chronicwnderlst

A place to indulge an affliction


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Week 2 Summary

My blog is tumbling headlong into a history- and travel-themed rabbit hole! I love learning about history and cultures , two things that will always be incorporated into any travel I do. This week was busy as I was trying to catch up with assignments and familiarize myself with WordPress and blogging. I figured out what a pingback is and I just realized I had to approve the Comments left on my posts.  This is going to take a while; I’ll learn as I go along. I remember for the GMU class on Virtual Worlds, it took me some time to familiarize with SecondLife; consequently, my avatar had no pants on for a few days while I tried to figure out how to put clothes back on her.

This week’s assignments focused on audio elements, which honestly, I had not paid any attention to.

For the “Learning by Listening to Radio Shows” assignment, I initially chose Episode 503 of This American Life: I Was Just Trying to Help because I was curious to hear stories of people trying to help which resulted in unintended consequences.   While the prologue story centered on an attempt by a clerk for a circuit court judge to help out an inmate with paperwork was interesting, it was the story on the GiveDirectly charity that fascinated me.  Until listening to this episode, I had not heard of GiveDirectly, but I had heard of Heifer International, the charity to which GiveDirectly was compared.   A friend of mine had asked guests to contribute to Heifer International as a wedding gift, in lieu of the traditional wedding registry.  I listened to “Money for Nothing and Your Cows for Free” several times.  I gained appreciation for how the audio elements incorporated into the narration helped enhance the story. Without any accompanying visuals, the story still took shape and form in my mind though the audio elements. One segment made me realize a personal bias:  when Jacob Goldstein, the narrator, stated the name of a GiveDirectly staff member he was interviewing, I had expected a non-American accent because her name was non-Anglo Saxon. So, it surprised me to hear her speak with an American accent.

For the “Commercials as Short Film Stories” assignment, I revisited an old favorite, the original “got milk?” commercial, which I blame for retaining the trivia that it was Vice President Aaron Burr who killed Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a duel.  Had it not been for that “got milk” ad, I would never even have heard of Aaron Burr. When I revisited the commercial, I also revisited the Wikepedia article on the Burr-Hamilton duel  to satisfy my curiosity  of the events leading to the duel.  More commercials like this, should inspire a deeper delve into history!

Image

I’ve enjoyed reading through Blue Ninjas’ blog posts this week! Similar to my experience, the Blue Ninjas included in their analyses how the audio elements contributed immensely to telling the stories. I realized from reading two of the Blue Ninjas’ posts that I did not include the story spine element to my analysis of the “got milk” commercial. Ooops!

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Nionyesheni fedha ya (Show Me the Money)

M-Pesa=money transfer from phone to phone

M-Pesa=money transfer from phone to phone

For this assignment, I chose a small segment of This American Life’s August 2013 episode titled I Was Just Trying to Help. Specifically, I analyzed Act One: Money for Nothing and Your Cows for Free (tracks 10:51-36:54):

In this episode, Planet Money reporter Jacob Goldstein narrates a visit to Kenya to see the work being done by GiveDirectly. Jacob Goldstein compares GiveDirectlhy’s work to another charity, Heifer International. GiveDirectly is a charity that gives money directly to poor people (determined by whether or not they have a grass roof). GiveDirectlyl lets the recipients decide how to spend the money. Through the “M-Pesa”, which allows money transfer via phone, GiveDirectly has been able to give out thousands of dollars to poor people in rural Kenya.

An M-Pesa storefront

An M-Pesa storefront

Money transfer confirmation is texted

Money transfer confirmation is texted

A young man outside an M-Pesa store

A young man outside an M-Pesa store

Audio elements were effectively used to tell the story of Jacob Goldstein’s visit to rural Kenya to meet with GiveDirectly recipients. These audio elements include animal sounds (insects buzzing, dogs barking, cow mooing), mechanical sounds (engine revving, hammering, motorcycle), and human sounds (voice inflections, laughter, language, accents, male/female). I’ve charted my analyses below:

Audio Element Description provided by Narrator Illustrates:
Various voices speaking in the background Visit to an “M-Pesa” store located in an old VW van, which reminds Jacob Goldstein of the van he used to go camping in as a child. The van is also described as being “like a snack shop” Cafeteria environment
Male voice with West African accent reading text message Introduces this segment that he tested the “empesa” system by sending the money to the only person he knew whose number he had in his phone, his interpreter Allen Kenyan interpreter receiving money on his cell phone
Female voice with American accent Jacob Goldstein narrates that in Kenya, they met Piali Mukhodpadhyay, who is Chief Operating Officer (COO) for GiveDirectly GiveDirectly staff reading names of charity recipients from a spreadsheet
Female voice with American accent, change in inflection GiveDirectly staff amused when she confirms she has not met any of the charity recipients but that she “…knows these people in a sense that I send them money each month.”
Car engine starting Jacob Goldstein describes wanting to meet some of the GiveDirectly recipients so he gets in the car with Piali
Motor running on unpaved road To meet recipients of GiveDirectly, narrator had to drive down an increasingly rough dirt road off the main road and past a the Equator sign with no street signs. While giving thousands of dollars away to people in rural Kenya throught he “empesa” has gotten easier, going to visit them is still very hard Motor running on unpaved road
Dog barking Walking down a path on the way to meeting a GiveDirectly recipient, Jacob Goldstein describes how surroundings are very green , there are farm plots where people are growing corn Pastoral environment of rural Kenya
Ring tone Jacob Goldstein states that by the side of the path, they find one of the guys who received money on his cell phone Presence of cell phone
Male voice with West African accent states, “Nokia” Type of phone used by the GiveDirectly recipient
Male voice in non-English language speaking in the background Jacob Goldstein describes how Bernard Omondi came to receive money from GiveDirectly Mr. Omondi telling his story to Jacob Goldstein, via Allen, the interpreter
Male voice in Kenyan language followed by male voice with West African accent narrating in English Jacob Goldstein describes Mr. Omondi’s initial suspicions regarding receiving money Allen translates Mr. Omondi’s story in English, and how Mr. Omondi’s initial reaction about receiving free money may be very similar to someone from another part of the world
Different male voice in Kenyan language Mr. Omondi’s neighbor, Daniel, describes when he received the text that he got money from GiveDirectly Multiple people in the same rural Kenyan village receiving money through their cell phone
Motorcycle engine revving up Jacob Goldstein describes what Mr. Omondi bought with his GiveDirectly money Motorcycle
Male voice with West African accent narrating in English Through Allen the interpreter, Mr. Omondi shares the type of motorcycle he bought and that it will not require as much fuel as a regular car Justifies buying the motorcycle for a livelihood
Background conversation of male voices in non-English language followed by laughter Through Allen, Daniel describes how he felt “like a human being” after buying a new mattress with the GiveDirectly funds he received Emotions felt by recipients illustrating impact of the funds
Hammering against metal Daniel shows Jacob Goldstein the new metal roof he also bought with the GiveDirectly funds, to replace the grass roof he used to have New metal roof
Female voice with West African accent Jacob Goldstein narrates the story of Caroline Adiyambo, who also bought a metal roof and a cow like many of her fellow villagers Most everyone in the rural Kenyan village bought a new metal roof and a cow with their GiveDirectly funds
Insect buzzing Jacob Goldstein asks the villager on what their neighbors used the GiveDireclty funds Conversation occurring outdoors
Background percussion music N/A Transition to discussing the tension among neighbors resulting from those who received money from GiveDirectly and those who did not
Cow mooing N/A Transition to discussing Heifer International, a charity that gives cows for free, along with training and visits from charity staff, comparing to the work of GiveDirectly

Listening to this recording helped me envision being in a rural village in Kenya, while giving me a lot of food for thought regarding the work of various charities intended to improve the lives of people in developing worlds.

Note: The blog post title is based on the Jerry Maguire quote “Show me the money!” translated to Swahili using Webtranslations and IM Translator.


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got Aayuun Buh?

This commercial still keeps me laughing five years after it originally aired.  The commercial follows a story approach as the character is depicted to be a subject matter expert on Alexander Hamilton through the use of visual elements. Audio elements, such the sound of a full mouth talking and the sound of a dial tone, effectively depict how the young man’s misfortune unfolds.

Below is a five-second breakdown analyses of the commercial:

0:00-0:05: Classical music plays in the background while the camera pans through a room full of antiques.  The camera zooms on a young man intently spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread. The storyline is set, depicting a modern character who loves history and is a collector of antiques.

0:06-0:10: The tempo of the background classical music increases and the camera zooms in on items related to Alexander Hamilton, such as law books, a portrait, and a miniature bust set in front of an antique-looking radio. This further underscores the character’s obsession of all things Alexander Hamilton.

0:11-0:15: The music ends and a male voice on the radio states that the music was “Vienna Wood Dancing B,” and that it is one of his all-time favorites. Alexander Hamilton’s bust is shown in the foreground.

0:16-0:20: The camera zooms back to the young man who is still spreading peanut butter on bread. I consider this foreshadowing. The camera then zooms in to a portrait of Alexander Hamilton. The voice on the radio states that it was now time to make the “random call with today’s $10,000 question.” The camera zooms in to the young man who takes a big bite of his peanut butter sandwich, eyes closed, clearly enjoying his meal.

0:21-0:25: The male radio voice adds that today’s question “is a tough one” while the camera shows the young man stuffing the peanut butter sandwich into his mouth. The radio voice then asks, “Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?” As soon as the radio voice says, “Alexander Hamilton,” the young man’s eyes open wide as he chews his peanut butter sandwich. As soon as the word “duel” is said, the sound of a pistol being fired is heard in the background, there is a flash of light, and the camera zooms in to two antique pistols displayed facing each other as if in a duel. The camera then shows the young man, mouth full, looking behind him. In front of him are a telephone, an empty drinking glass, a carton of milk, and a peanut butter jar with a butter knife inside.

0:26-0:30: The young man is shown looking around. In quick succession, the camera (acting as the young man’s eyes), zoom in on a man’s period costume with hat and labeled “Alexander Hamilton” in front of a U.S. flag; a bullet marked “The Bullet” under a domed glass case; and a painting of two dueling men, one labeled “Alexander Hamilton,” and the other labeled “Aaron Burr.” The radio voice states “Alright, let’s go to the phones and see who is out there,” as the camera focuses on the “Aaron Burr” label.

0:31-0:35: The phone rings and the young man looks at it in surprise and quickly answers the phone. When the young man opens his mouth to say”Hello?” it is obvious that his mouth is still full of the peanut butter sandwich. The voice on the phone is the same as the radio voice that then asks, “Hello! For then thousand dollars…”

0:36-0:40: The male voice on the other end of the telephone call continues “…who shot ..?” Before the voice could finish the question, the young man confidently answers “Aayuun Buh” while waving one hand as if to convey that the answer was easy.  He also closes his eyes and smirks confidently, until he hears the voice on the phone ask, “Excuse me?” The young man’s eyes opens and one can see a flicker of worry in his eyes as he repeats, “Aayuun Buh.”

0:41-0:45: The young man then pleads and mumbles  on the phone, “Hold on, hold on, let me get some milk!” as he pours the milk carton into the drinking glass. There is only a small amount of milk left. The young man yells, “Noooo!” as he shakes the empty carton of milk into the glass.

0:46-0:50: The young man is clearly frustrated as he shakes the empty milk carton and puts it down, as the voice on the phone states, “I’m sorry, your time is almost up.” The young man yells barely intelligibly into the phone, “Aayuun Buh!” as he stares at a mini statue of Alexander Hamilton on his desk. His desperation is evident on his face.

0:51-0:55: The phone voice states, “I’m sorry. Maybe next time,” and hangs up, as indicated by a dial tone. The young man stares at the phone hand set, seemingly in disbelief that he missed his opportunity. He mumbles “Aayuun Buh” while staring at the hand set, as the dial tone becomes louder. The louder dial tone underscores the finality of the young man’s missed opportunity.

0:55-1:00: “got milk?” is displayed on a black screen and another male voice asks, “Got Milk?”

Because of this commercial, I will always remember who shot Alexander Hamilton.

Below is a five-second breakdown analyses of the commercial:

0:00-0:05: Classical music plays in the background while the camera pans through a room full of antiques.  The camera zooms on a young man intently spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread. The storyline is set, depicting a modern character who loves history and is a collector of antiques.

0:06-0:10: The tempo of the background classical music increases and the camera zooms in on items related to Alexander Hamilton, such as law books, a portrait, and a miniature bust set in front of an antique-looking radio. This further underscores the character’s obsession of all things Alexander Hamilton.

0:11-0:15: The music ends and a male voice on the radio states that the music was “Vienna Wood Dancing B,” and that it is one of his all-time favorites. Alexander Hamilton’s bust is shown in the foreground.

0:16-0:20: The camera zooms back to the young man who is still spreading peanut butter on bread. I consider this foreshadowing. The camera then zooms in to a portrait of Alexander Hamilton. The voice on the radio states that it was now time to make the “random call with today’s $10,000 question.” The camera zooms in to the young man who takes a big bite of his peanut butter sandwich, eyes closed, clearly enjoying his meal.

0:21-0:25: The male radio voice adds that today’s question “is a tough one” while the camera shows the young man stuffing the peanut butter sandwich into his mouth. The radio voice then asks, “Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?” As soon as the radio voice says, “Alexander Hamilton,” the young man’s eyes open wide as he chews his peanut butter sandwich. As soon as the word “duel” is said, the sound of a pistol being fired is heard in the background, there is a flash of light, and the camera zooms in to two antique pistols displayed facing each other as if in a duel. The camera then shows the young man, mouth full, looking behind him. In front of him are a telephone, an empty drinking glass, a carton of milk, and a peanut butter jar with a butter knife inside.

0:26-0:30: The young man is shown looking around. In quick succession, the camera (acting as the young man’s eyes), zoom in on a man’s period costume with hat and labeled “Alexander Hamilton” in front of a U.S. flag; a bullet marked “The Bullet” under a domed glass case; and a painting of two dueling men, one labeled “Alexander Hamilton,” and the other labeled “Aaron Burr.” The radio voice states “Alright, let’s go to the phones and see who is out there,” as the camera focuses on the “Aaron Burr” label.

0:31-0:35: The phone rings and the young man looks at it in surprise and quickly answers the phone. When the young man opens his mouth to say”Hello?” it is obvious that his mouth is still full of the peanut butter sandwich. The voice on the phone is the same as the radio voice that then asks, “Hello! For then thousand dollars…”

0:36-0:40: The male voice on the other end of the telephone call continues “…who shot ..?” Before the voice could finish the question, the young man confidently answers “Aayuun Buh” while waving one hand as if to convey that the answer was easy.  He also closes his eyes and smirks confidently, until he hears the voice on the phone ask, “Excuse me?” The young man’s eyes opens and one can see a flicker of worry in his eyes as he repeats, “Aayuun Buh.”

0:41-0:45: The young man then pleads and mumbles  on the phone, “Hold on, hold on, let me get some milk!” as he pours the milk carton into the drinking glass. There is only a small amount of milk left. The young man yells, “Noooo!” as he shakes the empty carton of milk into the glass.

0:46-0:50: The young man is clearly frustrated as he shakes the empty milk carton and puts it down, as the voice on the phone states, “I’m sorry, your time is almost up.” The young man yells barely intelligibly into the phone, “Aayuun Buh!” as he stares at a mini statue of Alexander Hamilton on his desk. His desperation is evident on his face. I believe this is where the element of surprise is introduced, because the audience realizes at this point that young man may have missed the opportunity to win $10,000.

0:51-0:55: The phone voice states, “I’m sorry. Maybe next time,” and hangs up, as indicated by a dial tone. The young man stares at the phone hand set, seemingly in disbelief that he missed his opportunity. He mumbles “Aayuun Buh” while staring at the hand set, as the dial tone becomes louder. The louder dial tone underscores the finality of the young man’s missed opportunity.

0:55-1:00: “got milk?” is displayed on a black screen and another male voice asks, “Got Milk?”

I can’t help but empathize with the character. He did nothing fundamentally wrong, yet he missed his opportunity.  Because of this commercial, I will always remember who shot Alexander Hamilton.


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Week 1 Summary

What a (long!) week and part of it is my doing, given that I’m turning in my Week 1 assignments late. I’ve been in Twentynine Palms, CA all week, on business so my posts are 3 hours behind Eastern time.  Here’s a photo of a detour I took to see Indian Cove campground:

Image

I set up blog account and have been getting used to blogging. My welcome post was more of an apology for tardiness, but I strived to be much more positive and creative in subsequent ones (story shapes, digital storytelling perspective, and storifying) In any case, my initial feelings of being overwhelmed by this course have now turned to general excitement (esp. as I’m catching up on homework). This course is going to be challenging and a lot of work, but with lots of room for creativity and reflection, much like this “selfie” I took at Joshua Tree National Park (I had the camera on self-timer on the hood of the car, which inadvertently reflected the rocks behind me). I look forward to this. Image

 


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Insert alliterative title here

Searching for something to storify…(The real title to this post)

I’m still in the process of identifying a specific something for my final project. After viewing the Meet Your Modern Office video and the Google Nexus 7 video, I can see the value of adding storifying elements. I connected better with the Google Nexus video. I found it ironic that the video titles were a bit misleading. The Google Nexus video placed the product name in the title and there was nothing about it to draw me unless I had already been interested in the Google Nexus. The Office product title, on the other hand, drew me in because it spoke to me directly. Only after viewing both videos and comparing them did I realize with which content I best connected.

For my final project, I initially thought about using something from work, e.g. standard operating procedures or policy, as those are the ones much in need of storytelling elements. Alas, I cannot as we have to post media on this public blog. I then thought about doing something closer to home, such as something related to caring for an aging parent. But that is too close to home; I don’t want to do something too personal on this space. So I’ve decided to do my final project on a travel-related issue. Travel is a de-stressor for me, a means of temporary escape from the daily toils, but in and of itself is not stress-free. This final project will be a fun venture. I want that Cheshire Cat grin back.


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If I were to play a words association game, and the word in play was “storytelling,” I’d respond with “oral history.” For generations, many civilizations have passed on their cultural material and traditions through oral lore. Some of these oral lore have been lost over time; others have morphed into what we now consider as superstitions, science fiction, children’s fairy tales, and ghost stories. I’ve been as fascinated with storytelling as I have with history.  Storytelling is a way for me to learn something new and for me to retain that information.  Storytelling provides a more robust background that enriches the information being imparted. It provides a context to the information and while I may not always connect with the information emotionally, I can connect with it intellectually. In the TED video titled “The clues to a great story,”  Andrew Stanton mentioned that a story should make the recipient care by connecting with the recipient intellectually or emotionally. A story does not stick with me if I cannot connect to it. It will be nothing more than just background noise. Ira Glass imparts a similar tip: the story should lead the recipient to a moment of reflection.

These moments of reflection deepen the connection with the story.

Digital storytelling expands the reach of storytelling. I often wonder how many lessons our modern world has missed out on, because certain stories are no longer being told or believed in. As society continues to “progress,” elements of the traditional world no longer become relevant or deemed valid. In this digital age, where technology permeates many parts of our lives, digital storytelling enables storytelling to remain relevant. Younger generations who are more apt to connect with media and graphics rather than written text could still be open to stories. Digital storytelling enables stories to be distributed to a broader audience (spanning cultures, national origins, physical abilities, etc.); translated in multiple languages; and appeal to many generations. Further, digital storytelling allows stories from oral traditions to be archived and accessible by future generations, instead of being lost forever when the traditional storyteller passes on. One example of such is the digitalizing of Mongolia’s oral history: University of Cambridge launched the Mongolian life stories database online. The project collected stories from over 600 interviews with Mongolians about events and periods of the 20th century. A video and audio collection of this oral history is archived by the University of Cambridge Department of Social Anthropology. While these digital storytelling avenues can never replace the unique experience of being in a yurt and listening to the tribal storyteller tell stories over a cup of yak milk (assuming one understands the local Mongol dialect), they certainly are a nice alternative. yak

Genghis Khan and wife share yak milk

Please pass the yak milk

Shape Shifters

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My favorite TV show is The Amazing Race. Although it is supposed to be reality TV,  unscripted, and unpredictable,  each episode is edited to tell a compelling story of the contestants’ adventures.

Below is a graphical depiction of the typical shape of The Amazing Race stories:
TAR story shape
Each of the line graphs represent a competing team as they go through the challenges on their way to the finish line. There is not always a smooth upward trajectory to their paths; often, those that finish at the top on one challenge may finish in the bottom during the following challenge. The shape of the story is dynamic and constantly shifts. However, in the end, there is a clear winner of the $1M prize.

I reference the first of Pixar’s 22 Rules in what makes The Amazing Race episodes compelling:

“You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.”  

In the show,there is always the underdog, who is agoraphobic or cannot swim or drive manual transmission, who gets the most film time, because the show producers know that the viewers want to know how that particular story ends. Teasers for the upcoming episode always include clips of when contestants are facing challenges. These teasers hook the viewer into watching the show the following week in order to find out whether the contestant triumphed over these challenges. Real-time is compressed in the episodes, so that the viewers are kept guessing until the end which contestants were successful. Often, the most memorable contestants are those who worked hard to finish the challenge even if it meant finishing last.

Story Spine format elements found in one team’s Amazing Race episode story is below:

Once upon a time…

A mother and son team that joined 10 other teams of two to begin their race around the world

Every day…

They competed against the other teams to finish the challenges and not be the last team on the Finish Mat

But, one day…

The taxi the mother and son team were riding got lost on the way to the travel agency, where the teams were supposed to buy airline tickets from Malaysia to Sri Lanka, the location of the next set of challenges.

Because of that…

The mother directed the taxi driver to take them directly to the airport instead, where she intended for her team to buy the tickets directly from the airline

Because of that…

They arrived at the airport behind other teams and were told by the airline that the direct flight was full. However, there was a connecting flight that still had seats.

Because of that…

(and previous negative experience with connecting flights) The mother opted for the team to standby on the direct flight, in hopes that a couple of passengers would not show up

Because of that…

The team had to wait for the next flight to Sri Lanka the following morning, when the team was unsuccessful in getting seats on the direct flight

Because of that…

The team arrived in Sri Lanka 10 hours after the other teams

Until finally…

The team finished last on the Finish Mat and were subsequently eliminated from the race.

tar
Until this course, I never thought much about how The Amazing Race producers had shaped each episode to be effective storytelling. I like The Amazing Race for the opportunity to see different countries and cultures. What makes these stories compelling is that they are constantly shifting shapes. The unpredictability is the “bait” that draws the viewers in.