Final Portfolio ( Subtitle: Into The Woods)
Between my first attempt at finishing this class (this Spring) and my second attempt (now, this Winter) I’ve had a lot of first hand experience dealing with the contemporary English Literature classroom. I’ve put in nearly thirty hours of volunteer work at Carrboro High School this semester assistant teaching Honors English III to an incredibly diverse group of students. More than any reading I’ve done in my Education courses or any theorizing I did with my English 366 classmates, this first hand experience has shown me the necessity for the evolution of English Studies to meet the twenty-first century.
The biggest problem facing most contemporary English teachers that I’ve seen lately at the high school level, is a disconnection with their students resulting from their own technological inabilities. Teachers are unable to communicate with their students in their students’ own language. The most common and most important question asked in an English class is “Why is this important to me?” The best response any teacher can give, if they lack knowledge about modern modes of media and communication, is to the question “Why was this important?” In order to save English, the scholastic study of English needs to evolve in tandem with the rest of society. Literature has always been a way to reflect on modern society, but in order to continue this tradition, the way that we look at and use “English” needs to shift to retain its relevancy to our shifting society.
PLAYLIST: A Very Wild Playlist
As a new owner of the official movie soundtrack to Spike Jonze’s recent film adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are , I have to give myself a pat on the back and say “not too shabby” in regards to the playlist I created for Max. Jonze’s soundtrack was composed entirely by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and she sings all fourteen songs accompanied by a chorus of wild, young children. Overall, the playlist I created mirrors the official movie playlist rather nicely. Karen O's voice is very similar to that of Cat Power and during the album’s slower songs, creates a similar sense of loss and sadness to the Cat Power song on my playlist, which I’d had my doubts about including in the final draft.
I’m really happy with most of my music selections. As I say in the playlist’s introduction, I really wanted to capture Max’s youthful recklessness using literally youthful voices and I’ve done this wherever possible, without resorting to downloading songs from Kidz Bop. Because the Maurice Sendack’s illustrations are such an important part of the book, I enjoyed the ability to pair these up with music by throwing together a quick musical montage.
This assignment led to my first foray into the world of HTML, and again, I’m pleased with the result. Many of the class playlists are much more diverse in appearance. They trace lay out each track differently or trace themes present in the character. Though I can respect this for what it is, I deliberately wanted my playlist to be much more streamlined. By alternating lyrics and images from right to left I think I’ve provided enough visual variation without be wholly boring. I really wanted the structure of my playlist to maintain a compartmentalized simplicity to allow for easy reading, listening, and enjoying.
PODCAST: All Alone In An Empty House
With my podcast, I think I’ve got a good thing going on. I've found the tone I want to have. I recorded it sitting in my favorite living room chair, so hopefully it sounds calm and inviting, much like the album as a whole.
My earlier problems with the podcast were technical and compositional. The technical aspects mostly solved themselves when I wiped my computer a few months ago. Once this had happened, I was able to perform more than two consecutive actions without the computer freezing, which was a boon to my productivity. Sadly, but deservingly, once the course finished last Spring I stopped recording with the Snowball Microphone and moved to an incredibly antiquated piece of equipment , so the sound quality drops off a little towards the end. As suggested by the comments, I've edited out the excessive background drumming in one segment of the interview. However, I consciously chose to leave it in another section because, though it is a little distorting, I think it reinforces the closeness of all the artists involved in the creation of the album. The audible reminder that the record’s producer lives in a house which is also a practice studio and a recording studio shows the intimacy of the project as a whole.
The compositional problems that slowed me down early on in the process were never really solved to my satisfaction. My process for arranging the final few sections was to create some product, any arrangement really, and then try to jostle it around until it made the most logical sense. When writing, this can definitely be a helpful method. It’s better to have something than nothing. The problem with using this method in Audacity is that jostling around a half dozen audio layers is a lot more tedious than jostling around a few sentences in a Word document.
I’d stated my thesis early on in the podcast (to examine how “Lost In The Trees’ album “All Alone In An Empty House” creates level of intimacy and what effects the creation of this album had on its creator (1:35) ) but the structuring the proof of this thesis was tricky. My final product moves from (1) talking about the album’s lo-fi creation, to (2) showing the technically intimate elements of the album, to (3) giving some lyrical examples of deeply personal storytelling and analyzing this storytelling in regards to the writer’s life. My goal with my conclusion was to show that the process of creating the album and the openness needed in order to create it allowed it’s main architect to overcome personal ordeals. I state this conclusion explicitly in the podcast but I’m not sure if the proof of this it is complete enough.
First Draft: All Alone In An Empty House Version 1
COLLAGE: Ibsen's Peer Gynt
With my collage, I thought it would be best to continue the sylvan theme that I’d set up for myself with the first two projects. I’ve moved from “Wild in the Trees” with my playlist, to “Lost in the Trees” with my podcast, to “Ibsen in the Trees” with my collage.
I really like the way that the background images blend in with the forest. I had originally intended to edit a picture of a stained glass window, and to create a similar effect. Thinking of the forest image as a series of different windows led me to the product you see now. The map of Norway and the patient lady in wait look exactly the way I want.
Between the first and second draft I moved and changed the image of the collage’s protagonist. Originally I was really attached to using a picture of my friend Will, mostly because he’s always reminded me of the play’s main character. The picture I chose was of too low quality to merit it’s centered placement in the foreground. After a relatively small amount of searching, I was able to find a different picture of Will where he actually looks more like my imagining of the wild and impish Peer Gynt than the original and the picture is of a higher quality. Before the picture had been light and grainy but my new choice is much sharper and blends more easily into the dark woodland background. Another change I made was in moving the placement of this image from center to the bottom left. I think that this placement still conveys his importance to the collage because he is clearly in the foreground, but it also opens up a very interesting white hole in the collage’s center. Having my Peer Gynt in the bottom left makes me think of him as leaning forward and continuing the journey. His head is looking away from the collage which also directs the viewers’ eyes towards whatever is coming next. The white hole in the center creates an interesting trajectory and a greater contrast between foreground and background. In this final version I think there is a much greater sense of where he’s been and where he’s going.
Another change I’ve made between drafts is the placement and quantity of the green trees. In the final version there are only two (a big change from the five or seven in my primordial, unpublished versions). I like the otherworldliness of these two and found that having four, as I did in my first draft, looked cheap and distracting. Though these are the boldest statements in the collage (they're most clearly out of place), I’m ultimately happy with their presence because I think they emphasize a very important creepy strangeness to the story.
|Image based media is ubiquitous in 2009. When I think about the growing respectability for graphic novels and the use of images as integral pieces of storytelling by well-received authors like Jonathan Saffron Foer or Mark Z. Danielewski, the collage seems like a logical assignment in the midst of a modern trend. It is absolutely necessary for an English classroom to acknowledge and explore this societal shift. Text is only one of many means of communication. Loading the collage with powerful images and editing them as I would a paper showed me one way to use another means of communication. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the collage assignment showed me how to make sure they’re eloquent.|
First Draft: Peer Gynt Collage Version 1
VIDEO MASHUP: Bambi + An Inconvenient Truth = A BambInconvenient Truth
For this final project, I retain my focus on those things which live in or affect the forest. My original conception was to meld a contemporary environmentally conscious film, An Inconvenient Truth, with an eco-movie from a long time ago, Bambi, in order to form some sort of retrospective look at how little things have actually changed over the seventy years between their releases. This sort of happened. Mostly though, I wound up with a moderately well done, comical blending of a Disney movie with an apocalyptic monologue on climate change done by Al Gore. A few moments work really well: pairing Al Gore’s monologue about Global Warming with Man’s fire destroying the forest, the quick scenes at the mashup’s end, even the combination of scenes from the “Drip Drip Drop” song with Al Gore’s mention of Hurricane Katrina (albeit a little insensitive in its comparison between a national tragedy and a Disney movie).
The physical process of making this mashup was much simpler than I expected but I think I ran into many of the same problems as other classmates. First, because I used Camtasia to steal my clips from Youtube some of them are very glitchy and pixilated. Second, because my movies aren’t closely aligned enough, I ran out of clips that I could think of to combine. Most of the pairings are very deliberate in my mashup (animals running with talk of refugees being evacuated, the movie narrator saying “a film that has shocked audiences” with the scene where Bambi gets shot) but some of them seem to come off as arbitrary when I watch them now.
Ultimately, despite shortcomings, I think that these two films blend together pretty well and the viewers of this 2 minute and 35 second video clip leave with a clear message: Don’t be a jerk to nature.