Love by Mariya Takeuchi on top (from a YouTube to MP3 converter) since it matched my video length exactly. I made sure to de-amplify the sound a little bit whenever I spoke. Then, I returned to YouCut and muted the sound from the original video, replacing it with my new mix. This part took another couple of hours since everything took so long to download

There you have it! Overall, the exercise portion of this assignment was certainly beneficial given our current circumstances. It allowed me to think of ways I should take care of myself physically, mentally, and socially. I feel like it would be a very fun assignment otherwise if someone is more familiar and comfortable with their neighbors. The vlog part was certainly a new experience. I completely recommend it; we watch YouTubers daily, but do we ever put thought into what work goes into their process? I have a newfound appreciation for them after completing this assignment. Can I advocate that this project is worth at least 5 stars?

Oh, and my message at the end of the video isn’t very clear: I mostly wanted to say that it is hard to socialize with others, so we should use this time to socialize with ourselves. Please note that I do intend to privatize this video at the end of the semester since it advertises my location.

86,400 Seconds In A Day

‘Ello folk! This is Sterling. Hope you’re doing well. I’m sure you’ve heard of an app called 1SE, or ‘One Second Everyday’ where you record one second everyday. My friends have been doing it and they hooked me in November 2019. I’ve been doing my best to keep up with it, though there are certainly notable gaps. Some of it comes from me transferring to a new phone, and I still have clips to recover from it. Regardless, here is 107 days’ worth of seconds:

The first assignment I chose to combine was “A Day in the Life…” by Chloe Morton, and is worth three stars. “‘A Second A Day’ has become popular in videos recently. A moderation for this class would be taking 3-5 seconds of video at the beginning of each hour or every half hour throughout the day. The time can be adjusted as long as distance between videos is consistent. The point is to experience ‘A Day in the Life’ of YOU and everyone and everything you encounter! To make it easier set an alarm on you phone to remind you at each time interval!” Of course, I already had several videos and felt like it would be interesting to do “Four Months in the Life…” instead. In all of its ups and downs.

The other one was “Favorite Moments in College” by Kendall Resnick, and is worth two stars. The description is as follows: “Create a video using some of your favorite pictures/videos that you have taken while in school this year! Add a wide variety of pictures from throughout the year. Make sure to add some music to the video before you post it!” Since a very large portion of my seconds involve my time at UMW over the past year, I thought I would include this one. I always try to record one of my favorite moments of the day. I do keep some to myself and purposefully forget to record certain moments (lest they be ruined).

1SE is a very easy app to use. Sometimes I wish I could include multiple clips in a day, but the beauty lies in its simplistic limitations (unless you pay for premium, which also has several editing functions). One simply takes a video and then clicks on the day they wish to add it to. They can record it within the app or on their camera app. I had to go into my Google Photos to locate some of the clips that had backed up from my previous phone. It was slightly tedious to comb through it all, and to know that there were still more clips to be dealt with. However, once I downloaded them, it was easy to upload to 1SE. It was also interesting to find clips to fill in some of the ‘holes’.

The “Mash” button puts your clips together: you can select which ones it combines, too.

One thing I would consider changing as I continue to add and recover clips is music. I was initially resistant against the idea because I think it is fun to listen to some of the snippets, but they pass in a second. People would not be able to make out the context except for those involved and likely become disengaged. I would consider using music without lyrics so that people could hear the clips that are loud enough. I would also consider muting the clips that have songs playing through.

Overall, I think this assignment encompasses my life quite decently. It features some mindless clips that come from the down time in a busy day. Gaps in February come from always being on the go for theatre. TV clips represent my favorite movies and shows. It features immense highs like getting my black belt to cat videos to make me feel better. I was in VA, DC, and MD. It was very reflective to witness those moments all together. There is certainly merit to be gained from this assignment because one can learn basic video editing skills. There is no layering required other than audio. The power of mobile devices can certainly make this happen if one is seeking an easier format. To have clips only limited to a few seconds makes it flow together seamlessly.

I would definitely recommend doing this assignment: whether it be a variation or not. The end product can be re-watched for years to come.

Out of 86,400 seconds in a day, there must be something special about the ones I’ve chosen.

Update:「Week 9」+ Revisions

Featured image is a gif I took, sitting in a gazebo during my walk.

Wow. What an absolute roller coaster of the week this has been. I started off quite productive, though as one can tell, ended up getting crunched for time yet again. Old habits die hard, though this has honestly been a big adjustment period for us all. I’ve had to catch up on the work I missed from being sick for the entirety of last week, and on top of that work on moving back home. I love being home, but when I’m here I’ve always had things to do like visit friends or practice Tae Kwon Do but now I’m stuck. I’ve felt gross being stuck in one place all day and my acne has broken out. Movement is probably what I was known for at UMW, always on the go doing everything, and now that I’m doing nothing other than homework it has been a challenge.

Today, in a one-hour span, I learned that the play I have invested hours into is cancelled, as well as my study abroad and internship trip in France this summer. It isn’t surprising. But it still hurts to know that my acting debut, in a role that was very deep and created some of the most growth for me as an actor will not be happening (we were originally going to perform tonight). The trip that I have been planning for over a year and have invested thousands of dollars into is being refunded. All of my scholarships and letters of recommendation are nullified. I have to announce it and freeze my GoFundMe, which had also accumulated upwards of $1000. My big plans for the summer after are now unlikely to happen since that will be the summer of France. Though I know it could be far worse. I am extremely grateful to be happy once again and to live in a harmonious household.

Today, I was able to take a walk. Apart from the walks I took when I was sick (which didn’t feel great), I can’t remember the last time I walked just for the purpose of walking. To not be zeroed in on a destination or stressed about an assignment. The sun felt better than ever and the breeze was powerful. That, in addition to the nice 6 ft bubble people have been giving, was a refreshing experience. I hope to have more moments like that to inspire creativity for video week. Filming locations will be optimal! Needless to say, I’m looking forward to it.

On the other hand, I have been able to work on a couple of small revisions. Also, quick note that my Daily Creates will not be linked in this post since they have been discussed here.

The first assignment I chose to revise was my Infocom Commercial, which was also used in my radio show. Like in the newer version, I decided to eliminate the 8-bit music and use the Tears For Fears “Shout” instrumental for the entirety of it so that it was more unified. Sound effect had to be slightly re-worked and re-considered. I also balanced the music and the voices better, and had to specifically amplify certain parts of the track to get the effect I wanted such as the beat change from the ‘game’ part to the ‘advertisement’ part. I worked on this one because it displays one of my passions, and I knew that I could do better. However, I doubt I will be truly satisfied until I can get new voice acting for the intro part: my dad seems to be a pretty good candidate.

The other assignment I decided to revise was my radio show sticker. The fact that I layered pre-made images over each other meant that some had different textures and designs that crept in unnoticed. I chose to erase all of the extraneous gray lines off of the design. I also sought to unify the level of sharpness the clipart possessed: some are more “sharp,” and defined pixels could be made out whereas others were far softer with smooth edges. Now it is something I wouldn’t mind having as a sticker on my laptop.

Let’s get through this.


La Vie En Rose

Apparently, my theme is pink this week. Enjoy this Pink Walkman.

Hello, and thanks for tuning in to the DS106 radio this week! My show was Around the World: 80’s Style. I ended up revising the show since there was an error with the music (and I tweaked the volume), which can be listened to here:

I honestly went in ready to listen to the DS106 radio all three nights, but unfortunately, I had a lot to do on Wednesday and could not join for that night (was so stoked for the crime part)! I’ll definitely have to listen to it on my own time. Also by looking at Twitter comments, apparently someone used multiple voices that night which is super exciting for me as an actor. In this post, I will reflect on the show “The Eighties Through Space-Time” and discuss what it was like listening to my own show on Tuesday evening.

It was difficult to choose which show to reflect on since they were all super great and I had a ton of my own comments to comb through. I chose “The Eighties Through Space-Time” for its distinct structure and its intriguing theme. I truly enjoyed how the content could be about the 80s without originating from the 80s at all.

The narrator for the Super 8 section explained the film in a very unscripted manner, which I enjoyed. It seemed natural and conversational, like we were sitting down in class or walking across campus talking about it. As I mentioned in my Twitter post, the audio ‘peaked’ a lot (meaning that it maxed out the input capacity), occasionally distorting the sound on consonants. However, as I learned, resources like the HCC Vocal Booth are not always available and we have to make do with what we have.

From the effectiveness of how the content was communicated, I was able to reflect on my own experiences as a kid. Reflection is a good goal to have in a project. My dad has told me a lot about how he had the freedom to run around and do as he pleased after school in the 80s. I wish I could have had that in my childhood – I was sent to daycare.

Next, was the 1984 section. I think the speaker for this section explained it very well: especially when she compared the politics of the 1940s with the 80s. I honestly didn’t know it was written then: even though it is on my list, it is mostly there because it is a classic though it all makes sense now.

Makes me wonder what is next? I’ve been watching playthroughs of Detroit: Become Human, a video game that takes place in around 2038. Androids are incredibly realistic and work alongside and beneath humans. They are scrutinized and look down upon, and some “deviate” and stand up for themselves. Will we be that advanced by then? Who knows, but it will be interesting to look back when I’m 38 at something that came out when I was 18.

I’ll be honest in that it took me a minute to register that the bit about the bears was a Care Bears commercial. I think it may have been because the section ended without music (maybe), and the commercial part began without music, therefore leading me to see it as a continuation or just another discussion part of the podcast. However, when I did register that it was a commercial, it was very well-done and reminded me of a TV commercial. Even with the sound pitching, I could imagine a mother speaking to her daughter quite clearly! As for the music sampling part, I thought it was quite interesting though I’ll admit that I wasn’t familiar with what music sampling was so that took me some time to understand. Though the music was incorporated very well, and I loved the speaker’s energy! They were extremely enthusiastic and engaging.

See below – I did indeed use an ASMR track for my “From Another Room” assignment. It was the button pressing for the video game playing, and was taken from one where the viewer’s ‘boyfriend’ is playing video games while they’re sleeping near him (and he pets the camera to stimulate comforting them). Gotta go interesting places for these!

The Big League Chew commercial was also very well-done! I could imagine being at the Diamond, and Professor Bond phrased it quite well in the post below. The part that probably appealed the most to my interests was the Machines Like Us section. The title alone is very intriguing, and I have researched those three guys I mentioned quite a bit (especially the first two). To imagine such icons being alive and influencing the public during the 80s (and beyond) would have been something to witness.

After that, came Stranger Things! I still have yet to watch this show, though I’d certainly like to someday. The speaker for this section honestly explored every level I could think of in regards to analysis. She spoke about cultural references to terminology like demogorgons. I came out of this one feeling extremely informed!

Just thought I’d plug the title of the icon revival book (thank you Professor). Despite its very unique title, I had a lot of trouble remembering it and I think I had missed it when it was first mentioned.

Overall, I really enjoyed this radio show. It managed to unify completely different works: from movies to books to music and to TV. It was very cool how their show was about the 80s when the work discussed did not take place in the 80s! What an insanely clever theme. Next, let’s check out my thoughts on hearing my own radio show!

To be honest, I didn’t expect to feel so excited when listening to my radio show. I thought that the whole time, I would be on the edge of my seat getting anxious about my turn to speak on the radio. Instead, we went through each section with many positive comments, reacting as if each member had just done a solo! I got to listen to it with a critical ear, and was able to take pride how well my groupmates did in their editing. For all the crazy things that happened the day we got together to record, the end product was satisfactory. It felt really great, and while I was still nervous for my part, I was also excited for people to hear what I came up with (hopefully people understood me through all the snot). Here are some comments that encapsulate my feelings and the general good vibes that happened:

Would I consider doing this again? Certainly. I would probably look into alternative narrative formats like the one I did the tweet-along on February 13th, which from what I recall alternated between telling a story and an analysis of the text and culture surrounding it. I’d like to dip heavily into the storytelling aspect next time.

Video Killed the Radio Star

Hello! This is Sterling, back with another post. In this post, I thought I would share my project ideas, my thoughts on a COVID-19 theme, and my Daily Create story since I think it mostly revolves around our current situation. I do not own the featured image. Here is some mood music to show my enthusiasm of moving to video and the title of this post (1979, but close enough… also that thumbnail):

Project ideas! I know for a fact that I want to aim for an interactive narrative if possible. Writing is likely the best medium for this, since I think I can express my imagination the most fluently through it. However, I’m open to graphics and audio if anyone wants to work with me towards a more video game-like structure. I’ve discussed my interest and experience with interactive fiction here and here, as well as uploaded a revised commercial revolving around it here. I just watched the Clue (1985) movie recently, and since I’m stuck with Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (from my quarantine book raid at Riverby Books), it would be really cool to make a short mystery story set in the 80s. Though if anyone wants to join, I’m cool with any genre really. We can create the biggest choice web if we have more people!

I’ve been watching people like PewDiePie play Detroit: Become Human all week because I love the cinematic choose-your-own-adventure structure it has, and how it reveals a map of all the different ways a scene could have gone after each episode. It’s my dream to be involved in something like this!

Of course, I would use the second-person perspective for this. But is that normally an odd thing to do? In my French class Skype call today, one of the guys said that second person and the use of “you” was cringy. Is it? I actually do a lot of creative writing in my spare time with third-person, and only use second-person for projects like this. I just never thought it was weird if done to be in an immersive narrative. It’s like my roommate who informed me that it was weird and unusual I drink milk all the time, when I’ve been doing it that way all my life (college is very eye-opening). I’m open to shifting to other ideas, but this is what I have to offer right now. I’ve made stories on programs like Inky and would love to explore it more, as well as perhaps looking into Twine which was used for Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018). One can incorporate video in there and other media if they want.

Speaking of short films, check out the trailer for the one I’m involved in! I choreographed some of the (spoiler) fight scene and act as an extra. Will update you guys!

As far as COVID-19 goes, I mentioned what I thought during the DS106 Radio Broadcast on Monday night:

In my opinion, if someone feels like they want to post about coronavirus, by all means. If they don’t find any creativity there or just want to focus on something else, then it should be about the 80s. Right now it makes a lot of sense that people (including me) are posting quite a bit of content covering it, though unless something alarming happens I probably will progressively post about it less. I do like how it has been incorporated into the Daily Creates, though! Which takes me to my next part: my story.

I wasn’t sure of the best way to unify them, but one thing I know is that there is a clear flow. Like any story, it begins with the setting. Society is “Under Pressure,” being set on by only the start of a notably-fatal pandemic. This disease “burns a building down / Splits a family in two / Puts people on streets.” Well, perhaps it keeps more people off the streets in our case, but people are being turned away from hospitals. I’ve heard of some families that are split; I don’t know when I can see my mom or cousins next since some of my relatives are vulnerable. “It’s the terror of knowing what the world is about / Watching some good friends screaming / “Let me out!” / Pray tomorrow gets me higher.” Don’t think I need to explain this lyric.

Next, we come upon the main plot. The world has to combat this pandemic, and it is a communal effort to practice effective social distancing and washing hands. Schools are closing. No more high school proms, or in our case, no more Spring Formal. People are beginning to find optimism in their situations, and can have a little school dance fun when they wash their hands. Enter “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.. I’ll be honest in that I haven’t tried this yet, but maybe I’ll have to give it a shot if it fits in with any video assignments next week. Would you watch that?

Finally, of course we come upon the climax and resolution. The situation is under control. Pollution has ebbed and waters are clearing at an exponential rate. People will soon able to meet together to a brave new world under a bright new sun. Things won’t be the same, but two generally-standoffish cats mirror humanity as they can finally rest together after exhaustive months. A fire has been lit in the background; hope is here. The unified stand has paid off and we now know how to face challenges ahead as the world. Of course, it isn’t actually all sunshine and rainbows given certain international political circumstances, but… I think we’ll change. For the better.

Update:「Week 8」

As one can tell from other weekly summaries, this week has been quite an adventure. I went from completely dismissing the coronavirus to having school closed for a few weeks. I’ve been in the dark this whole week – classes and all – since I was out with the flu. Of course, challenges this week included trying to complete my Daily Creates. They were few in number, though not on the top of my list at the start of the week. Unfortunately, I was not quite sure how to interpret these so I did what I thought matched best:

Another challenge of course included those I encountered with the radio show project, which was detailed in my post. In short, those included creating the script, trying to use the vocal booth, and trying to blend the four differently-edited audio clips. I am proud of what we did, and I think it is very informational. With more time, collaboration, resources, and different circumstances, this could have been slightly different though I am not unsatisfied. I hope people will use my script to be able to understand my words. I actually just watched the Clue (1985) movie and I think it would be very cool to see or do a radio show orienting around a mystery like that. To create something featuring alternate endings, like Clue, would be a great project to take on.

I have reviewed the assignment more in-depth in my post. To be honest, even though I never feel like I have enough time to finish the regular assignments, I am eager to return to them if that is next on the agenda. I enjoy the original content and freedom of imagination. Perhaps these next few weeks at home, without my crazy amount of extracurriculars, will help my content production level.

Around the World: Premiere!

Featured image is Kaitlin’s poster!

Hallo! Welkom! In this blog post, I will detail the process of creating our radio show. Together with AllisonMaeve, and Kaitlin, we created a tour of 80s culture in Australia, Germany, Japan, and South Africa. We each talked about things like fashion, music, technology, and sports. Feel free to listen as you read:

As I covered in my first update, we worked on outlining our materials and shared the content we created that could be contributed to the project. As a group, we discussed adapting Professor Bond’s suggestion of unifying our narrative and establishing a storyline. That was definitely a challenge, and we ended up settling on our original idea but making sure we used the same categories. We employed the use of transitions like Allison’s traveling noises and making sure to refer to other group members’ content to make it truly feel like one is travelling from place to place. Next, we reserved the HCC Vocal Booth on Tuesday night for 12:30-2 PM Thursday, March 12th. Unfortunately, we were faced with several issues: it was locked upon arrival, Audacity had been uninstalled and required admin access, and on top of that the microphone would not record. We called upon the Digital Knowledge Center for assistance, but they could not figure it out either.

Did my best to clean up what I got.

We had to record with our phones in the soundproof booth. This lead to a reduced quality, but certainly not terrible as we were given advice to distance ourselves from our phone microphones to avoid “popping” consonants like “p” and “t.” I actually tried to record, but I’ve had the flu all week so I kept stumbling on my words. I’ve definitely been a little out of it after my 102-degree fever on Sunday, which hindered some of my planning as well. My throat has been sore, and as you can tell congestion really got me in my recording when I tried again earlier today. As an actor, I pride myself in my articulation and enunciation but there was no helping it this time. Just in case you cannot understand my recording, you can view my script and list of sources.

Here is the source of the music I used to introduce my section!

Regardless, it was fun to mix in the music by including ‘previews’ like they do for music stations and to try to imitate the high energy radio hosts present in their shows. To achieve this ‘preview’ effect, I made sure to use the Amplify tool in Audacity to “de-amplify” the sounds when they were not being featured. This can be achieved by inserting a negative value when determining how much a soundbite should be amplified.

After I did that, I did what I had promised in my post last week and fixed up my Infocom commercial regarding text adventure video games. I chose to nix the 8-bit dungeon theme in favor of the Tears for Fears “Shout” instrumental. I’d love to find a way to implement it again in the future, and perhaps repost my revised commercial. I added that, as well as my radio bumper to our radio show. Since I have the most audio editing experience, I volunteered to compile all of our sections together. To do that, I simply imported the clips to Audacity and dragged them together using the Time Shift Tool. Since everyone else’s clips were quieter than mine (since I used a compressing tool on my track), I tried to de-amplify my section as a whole without losing too much of my voice.

Here is Allison’s great logo!

Overall, this was a neat experience. I liked being able to meet some of my classmates in person and to see who is behind some of the work I’ve been looking at throughout the semester. It was cool to learn about 80s around the world. This assignment clearly takes a lot of work to make it into something that knocks others out of the water. I am proud of what we have done, and with the circumstances that happened at this time I believe we handled it well. Under different terms, I would love to follow the suggestion of a more unified narrative and perhaps attempt a story like what I heard at the tweet-along.

Update:「Week 7」

Howdy, and welcome to a full reflection! (Woohoo!) Here is some angsty mood music to enjoy as you read… since my summary might be a bit uncomfortable (sincerely sorry):

Let’s cut right to the chase.

I found myself feeling deeply-unsatisfied by this week’s assignments. As you can tell from the audio week posts, I truly enjoy audio editing but my works this week did not reach the mental standard I was projecting on them. I believe a large portion of it is because I used my voice in them. No one forced me to pick assignments that would involve me using my voice, though I had visions and inspirations I wanted to fulfill. I like to think that I am confident in my body and my behavior, but my voice is what causes me the most insecurity. Even after pitching my vocals down, my voice sounds rather fake in my own ears because I know. I wonder if it would have been better to just go with my natural voice – someone told me it sounded deep this past week and it made my day – but many of these voices were ones I had imagined being voiced by someone with a lower range than I.

(Short break from the edginess.)

The rest comes from the fact that they feel incomplete. Upon reflecting, I think I would like to eliminate the 8-bit dungeon music (no matter how much I love it) and only use the “Shout” instrumental for my Infocom Commercial. I think I would like to transition the music in my reading of “Mnemonic” better, as well as completely redo “Beautiful Dreamer” with just humming. My radio show sticker should have the font altered and the extra lines edited out. I probably wouldn’t submit any of these things to a class if I had to see my instructor and peers in person. Presenting them would be even worse.

Now that I had time to finish everything, I was dismayed that none of it possessed any kind of “wow” factor. (Is super-rushed work better for me?) Not that I think all of my works are the best, but I like to think that they reach a certain standard. I continually find myself becoming less humble about these works as I shift into seeing them more as grades than creative outlets. I’ve been told that I am gentle and relaxed in person, though I feel like I come off with a certain attitude on my blogs. I’m always paranoid about my social etiquette. Text is so easy to misconstrue, yet it is my favorite method of communication. Writing my feelings here is therapeutic, though it may turn on me later.

This made me miss reading and writing (for fun).

On a more positive note, though, I did have fun coming up with the ideas for all of my projects! I felt like the commercial was unique and targeted my passions, and as I noted in that post, was my favorite assignment. I love “Beautiful Dreamer” and would love to re-visit it when I’m not wrapped up in what could be classified as ‘dysphoria’. I’m even more motivated to write: reading lots of 80s poems to find ‘the one’ was a really fun part to my week and I’m in the process of making an account on the NaNoWriMo website (National Novel Writing Month). The challenge was just trying to make all of my ideas cohesive at once and just trying to accept how I sound. If I don’t do those things, then I’m in for some trouble with the radio show. My harshest critic is myself.

I’d like to end with a haiku I made some time ago:

Happier than I
Is the one who lived a life
Just short of dreaming.

Senior Year Sterling (High School Edition)

I’ll have to take this break week to update my older blog posts, comment, and evaluate my motivations. And, perhaps live just short of dreaming. What better way to do that than by reading?


My Father’s Sweater

Image from Mike + The Mechanics’ “The Living Years” (1988) music video.

This time, I chose to do the assignment “Old Poem Same Feeling” submitted by Lauren Wootten. The description is as follows: “For this assignment [sic] you must first pick a poem. Once you find this poem you mash it up (or sing it if you choose.) with the instrumental [sic] of a song. For my version I mashed up a beautiful instrumental of Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again with my attempt to sing Shakespeare’s [sic] sonnet 104 about an old friend. ” Which I wish I could find! It sounds very neat. For my assignment, I read Li-Young Lee’s 1986 poem “Mnemonic” to Mike + the Mechanics’ 1988 song “The Living Years”.

Above is a draft since I had a lot of difficulty with this one, and I want to show my process. First, however, I will explain my poetry and song choices. The poem I selected was called “Mnemonic,” though I could not quite figure out why. I do not see any mnemonic devices, though perhaps it is symbolic that smaller things can represent things larger and more complex. It is about a person who inherited a sweater that their father gave to them as a child, their feelings about their father, and how life has changed since their childhood. Please read it here.

The song I chose fits in very well with the poem: it is about someone who wishes that they could have told their father how they felt about him in “The Living Years.” In both works, the father is dead. Lee begins with fond memories, then bittersweet, and ends with the repeated line: “Once I was cold. So my father took off his blue sweater.” The Mechanics similarly ends with ambiguity, saying that “it’s too late when we die / to admit we don’t see eye to eye.” I am fortunate to have a great relationship with my father, but there was something that resonated with me regarding both works.

I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Mike + The Mechanics, “The Living Years” (1988)

Next, I found the instrumental version: which of course, does not carry the same meaning as the song with lyrics. I recorded the poem in the HCC Vocal Booth and cleaned up the vocals before pitching them down slightly. I found that different parts of the song carried different verses of the poem. “It won’t last. Memory is sweet. / Even when it’s painful, memory is sweet” goes well with the more ‘hopeful’ and sentimental chorus. My favorite part is the introduction, for it sounds like one is entering a dream. The corresponding verse is as follows:

I was tired. So I lay down.
My lids grew heavy. So I slept.
Slender memory, stay with me.

Li-Young Lee, “Mnemonic” (1986)

When I spaced out the verses throughout the song, I found the poem difficult to follow and it read awkwardly. I tried to cut parts of the song so that I could bring the words closer together, but something about it was still off. I decided to edit it again. This time, I put most of it in the beginning of the song and just cropped out another part of the music that I knew I could match up with the previous section. I decided to keep what I did with the ending, which was cut off at a drumbeat. I added an echo with a delay time of 0.2 seconds and a decay factor of 0.5. The final version is below:

Ultimately, this was a good assignment that can be interpreted in many ways. I would be interested to see what other people try to do with it, and perhaps even write my own poem to be integrated into a specific song.

You Are Likely to be Eaten by a Grue.

Hello again! I’m back with a commercial that I intend to use in my radio show. For my product, I decided to highlight the Zork games: a series of text adventure games developed by Infocom, a part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I’ve expressed my interest in interactive fiction here and here, and I thought this was the perfect place to display it. The assignment is called 80’S Product Radio Commercial and was submitted by Kollin Carter. The description is as follows: “Create a 30-45 second radio commercial for a product from the 80’s. Add in some background music and/or sound effects to make it sound like a real radio commercial.”

You can see that I broke the time limit, though I felt as if the amount of time I took was best to carry my message. We can sit through back-to-back ads on YouTube, so I’m sure a somewhat-interesting minute-long advertisement is survivable. About the product: Zork I was released in 1980, and the final piece of the trilogy was released in 1982. One can type in commands such as ‘examine ___,’ ‘west,’ or ‘open ___’. Instead of choosing from a list of options, the player has to think of what to do next. There is a help option, but I find it neat how autonomous and ‘free’ one can be with their adventure. I like playing it in text, for it leaves a lot to the imagination. (Want to check it out? Play it here.)

About the company: Infocom and its interactive fiction stories were truly a part of the 80s, for it was started in 1979 and then was bought out by Activision in 1989. I couldn’t find a slogan or a jingle of theirs, so I ended up making a little tagline: “Come and embark on your own epic adventure and together, we’ll write your story.” I did a little bit more research and found that “all ten of its games were on the Softsel top 40 list of best-selling computer games for the week of December 12, 1983, with Zork in first place and two others in the top ten” (Wikipedia). I felt that was a perfect point to use in my script. The introduction of my script is a snippet of the game itself, and I found it through this really neat embroidery of Zork by Glenda Adams:

I recorded my vocals at the HCC Vocal Booth. Then, I cleaned them up before pitching them down. The narrative part was pitched down by around 15% and response voices by about 10%. I did my best to use a slightly-nasal voice for the advertisement part so that it sounded a little more normal when pitched as opposed to my usual inflections. I’m aware that I’m no Morgan Freeman, but the morning rasp served me well (when my voice didn’t crack). I made sure to amplify the bass as well as add echo and reverb to the narration to make it sound like a Dungeon Master (DnD anyone?).

Next, came the music. I wanted to make it sound like one was playing an 80s dungeon crawler, so I chose a 8-bit composition by Erang Dungeon Synth. This channel is totally worth the listen, check out the original work below. Doesn’t it give you a sense of dread and curiosity?

The other song I chose was the instrumental version of Tears for Fears’ song “Shout” (1985). Without the words, it completely gives me ‘dungeon’ and adventure vibes. Do you agree with me? It’s almost uncanny.

I couldn’t decide between the two, so I ended up using both. The only modifications I did to the songs was amplify the ‘click’ you hear in Erang’s music to emphasize the change in the narrative. It goes well with the idea of being trapped and in imminent danger. I also faded “Shout” in and out so that I could highlight this aforementioned ‘click’ (coupled with a bass drop that sounds like a video game dying noise). I made sure to time it so that the original melody comes in when the narrative ends, also removing the 8-bit music from the upbeat advertisement part. Other effects I used included a hall door closing to show the trapdoor slamming and the player being barred in. I also used a clip from the 2015 hit-indie video game Undertale by Toby Fox for the laughing sound effect. A little bit like Zork, one can end up on a different path from what they intended. The retro-themed music and art resembled my mental image of text adventure games.

Overall, I had a great time with this assignment: it was probably my favorite one this week. It could be cleaned up and transitioned into a bit better, though I’m certainly not upset with how this turned out. If I do end up editing it, I will likely focus on making the “Shout” and “The Dark Dungeon” instrumentals flow together better. Currently, they clash a little bit though I can’t bring myself to nix either. I’m adamant about the long crescendo of “Shout,” though perhaps that will change after a day. I hope this piqued your curiosity! (Play Zork!)