Midterm Portfolio in the Correct Place
When I signed up for this class, honestly, I had no clue what to expect. The class description sounded different than your run-of-the-mill English classes, and, upon asking around, Professor Anderson himself received very favorable reviews from friends of mine who had taken his classes. So I signed up. Then, on the first day of class, we got hit with a question which I had never encountered: "why/how do we save English studies?" This might sound elementary in thought, but I have always just taken my English classes to take them for my major, but have never really thought about WHY I was taking them and where the future of English is headed. It made me do a lot of thinking, and not just in class when we discussed it, and not just during the various projects in Anderson's class. Rather, I found myself considering the question in my other classes, thinking about why I was learning what I was learning, and what would happen if the content were antiquated and removed from the curriculum. From taking this Literature and the Other Arts class, I feel as if I have partially uncovered the answer to this complex question. Basically, nothing in the world can remain static. English cannot endure if it does not change with developing societies, and I think fact has manifested itself during the course of this class. It is clear from the projects we have been assigned that English is involved at some level or another in ever medium of art. Without English and literature studies, most of the other arts and majors would not be possible. However, keeping this in mind, English majors need to be fluid with their views of what is "acceptable" as literature. English will not continue to be defined by old dusty Shakespeare volumes and the physical world of novels. In today's international, constantly modernizing society, English MUST continue to evolve and integrate itself into the world of technology or it will turn into an antiquated and dead study.
As the following breakdowns of my assignments will show, English IS not only an integral part of many other forms of art, but is actually critical to their existence.
The playlist assignment was the first of the semester, and I really was not expecting it to be very hard or time consuming when Professor Anderson was first describing it. However, when I started thinking about the project and it took me four days to even pick which character I wanted to use, it became immediately apparent that it was going to warrant much more time and effort than I had originally expected. The playlist assignment was a good introductory project to the class and was quite challenging. I had previously never used html to do anything, and completely underestimated the trying nature of composing a page and organizing text entirely in a frustratingly complex code.
My playlist is centered around Humbert Humbert, the main character/narrator of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita. It is structured loosely around the progression of Humbert Humbert’s thoughts and actions as they develop throughout the novel. Also, a large part of his character is dependent not upon how he acts, but how he can make other’s perceive him, and this is reflected in my playlist (the song choices alternate between Humbert Humbert’s, his wife, and Lolita’s points of view). I like my original song choices and the way I organized them and will probably not change them. I took careful time to make sure that not only the lyrics matched the character’s mindsets, but that the music matched also. At first, the html severely inhibited my options, because I had no clue what I was doing. I would successfully center something, then try to bold it and it would go back to left align. Then I would try to remove the “bold” part and all the gibberish code I had tinkered with would show up around my un-centered, un-bolded text in the preview. [Insert angry computer curses here.] However, after reading almost every html tutorial written in English and going through hundreds of trial and error processes, I got a pretty good beginner’s handle on it, and am pleased with what I was able to accomplish.
As far as corrections go, I have already made plans for the first revision. First and foremost, the technology needs some major tuning. Most of the actual links to the itunes clips do not work which, for a playlist, is clearly an issue. Also, my organization is too structured. I’m very picky about things being completely organized and symmetrical, which usually works to my benefit. With the playlist, however, my strict adherence to song clip, lyrics, explanation, picture, is monotonous and gets boring. I plan to revise the organization and not have such a rigid structure. The last component I would like to repair is the descriptions section. My explanations focus heavily on and do a good job with describing my choices lyrically, but I would like to go back through and do better musical analyses of each song, because I intentionally made my selections based on both lyrical AND musical appropriateness.
The podcast was the second assigned project, and hands down my favorite. I spent 1/8 of my senior year of high school working on daily visual and musical productions, and went into the podcast with a pretty detailed understanding of the specifics of the technology (a welcome relief from the stress of the playlist html!) When it came down to choosing a topic/artist/genre of music to focus the podcast around, I took no time and had no hesitations choosing Bruce Springsteen as my focus. He is one of my favorite artists of all time, boasting significant contributions to not only rock-n-roll, but other genres of music as well, influencing an entire era of music. Because these are the qualities I most admire about Springsteen, I chose to focus the thesis of my podcast around the roles of influence within music, using Springsteen’s work to explicate.
Technically speaking, as I have mentioned, I encountered very few issues. I have used both Audacity and several similar programs before, so I already had a pretty good handle on the editing tools and which ones to use to obtain certain desired effects. The one downfall on the technical side of my podcast was the sound quality of my vocal recording, which was scratchy at best. I mistakenly thought that recording on my computers microphone would work fine, as long as I was in a completely silent room. Unfortunately, I was VERY wrong, and my blunder manifests itself in the form of hissy sounding s’s and an overall scratchy quality not unlike a radio station that is experience static problems or has a DJ speaking too close to the mike. When I edit my podcast, the biggest part will be rerecording my voice (which I hate listening to over and over…ew) using a real microphone instead of the crappy computer microphone. This should eliminate the scratchy sounds and give the new podcast a much more polished sound.
Content wise, I am pleased with the path I chose to take throughout the podcast, structuring it like a radio talk show, and how I organized everything. I thought it would work best to begin with a clearly stated thesis and then work through the supporting evidence, similar in structure to a written essay. I scripted the entire podcast, down to every single pause and “umm” to either ensure that I would not forget anything or freeze up and to make the process of rerecording a bit easier. This turned out to be a surprisingly good strategy, because it helped me remember exactly what I wanted to say and not miss any crucial elements. Some parts of the podcast do sound too scripted, so when I redub my voice part, I will practice even more beforehand to make sure the podcast sounds as smooth and natural as possible. Also along content lines, after listening to the podcast again, I am not satisfied with all of the sound clips. Some of them need to be extended or cut short by a few seconds to prevent what currently sound like relatively awkward transitions or awkward places in the music to cut the clips.
Other than these few technical issues, I am very pleased with the first draft of my podcast, and am excited to redub the voice sections to produce a more quality and polished podcast. This is my favorite of all the assignments, and the one about which I am the most proud, so I would like it to be as close to perfect as possible. Of all the editing and second drafts I will do, I am quite convinced that I will spend the most time on this one, because it is both my favorite and what I consider to be the most challenging of all the assignments.
The collage assignment began, in my mind, in the same way that the playlist did- I immediately assumed that it would be elementary in nature and a simple task. My early presumptions on this assignment too met a similar fate- it was MUCH harder than anticipated. The topic was not hard, and I even knew (generally) what I wanted the finished product to look like from the get go. I wanted to pictorially represent the struggle between good and evil that encompasses John Steinbeck’s entire East of Eden. Upon commencement, however, I realized that this would be much easier said than done.
First things first, my initial discovery was that whichever program Professor Anderson gave us to make the collage with did not make any sense to me whatsoever. I played with it, I tried to work on sample pictures just to get the hang of it, but it just would not work for me. So I finally switched over to Photoshop, and was immediately at least a little more successful. The second issue I encountered was in the form of the physical pictures themselves that were to comprise my collage. In my mind, I knew exactly which photos I needed and wanted to depict the preset image in my head. Unfortunately, it seems that nobody else has shared my creative photo thoughts, or the photos I wanted to use have just never been made, which presented a problem. The collage I had envisioned in my head was quickly slipping away as I realized I couldn’t make a collage out of pictures that don’t exist.
After finally deciding upon the pictures that were as close as possible to what I had envisioned, the technology still stood in my way. Once I got all the pictures situated, I could not for the life of me figure out how to blend the edges between the photos, and I spent entirely too much time focused on this element instead of some other crucial ones. These “extra” forgotten crucial factors including but are not limited to strength of certain images (I apparently have a tenancy to make everything opaque in nature- perhaps this was in hopes of making things blend better?) and a focus on lighting and focus in the collage.
Overall, when I add a few basic techniques and concepts to my Photoshop skills repertoire, my collage will benefit immensely. Of all the projects it should take the least amount of time to fix, but I look forward to doing so, because I like my initial idea. If I could just make the collage in my head match the collage final project, it would be wonderful. In the meantime, I think I’ll be taking some Youtube Photoshop tutorials and continuing to search for that perfect picture to complete my collage.