Really, what does the fox say?

This video as anyone that is decently in tune with pop culture making ridiculous noises in order to figure out the verbal communication of foxes. Yes, that is a real video. I mean, it is probably done in some sort of vein of humor, but it has some truth to it.

As children, we are taught to associate sounds with certain visuals. If you were cool like me, you probably had one of those sound spinner things that would moo when it got to the picture of the cow and so on. All the children’s shows preach this sort of teaching by repeatedly telling us “Dogs go ‘woof'” and “Cats go ‘meow’.” I could pull out my feminist card and go into how these noise identifiers are socially constructed as the norm for animals, but then we would be here all day talking about how even breakfast is socially constructed (like, why save all that goodness for only one time of the day? The patriarchy, man, it’s cruel).

Back to foxes and the noise they make, but wait, we still don’t know that. And not knowing that can kind of make us as humans uncomfortable because we feel the need to connect audio to visuals to create a whole story. That is why people nowadays like TV more than radio because they have the visuals right there in front of them so that they don’t have to do the work of trying to picture it in their heads with just audio. Yet, people will say how they liked books better than movies because they liked how they imagined it better than what was presented to them on the screen.

Because of that same kind of logic, audio will always be more powerful than visuals. It lets you just hear the pure emotion and relate it to yourself in whatever way you see fit, instead of seeing what it is “supposed to” look like. Shane showed us a Soundslides story done by NPR of this man who took up photography after he learned that he had Parkinson’s. When the story got to him emotionally remembering his doctor telling him that he had Parkinson’s, the screen faded from one of the man’s photographs to just black. This created such a pure emotional atmosphere, much more than if it was accompanied by a photo. I hope I can create something that can carry a great story through Soundslides with powerful audio and helpful visuals.

I mean, we may never know what the fox says, but I am sure it is a pretty powerful noise.

Heard it through the grapevine

For being weirdly shaped flaps of skin and sometimes lopped off by artists, ears are a part of a pretty cool process. Hearing, man, it is an important sense. This week in class we learned about our audio projects and Audacity. Shane played us some examples and then have us guess what the story was about. One that really struck me was an example that started with the clicks of a keyboard, went into a panicked 911 call and then there was an emotionally charged mother’s voice speaking clearly for the interview part. The story was about cyberbullying and a girl that committed suicide because of it.

It was so fascinating to me that, as part of such a visual society, I could be hit so hard by just hearing a short, one minute bite of a story. I think we sometimes forget how much things we hear can seep into our brains and stay there. Sometimes it’s those catchy song lyrics (looking at you, “Wrecking Ball”), the hearty laughter of a friend, the mindless humming of an air conditioner, or the blaring of a car horn.

But, sometimes, those noises that seep in can be a bit more vile, like a backhanded compliment, an outright put down or any other kind of attack. Grace Brown founded Project Unbreakable in which she photographs sexual assault survivors with posters that have quotes from their attackers. Even just looking at these quotes as a visual can be disarming and powerful, I couldn’t even imagine hearing this directed at me and then holding that with me. Words when said aloud hold a certain weight that the written word can’t always hold. That weight comes from the tone, the inflection, the way the voice hits your ear. I can scratch at your eardrums or cradle them in a little sea of music notes (like Jigglypuff’s attack in Super Smash Bros Brawl).

There is also the “he said, she said” gossip and stereotype aspect of hearing. Before living in Jones and not being around many people who are in the Greek system, I heard many stereotypes of exclusion, ditzyness, drunkenness, etc. Now that the majority of my residents are Greek, I hear stories firsthand and that has changed my view a bit. Within my hall, my residents will come to me saying “I heard that people have tried to come through the tunnels to freak out girls” and many other stories. Though there is some truth to that (some guy did get into Jones last year, presumably from the tunnels before they were locked for the night), it is interesting how a story can go through a large game of telephone before coming back to me, or another source that can validate its truth.

As a journalist, we can’t just go by hearsay. We have to hear things right and we need to get it down right or else we will be right out of a job. We have to make sure we don’t let it get around the grapevine before we validate it. But, we also have the power to use soundbites and things that we hear to inform the public and make them feel, whether it be sad, mad, happy or activated. We have the power to feed those weird skin flaps we call “ears” and seep something that sticks on the mind of the public. Let’s just make sure it is something that creates something or influences action instead of just poisoning the brain with  negativity. Or, that’s at least what I heard we should do.

State of Emergency

They told us that we couldn’t go out to recess because there was a really bad hornets nest. I came home to watch The Rugrats but all the channels had the same news thing on it. I was in second grade and I just remember being angry and confused because things didn’t feel right.

Little did I know in my seven-year-old brain that this was going to be something that I could identify as my generation’s Kennedy. Everyone from the Kennedy era can answer the question, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” Even though we were young, I remember clearly the day of September 11, 2001.

Now, 12 years later, I can put that infamous, tragic day into perspective. On the anniversary of  9/11 this past Wednesday, I didn’t really think about it too hard, except for the tweets, Facebook statuses and instagram posts I saw about it. I didn’t really contribute anything of my own besides tweeting from my class/professional account a link to a multimedia story on it. Check it out here.

All day on Wednesday, I felt absolutely awful. My weekend at LouFest with heat, not a lot of water, exhaustion and my bad sleeping habits when I got back to school caught up with me and my body just quit on me. Part of me reflected on it in a way that made me feel like my body was shutting down and not dealing with thinking about the horrible things that happened and the many innocent lives lost. Also, maybe subconsciously it was causing me to suffer because of the distance I was placing between myself and thinking about 9/11. I have been given the privilege to not have to think about the tragedy of 9/11 in a fairly frequent amount because of my physical distance from the actual event (being in Naperville, IL with no relatives or love ones in New York kept this distance). Sometimes this privilege makes me mad because I have the type of personality where I want to be able to help people in any way that I can, but usually in a way that has me interacting with them. With something on such a grandiose scale as 9/11, I felt so small and helpless, a feeling that makes me feel more sick than any actual illness. When a lot of my residents (reminder: I am a RA in Jones Hall) were grieving after three of their friends died in a car accident, I was getting angry that I couldn’t help them more except for just being there to comfort and listen. I feel horrible that I have been able to live such a normal life after 9/11, except for the crazy level of searching at airport security, while others have to deal with the loss of friends, family, place of work, a way of life. Heck, some people can’t even get on planes easily because they are listed as “suspicious” based on the heritage they hold in similarity to the hijackers. Little, white, blonde me has no issues with any of this.

None of the 9/11 feels hit me until after I took my shower and watched a little video that was on my Facebook news feed. It is the song “Heaven” playing while pictures from 9/11 flash across the screen and a little girl’s voice talks about how it has been one year since the accident and how she misses her daddy. The girl’s voice talks as a fifth-grader when it was five years later, and as a high-schooler when it is 10 years later, each time getting sadder and more choked up about missing her dad as she tells him what is going on in her life. At this point, I am bracing myself on my bed, bawling in my towel wrap. I don’t cry unless I put myself in other people’s shoes or get upset about how I am so fortunate and I feel like I am not doing enough with my privilege. It is so unfair when I think about how many young kids had to grow up without a parent because of 9/11 and I am thankful that I come from such a full family.

As I was still sobbing about that video, I read a survival story of someone who was working in 1 World Trade Center. The imagery of this story was almost enough to make me ill at some points, just thinking of the gravity of the situation and flirting, no, about to go steady with death. I realized that I sometimes can take my family, friends and lifestyle for granted because I have been so damn lucky. It is horrible that something so tragic has to remind me of the preciousness of everything in life.

In my old house back at home, we had a little window cling in our front small window next to our front door. It was a small flag with “September 11, 2001 We will never forget” inscribed on the bottom. Over the years it faded, but I always remember peeping out that front window and tracing my fingers over it and just thinking about it, how unfathomable it still seemed. Though I might not have any tangible connection to that day, I have traced that cling into my memory to remind me that even my home in Naperville, even my little privileged self, was a part of the tragedy of our nation and is a part of rebuilding and remembering it.

Painting the Town Red

This is my first go at using a bit of photoshop and pretending that I am good at photography.

This is my first go at using a bit of photoshop and pretending that I am good at photography.

I remember when I saw people running around doing the Seeing Red project last year, I couldn’t wait to do it myself. Secretly, I have always wanted to be really awesome at photography and take some frame-able fashion shots. My Instagram is me showing off my best iPhonagraphy skills, knowing very well that even all the cool filters and editing (Afterlight is my lifeline for this) won’t make me a real photographer.

When we brought in the big dogs, the D7000, I knew I was going to be in for a bit of culture shock. I have held a DSLR a couple times in my life but it was usually on auto and I  maybe took two photos. But, being the nerd I am, I knew how to hold the camera to not look like a total noob, but in practice I am wholeheartedly a noob. I had heard the terms of ISO, shutter speed (I knew that, duh) and aperture thrown around before because I am friends with a bunch of other journalists that own nice cameras. Finally, I was learning what they meant and using my hands a lot to try to get into my brain how they related all together. If your shutter speed is high *raises left hand,* then the aperture needs to be a lower f-stop *lowers right hand.* AND WE CAN’T FORGET ABOUT ISO, GOOD LORD. That sucker can just cause a whole mess of over or underexposure, which is what happened for maybe a third of the pictures I took.

I ran into one of my classmates downtown when I was lying on my back trying to get the right angle of a car taillight. She was a little frazzled because she was having a hard time finding red. Really? There is literally red everywhere. From expired meters to neon signs to cracked beer bottle labels to the god-for-saken fire hydrants, red is something that is so common place yet our eye recognizes it as something different because of the connotation with emergency, alert, and just in-your-face-ness that it holds. Coincidentally, red is my favorite color, making this assignment a hunt for my favorite things.

I finally got the hang of how to use the camera towards the end of my rental period. How typical. But, this has half crushed my dream of being good a photography because I didn’t feel that confidant right away, but it also gave me hope because I believe that if I play around with it some more I can get pretty decent at it. HEY SANTA GIVE ME A DSLR FOR CHRISTMAS. Or maybe a Polaroid is more my speed…

For some reason, when I think of red I think of feminist things. Maybe it is because my favorite feminist pin that I have is the word “Patriarchy” in the red “do not enter” sign, or “no” sign as I like to call it. To continue with this convoluted train of thought, I have listened/watched the “Blurred Lines” parody that I posted last week a lot but not as much as I would like because YouTube took it down. Their reasoning was that it was offensive/inappropriate to have the half-naked men that they used in there video to speak out against Robin Thicke’s use of half-naked and naked women. That is patriarchy right there because Robin Thicke’s video is still up on YouTube, heck, the unrated one where the women are topless is still up on VEVO. I am not one to be offended by boobs, I mean, boobs are pretty great in art and things but Robin Thicke’s video is not about art or respecting women’s bodies, it’s about telling them that they need a man to liberate them through sex, thus making boobs just an object and not apart of a women. And that just makes me red with fury.

So, my lessons from this week are that photos and images can take a lot of work to get right and that there is a very thin line between art and something that is just “blurry.”