A place to indulge an affliction

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Final Project Summary

For the past seven weeks, I’ve struggled with a topic to storify for my final project. My ideas have ranged from randomly simple (Gorillapod) to bewildering (DMV) to complex (Medicaid). Still, when I’ve tried to flush each of these out, nothing was sticking. During weeks 6 and 7, a topic idea started to germinate. I don’t know what triggered it (perhaps a story on NPR? Or, an episode of The Amazing Race?), but the phrase “melting pot” kept popping in my head. As a first-generation immigrant to the U.S., I have not been comfortable with the phrase to describe an end goal for the immigration story. I understand the importance of integrating and assimilating, but I feel it is a disservice to everyone if each of us lost our identity and melted into one indistinguishable blob. I used to prefer the term “salad bowl” over “melting pot,” because each ingredient in a salad retains its own identity, but together they make for a delicious meal. Now I prefer the term “sangria pitcher,” not only because sangria is similar to a salad where each ingredient retains its uniqueness but also because “sangria” is a term derived from “sangre” meaning blood. No matter how different each of us are, we bleed the same. It makes a melting pot of whatever ingredients sound flat, doesn’t it?
So, where am I going with this and what does multiculturalism have to do with my final project? I storified my sangria recipe to serve as a metaphor for how I see multiculturalism. I personified d the strawberry, the main staple ingredient in my recipe, to act as the central character in the story. I named it Strauss Behre. I humanized a strawberry by adding eyes and a nose using bits of a blueberry. I also personified a navel orange and a yellow mango by adding eyes, ears, and a mouth using grapes.

O. Range, Strauss Behre, and Manny Go

O. Range, Strauss Behre, and Manny Go

Strauss Behre

Strauss Behre

Strauss Behre’s story follows him from his farm origins to his last adventure at Assateague Island National Seashore. The story spine of Strauss Behre’s story is as follows:
Once upon a time, there was a berry named Straus Behre. Every day, he lived on a farm, basked in the sunshine, and enjoyed the soil. Until one day, he was picked along with other mature berries. Because of that, he was able to leave the farm, go to a different location, and meet other fruit. Because of that, Strauss became an ingredient in sangria, a portable drink. Because of that, Strauss was taken to a beach camping event. And because of that, Strauss met his demise at the teeth of a wild Assateague pony.

I used Windows Live Movie Maker to create a video of Strauss Behre’s story. I downloaded two videos from YouTube to follow a strawberry’s lifecycle. One video showed the phases a strawberry went through from planting to packing. I split this video to insert a timelapse video of a potted strawberry plan growing. I also created four short videos of me cutting the fruit, marinating it in brandy, and talking about the portability of the libations. However, I only kept the video narration on one of them. I eliminated the audio on the three other videos. I added a newer version of the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” as the soundtrack to the video. I found it appropriate and befitting an adventure/journey story. I found that with Windows Live Movie Maker, I can also split an audio track like I can to a video clip. Below is the screenshot of this work:
WLMM_Sangria Story

I designed the sangria recipe using some of the design elements previously discussed. I used Comic Sans for the font, to convey informality and funb. For the graphic, I used one of the photos I took of the sangria pitcher at a friend’s party. I recolored it using Photoshop, so that only the contents of the pitcher are in color. Below is the screenshot of this effort: Photoshop

I have thoroughly enjoyed myself in this course; the assignments were interesting and challenging, and more importantly, gave me the opportunity to be creative.


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Week 6 and 7 Summary

 I’m glad we had two weeks to complete the video assignments, because I need that time (and  more) to not only make sure I had all the necessary tools but that I also knew (or remembered) how to use them.  I did not realize until last week that I never had Windows Live Movie Maker installed in my laptop. Fortunately, it was a quick download from the Microsoft site.

I found the inspiration video, Ken Burns: On Story thought-provoking, particularly, “Truth is, we hope, a byproduct of the best stories, and yet there are many, many different kinds of truths. And emotional truth is something you have to build.”

Until this course, I had not thought much about cinematic techniques. After viewing the various examples of camera angles and techniques, my appreciation for cinematic techniques increased.

Spurred on by Ebert’s How to Read a Movie, I did a comprehensive analysis of a clip from Pearl Harbor (2001). It strikes me that the movie was released a few months before the terrorist events of 9/11/2001. The audio of a foreign-accented male voice talking about sacrificing his life to serve his country  by attacking the United States resonates across generations.  The sentiment expressed was as applicable in 2001 as it was in 1941.  The audio and video in the clip both contributed to effectively telling the story of how America was caught unaware by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

I was initially intimidated by the Chaplin foley assignment, since I could not think of what story to re-imagine the video clip into. As a result, I procrastinated on it. I finally decided on using the Darwin Awards angle, having been inspired by the assignment posted by a former DS106 student.  At first, I was overly concerned about lining up the foley to each segment of the video clip. That took a lot of time. Then the lightbulb came on and I realized that this assignment is for a Digital Storytelling course, not a Sound Editing course.  So, while the foley sounds don’t exactly line up in my assignment, I did come up with a possible, if not anachronistic, explanation for Chaplin’s actions in the clip.

I enjoyed completing the two video assignments because it allowed me to think of new stories. For the first assignment, I picked actors in A Few Good Men (AFGM) who are still active in the entertainment industry to create a “where-are-they-now” story for each of them.   I avoided using the obvious (e.g., Kiefer Sutherland in “24;” Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible,” etc.)  so that their post-AFGM story  was a complete departure from their AFGM role.  I am pleased with the stories I created for these characters. I am less happy with the second assignment, because I imagined it differently than what it turned out to be. Using the video assignment prompt for “Sardonic Tours,” I created a video of a tour of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, from the perspective of an interior decorator working for HGTV. I suppose I could have been more creative in this if I wasn’t under a time crunch. One idea that came to mind is similar to what I did for one of the visual assignments, the historical selfie. I could’ve had one of the Byzantine emperors time travel to the present and marvel at the changes in the Hagia Sophia. Maybe next time…

I’ve enjoyed reading classmates’ blogs. Because most, including me, tend to submit assignments at the end of the week, feedback provided and received also comes later. Feedback provided by classmates are helpful in spotting things I may have missed in the final review process. As you know, when you’ve been looking at something for so long, you tend to miss certain things. It’s always helpful to have someone else’s fresh eyes. The feedback I’ve received from the professor as well as other classmates have been positive and motivating. They are what spurs me on to spend time on each assignment and create a good product.

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Week 5 Summary

This weekly summary should be titled, “The Sound of Silence,” or at least the second half of the week. This week started more auspiciously than it ended, I am sad to admit.  I created a SoundCloud account and posted my first audio assignment on Monday.  I was very proud of posting something early in the week, that I was on cloud nine!

Then my productivity went downhill. I was stymied by audio editing tool, Audacity. I must admit that early in the week, I was filled with trepidation at the thought of audio editing. It is an activity in which I do not have any experience.   I have not worked with either SoundCloud or Audacity. To help mitigate last minute panic, early in the week, I prepared for the assignments:

  1. I explored the various websites where I can download audio files. Some I found too confusing; whereas others seemed to want my billing information despite touting “free” audio files. I liked the ease with which I could navigate, search for, and download audion files from FreeSound. So I used this site.
  2. Instead of randomly downloading audio files from FreeSound, I developed a story idea first. I decided on a snapshot story of a day in the life of an inanimate object, my travel backpack, Becki. Having a story outline made it easy for me to search for specific audio files from FreeSound.
  3. I watched my assigned segment of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus.” Then I watched the entire 3 minute clip to get an overall context of the story.
  4. I further broke down my assigned segment into five-second pieces and in a table, mapped out actions that required foley sounds.
  5. I downloaded the support software LAME library. Or, so I thought.


As mentioned, Audacity and audio editing were challenges for me. I found the tips helpful but it still took time for me to find ease in manipulating the track timeline and adding effects. The true challenge came from the support tool LAME Library. I admit to not following the directions correctly (hmm….maybe this can be a candidate for storifying…), so I ended up downloading a few files that negatively impacted my internet connectivity. I had to engage the Help Desk to get rid of these files and restore back to my system’s functionality. Yes, by now, this is Sunday and I had wasted a few days. Granted, it was a very busy week between personal and professional conflicting priorities. I am glad, however, of the prep work I completed, because as soon as I got my Audacity tool sorted out and I was able to export MP3 files to SoundCloud, completing the assignments was relatively easy.

Due to the time crunch, I chose a fairly simple second audio assignment, Taking Back SPAM.  I was looking for the good ol’ Nigerian bank scam or one of those “you’ll get 10 years of bad luck if you don’t pass this on” e-mails, but it seems my e-mail programs have gotten better at filtering these old SPAM classics.  I suppose mail order bride and relationship seeking SPAMs are timeless, so I was able to find one to use. 

I also thought about storifying how to navigate Medicare and Medicaid paperwork. I know that’s a behemoth task.  Perhaps I should really consider storifying LAME library.


Week 4 Summary

I am a photo hoarder. I love to travel and I take lots of photos. An average day would yield over a hundred  new photos. After observing me snap photos of seemingly mundane things, someone once asked me, “Will you ever look at these photos again?” The answer to that is, “Maybe.”  I take photos of things that are interesting to me and I don’t like to delete them, even if their meaning has faded over time. All my photos are archived in an online album, which was set up not only as a cloud back up but as a photo sharing site. This week’s assignments have taken me on a journey of rediscovery of these photos.

Kelli Anderson’s TED Talk, Disruptive Wonders for a Change, was truly inspiring. It challenged our expectations and assumptions of every day things. The video prompted me to look at my own archive of photos to use for this week’s assignments, rather than using ones available on the internet.

The Symmetry video reminded me of a composite I created in January after returning from vacation, to lament the change in temperature and the long East Coast winter. The composite photo is made up of two photos of my footsteps, one on a beach and one on new snow: Image

I completed the Design Safari assignment during a sunrise photo trek at the Washington D.C. Tidal Basin during the peak of the cherry blossoms. I love doing this photo trek, even if it means getting up at the crack of dawn and trying to find parking.  I restrained myself from posting  more photos of the cherry blossoms than necessary for the assignment.

I completed the first Design Assignment, using photos as letters, by going on a photo safari through my digital photo album, and picking out photos that not only met the assignment criteria but also represented the word I was designing. By using my own photos, the designed word was more personal.

I completed the second Design Assignment, creating composites of human head and animal body, by using more travel photos. My holiday to southern Africa in 2011 was the most opportunity I have had to date to be exposed to and experience wild animals.

I have to admit that I’m still struggling with an idea to storify. I realized after posting last week’s idea  that there is no story left to tell for it; the gorillapod is a well-used tool that does not need storification.  I thought of an item on this month’s “To Do” list that I need to complete this week: renewing my vehicle registration. The idea of storifying the vehicle registration process does not align with this week’s theme of animals and flowers, but that’s all I got for now.

I am enjoying reading classmates’ blog posts. This week, I especially liked guessing the movie behind the One Story/Four Icons design assignment. The feedback I’ve received on my posts have been inspiring as well. I get excited when the Comment icon turns orange (indicating new comments), much like the “You Got Mail” notification back in the old days.

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Week 3 Summary


If only this week came with 14 days, I would have been better able to space out four incredible digital storytelling assignments with coast-to-coast client travel and managing a parent’s medical care. But I managed to complete the assignments while enjoying them too.

I was in California most of the week and being three hours away seemed like I was submitting blog posts later. However, I would not trade that for the opportunity to take more photos of Joshua Tree National Park. This week, I discovered that however simple and straightforward an assignment seemed, it still took me a couple of hours before I was satisfied with the product to post it to my blog. I also discovered  that it was easy for me develop a story with visual prompts.

The first assignment I posted was the Five Card Flickr  I was inspired by the first photo  dealt, a photo of an aloe vera plant. I found that I was able to easily weave a tale with the four following photos dealt to me. I thought all five photos had a Southwestern theme connecting them. It was only later that I learned that one photo was taken in Iceland. With this foreknowledge,  the story spine would have been very different.

I applied tips on how to become a better photographer during a couple of trips to Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP), which fortunately was very close to where I was on business travel.  I have always enjoyed photographing JTNP; even more so when I had a checklist of tips to test.  Although I only mentioned the tips offered by Rob Wall’s blog, I also perused several other tips, including the list on how to take better travel photos.

The photoblitz safari was fun to do.  Although it was one of the assignments I wanted to complete right away, I gave myself a day to scope out where I could conduct the safari and plan out the shoot. I knew fifteen minutes is not a very long time and I wanted to make sure I was able to check off majority of the photo types from the list provided.  When I drafted my blog post, I found myself telling the story of Navy Hospital Corpsman Robert Bush‘s heroic acts during WWII.

Stories seemed to come out of nowhere when I completed the two visual assignments as well. When I was writing the blog post for the Return to the Scene of the Crime assignment, I could not help sharing the context behind the photo.  By the time I was preparing for the second visual assignment, I was truly inspired and ended up writing a fictional story on Howard Carter’s historical selfie. I initially was going to do a historical selfie on Molly Brown, who survived the sinking of the HMS Titanic (she was played by actress Kathy Bates in the 1997 James Cameron movie). However, hubris won out  and I wanted to  incorporate my own selfie in the historical selfie assignment.

As for my final project, I want to storify the use of a gorilla pod, an ubiquitous accessory I pack on every trip.

I am continuing to enjoy reading classmates’ posts and have ventured beyond the Blue Ninjas to comment on blog posts.

Anyone who knows me well knows I enjoy taking photos, so this week has been incredibly enjoyable for me. It has helped me weather the many personal stressors in life. At a friend’s wedding reception last night, an acquaintance commented that I was “hiding behind the camera.”  There may be some element of truth in that, but mostly, I’m laughing, dancing, and enjoying with my camera.

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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!


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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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:


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