Olivia Murphy's Final Portfolio
and the Arts
I have spent considerable time pondering this question- as someone who has no clue which career she wants to pursue and is not heavily considering teaching (which is always the assumption), why am I an English major- what is so attractive about literature? Slowly but surely, the answer has become manifest- besides the fact that I simply love to read, the mission of literature is to tell a story, and stories are, hands down, the most powerful mode of expression and communication.
When reviewing the concept of “majoring” in a particular field at a university, and examining the fields from which students choose, the decision clearly comes down to the appeal of skill sets. Which skills set, as a student, is the most desirable to further one’s progress as a productive and contributing member of society (or, to some, a wealthy member of society)- medicine? Science? Geology? It is almost like the board game of life- you pick three, evaluate their advantages, then choose the winner. However, most people seem to lose sight of the fact that, fundamentally, without the “English major skills set,” all others are futile. Fundamentally, English and literature studies are superior. Knowledge of other subjects, no matter how profound, is rendered useless if it cannot be obtained from books or people, or shared back with the world via some medium. Communication, in every sense of the word, is dependent upon literature. At the most obvious and basic level there is reading and writing, but beyond these fundamentals, our diction- the words we carefully utilize to explicate our thoughts, ideas, and emotions- are drawn mostly from what we read and communication with other people and would be impossible without literature.
More important than the fundamentals, however, is the power of the story. Every single person, regardless of age, background, or culture, wants to be heard and make his or her story known. There are cultures and religions centered entirely around the power and tradition of stories. In this way, the stories that comprise the books we read bring us face to face with humanity. Virtually every part of human knowledge can be relevant to a great work of literature, but, unlike generalities, abstractions, or statistics, these pieces of literature capture the spirit of the subject and the complex feelings and emotions of the author. Reading presents us with the passions, hopes, fears, and perplexities of humans who may or may not be similar to ourselves, or a culture that has been dead for a thousand years, or the story of the lady with ten cats who lives down the block. The possibilities are endless; there is nothing that cannot be learned from opening a book. In this same way, no individual could ever exist on his own- the constant interaction with outside ideas and the ideas and experiences of people in the past make us who we are, and none of these communications would be possible or understood without literature.
My answer to the complex question of “why do we read- what is the purpose of literature?”, though broadened to include “English” as a whole, does not easily lend itself to selecting a particular text over the others that clarifies the “mission” of literature. To me, every text that we have read, from the romantic expressions of Keats to the modern musings of time of Virginia Woolf, they all serve to further my argument. Every author that we have read had a story to tell and a reason to tell it, and there is much to be learned about why and how they did so. So why do we read- what good is literature? The easiest answer lies in the imagination- picture a world full of illiterate people, moving about carelessly with no concept of the emotions of history. A world devoid of literate professionals or friendly bystanders to ask directions, and a world in which your frustrations and passions cannot be expressed to or understood by anyone else. Now step back, thank literature for the creativity of imagination it just provided, and appreciate the beauty and necessity of stories.
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. I feel certain and assured in the future of English studies; stories are timeless.
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 first described 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.
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 was took a lot of time on the original, and was pleased enough with it to keep it. I chose to structure the podcast like a radio talk show, beginning first with a clearly stated thesis about literature and music, and using various interviews, clips, and "callers" to prove my thesis. I scripted the entire podcast, down to every single pause and “umm” to ensure both 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 did sound overly-scripted, so when I re-dubbed my own voice, I practiced beforehand to make it sound as smooth and natural as possible. I revised my podcast using a microphone, which eliminated all the scratchy sounds and made everything sound more smooth and less "made-in-the-basement-of-a-club."
After reviewing the podcast, I really like the idea of choosing an artist and then using several different mediums- interviews, song clips, phone calls, and scripted opinions to explain him. The podcast was the most fun for me, and is the project of which I am the most proud.
Mini Video Mashup
Then, I actually started trying to download the programs and use the video-producing software (my only previous experience in such a department was imovie in my production class in high school, which was grossly different than any of the advised programs. Eventually, I resorted back to good ol' Windows Moviemaker, because its the only one I could figure out how to work. Then there was the technical issue of getting the Old School dvd onto my computer to edit (Braveheart was not difficult because I used zamzar to rip it from a youtube video and I had used zamzar a lot for the podcast). Overall, getting Old School from dvd into my computer and then into Windows Moviemaker took roughly sixteen hours, 9 separate downloaded and failed dvd ripping programs, and one file transfer because when I finally got it ripped, it was in the wrong form.
After these struggles were over and I finally had all my clips in the movie editing software, I was ready to make my vision come to life! While all the software had been downloading and ripping and doing whatever other magic it takes to get a dvd onto my computer, I scrutinized both the Braveheart trailer and the Old School movie for hours to find the perfect scene selections to match the music. I had very high expectations for my mashup.
Then, low and behold, more technical issues! Apparently Windows Moviemaker is not equipped with any kind of audio editing software, so I ended up utilizing two computers- one with the moviemaker and the clips, and the other with Audacity open to mess with the music. Overall, it was a very complicated process.
Looking over my finished product, it is one of my favorites. I still giggle a little bit when I watch it. Making the sound match up took me forever, but I think things finally ended up pretty precise (I had it all figured out once, and then had to edit two of the movie clips which threw the whole thing into another 4 hour editing process). The only qualm I have with the mashup is really an unsolvable one with the technology I have. When the dvd ripped to my computer, the sound files got off from the video files, so the vocals do not line up with the mouth movements of the characters in the clips where I actually use the movie instead of the soundtrack. Other than that, I am very pleased and proud of my work, and this was the first project I actually bothered to show someone outside our class that wasn't my mom.
So here it is! My Braveheart/Old School Mashup:
Comments I Made on Others' Work and Various Blog Entries:
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/node/6 - Response to Professor Anderson
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/node/42 - Reading response to A Fortunate Fall?
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/node/87 - A rose for Emily Collage
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/node/96 - My Photographer- Gregory Colbert
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/user/9 - Gabby Gioia's Photographer
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/node/80 - Yellow Wallpaper Collage
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/node/71 - Anna's Midterm Portfolio
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/user/12/track - No Country for Old Men: A Love Story
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/node/155 - Public Service Announcement
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/node/158 - Huckabees Playlist Revision
* http://teachmix.com/litflow/node/180 - Revised Marilyn Monroe Collage
I offer my last thoughts on this course in plain text. No fancy html, no font or color or accompanying picture. Plain and simple words to tell my story. Though I am angry with myself for not starting some of the projects earlier than I did, I think I was very successful in accomplishing the visions I wanted to portray and the ideas I wanted to put across. This course took me completely out of my comfort zone at some point in every single project- be it html, image editing, or movie producing. The technological knowledge I have learned from this class has already begun to prove itself invaluable, and for this I am thankful. But most of all I offer my sincere gratitude to the way this course made me think. I have never deeply analyzed my decision to become an English major or pursue literature, or why I enjoy English so much. Throughout the course of the semester and compiling this portfolio today, I can comfortably say I am more at ease and proud of my decision to major in English than ever in my life. Without English and Literature studies, no other study would be possible, and I am satisfied with pursuing a degree in a field about whose future I hold high hopes. Thank you for your time.