Tracker

My mom decided to adopt a beagle a few months ago, so I was pleasantly surprised to welcome a new member into the Kalayjian family this Thanksgiving break! Her name is Tracker, and she is an eight-year old beagle who was dropped off at the Metropolitan Humane Society, an animal shelter near Cleveland, Ohio.

 

If the picture doesn’t speak for itself, Tracker is an absolute angel. She is a bit reserved, and plays hard-to-get, but doesn’t ever object to being cradled, rubbed or carried around like a rag-doll. Her brown ears flop up and down when she prances around outside, and her little body seems to light up when she catches a whiff of fresh air.

Tracker isn’t the most playful little thing, however. When she’s not outside gallivanting, she walks painfully slow and often quivers. She has cataracts and a hernia, and has bad a few seizure attacks since she has been with us—one of which she had while I held her in my arms.

When I look into her big brown eyes, I can’t help but wonder where she came from, and what she has been through. Tracker’s story is undoubtedly filled with sadness. It’s clear she had many litters, and her body has been broken down by the trauma. My mom was told that she never belonged to a loving family, nor was especially valued for anything besides her reproductive capacities. She is tri-colored and has speckles of brown on her face—a perfect dog for breeding.

There is something about the unknown past of this little pooch that made me think about the stories we all hold within us—the tales that aren’t immediately evident, or even at all, which have evolved over the course of our lives. There’s quite a bit about these stories that we have no hand in writing, like the characters that enter in and out, the themes that shape the plot, where the stories take place, and how the story ends.

Living with my family is probably the final chapter in the story of Tracker’s life, but she is one adorable character that I am so glad has entered into ours.

 

“A Picture is worth a thousand words”

My motivations as a writer are still evolving, but I can say confidently that my mission is not to change the world through my work, nor to create profound observations and challenges, but to just make people think about new ideas.

It’s kind of a simple mission, but I want to demonstrate and highlight it by using photography.

I want my eportfolio to be a bit provocative both in terms of the written content and the photographs that accompany each piece. I would like to categorize my writing into different themes (I’m thinking 4-5) and use photographs to guide the reader into each sub-section, but then additional photographs that demonstrate the theme of each sample. Where will I get my photographs? Well I’ve taken a few good ones myself, and am still working on developing my personal collection, but in the meantime, I’ll turn to the pros:

Foreign Policy Magazine

This photograph was featured on Foreign Policy Magazine’s “The Worst Places to be a Mother” which lists ten countries where being a mother is a life-or-death struggle This mother is struggling to keep her child alive in the Sudan, where there is the  highest rate of maternal deaths per year in the world.

JR  (I’m not actually sure what his real name is http://jr-art.net/ ) is another artist who completed a “Women are Heros” exhibition that documented women throughout the world:

 

I’m really drawn towards global photographers. I have found a few that I especially like:

Brent Stirton: http://www.brentstirton.com/

And also Jan Sochor: http://www.jansochor.com/

There are a few other fantastic artists who have done projects that specifically document women around the world including Annie Griffith:

http://www.oprah.com/world/Annie-Griffiths-Belts-Photos-of-Women-Around-the-World/7

I was originally turned off by the idea of creating an interactive portfolio, but as I think more about the message I want to send, I’m thinking it would be silly not to include interactive opportunities. Afterall, if my mission is to promote dialogue, then I need to reflect this by allowing readers to comment and to criticize.

Feedback is very important to me, and I am still thinking about ways to facilitate that, but am not yet sure if I want the feedback to be public or not. Might negative criticism undermine my work? Or could it instead strengthen it?

These are my thoughts thus far. I’m getting excited about creating this!!

All Is Good

I’ve never had any assignment like this one before, and I’m enjoying it!

I feel like a successful re-mediation won’t necessarily be a good piece of writing or even have well-articulated and logical verbal language (in a video or podcast), but will demonstrate sensitivity to a new audience and to the new medium through which the message is communicated. I’ve never been able to practice the skill of being a flexible, adaptable writer before, but I can see the relevance in knowing how to reach completely different people and in a completely different way, but present the same message, and maintain a consistent purpose.

For my project, I’m re-mediating an argumentative journal article into a podcast one might hear on NPR. I’m excited about mixing and mashing up the paper into the opinions and commentary of members in the talk show, but mostly about having no set format I have to force my language into. It’s all up to me!

Ahh sweet freedom…kinda makes me feel like this:

taken from: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44849031

Enjoy these precious few weeks of beauty, friends.

Thinking Dialectically

What struck me as most interesting about John Dewey’s philosophy on reflective thinking is how it is completely encapsulated by the writing process. Australian poet and essayist, A.D. Hope once said, “Nothing that you write will matter unless it moves the human heart,” and this idea seemed to be reflected by John Dewey’s philosophy on reflective thought.

According to Dewey, what made an interaction beneficial and worthwhile was that it is shard by others, and therefore contributes to a heightened understanding amongst people, and therefore contributing to a greater good. Dewey believed that the main purpose of reflection is to initiate progress and growth in society through robust, thoughtful dialogue. Sharing experiences, or meaningful perceptions with others creates a “dialectical” effect, in which “there is a change not only in the self but also in the environment as a result.”

Of course these interactions can occur verbally and not necessarily through the written word, however I drew so many parallels between Dewey’s thoughts specifically about the thinking process and those traits that I personally believe make a great writer: Being constantly cognizant of a deeper meaning to your thoughts, noticing the significance or the impact of an event beyond what might be immediately evident, and connecting or bridging together events and circumstances so that you gain from them a heightened understanding of the world. The trait Dewey identifys that most resonated with me is curiosity—being not only completely curious about everything and anything, but being enthusiastic recipients of different understandings, perspectives and ideas.

Dewey scholar Richard Prawat said that, “Language is key. It allows the individual to transform his or her own inchoate understanding into a form that is more conscious and rational, thus serving the self. It also allows the individual to share insight or understanding with others, thus serving he community.”

It seems like Dewey would agree that a curious, enthusiastic, and thoughtful writer who is completely conscious of his or her own biases and shortcomings would be both well received and might instigate social change.

Have some compassion

I overheard a conversation from my apartment window last night. One guy was scolding his friend, telling him that he’d be a much happier person if he weren’t so sensitive, and it lead me to think…

If people weren’t so sensitive, feelings would never be hurt and hearts would never be broken. There would be much smaller ramifications for mistakes, less penalties, less punishment, less guilt.

If people weren’t so sensitive, we wouldn’t have to make special accommodations for those with certain needs. We could save so much money on the construction of infrastructure and vehicles, and on the manufacturing of clothing and goods specially designed for the physically impaired and for the mentally challenged.  They wouldn’t care and neither would we.

If people weren’t so sensitive, the time and energy invested in therapy, mentoring, and conflict resolution could go towards research, development and production that is all conducted with the incentive of increasing profit margins and capital.

This could be our universal standard for the measurement of happiness! It would be relatively cut and dry, because everyone would know exactly how to achieve it.

Too bad we’re not machines.

Robert Plutchik was a professor and psychologist who did extensive research on emotions, and is credited for having contributed one of the leading theories on the psychoevolutionary theory of emotion. According to Plutchik, there are 8 primary emotions and has its bipolar opposite: joy versus sadness, anger versus fear, trust versus disgust, and surprise versus anticipation. The emotions in the white space represent those that are a mix of the two “primary” emotions and the colors coordinate with the range of intensities.

taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Plutchik

 

I can’t find compassion on the diagram—but maybe that’s because Plutchik didn’t think that it is really a feeling so much as it is a state of mind. Perhaps he would agree that sensitivity is not code for “weak,” but is rather more synonymous with “compassionate,” and is the first requisite for experiencing any of the other beautiful colors.

Who wants to be yellow all the time, anyways?

 

Are Writing Skills Essential?

I would not have believed it possible for a Michigan undergrad to graduate having written no more than three papers, until I talked with my friend in the College of Engineering. I was shocked, and couldn’t stop thinking about how wrong that is.

In the moments after our conversation I immediately began to pride myself on the skills that writing has allowed me to develop and on the value that writing has added to my studies. I scoffed at his grammar mistakes while editing the cover letter for his application to Deloitte Consulting, and prided myself on the momentary position of superiority I felt I had over him and all engineers who have thrown around the “LS & Play” line.

But why should I believe that being able to write well places me above anyone on any type of intellectual ranking? Critical thought and analysis of complex problems are among the core skills of every good engineer—of any good anything, really—and are skills that I believe would make the enforcement of writing classes for all undergrads justified.

But there is no set path to obtaining such skills, and no specific medium through which everyone should be able to apply them. Calculus and physics are not subjects that everyone needs to master, and good writing is not something that everyone needs know how to do. Respective roles in society have different purposes and require different minds to fulfill their functions. I spotted a small sticker walking down main Street the other day that seems to apply: “It is good to be reminded that each of us has a different dream.”

Audio Editing Tools!

What is the range of software options available in this particular category?

Audacity:

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Online Manuel: http://manual.audacityteam.org/index.php?title=Quick_Help

  • ·Record from microphone, line input, or other sources.
  • ·Record whatever sound playing on computed, including internet radio streams
  • ·Format existing sound bites: Mix tracks together, remove vocals from recordings and other effects
  • ·Multi-track recording: record harmonies with yourself, or add new instruments or vocals to an existing recording.

GarageBand:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RimJ6BfQaTE

  • create music
  • create podcasts
  • edit sound clips

 Sound Recorder

  • Record audio from a microphone video or headset.

What is available for users with different levels of expertise?

GarageBand and Audacity are both pretty advanced in terms of the range of tools they provide and the things you can do, however are both relatively easy to learn.

Which options are supported by the University?

All three!! Here are a few additional resources on campus:

· Duderstadt Multimedia Workroom: offers orientations, class workshops, specific training sessions and personal support       

  • Digital Media Commons: http://www.dc.umich.edu/dmc/aboutus/index.htm
  • The Multimedia Lab, located in the Student Business Cente
  • Audio Editing Suites at the Media Center:                 http://www.lsa.umich.edu/iss/mediacenter/suites
  • Michigan Productions: Offers full range of video production services, including Audio Editing, Multi-Track Mixing & Audio Correction…  “After the record, we can assemble and process your video into a finished program. We have a fully equipped editing and post-production facility with three edit stations, and multi-platform support. We also have a music library of nearly three hundred CDs with royalty free titles.”

What are your favorites (and why), and/or what else should we know?

Audio editing is brand new to me, but I’ve found that Audacity is pretty straight-forward.

Fun Fact: Microsoft Word has a neat Audio function that allows you to record and save sound clips! This might be handy for personal interviews

 

I’m hard to read

Blogging has given me the freedom to explore complex issues, but doesn’t pressure me to back each statement up as I would in a formal paper, which is pretty cool, perhaps annoying for some. It’s posts that reveal interesting observations or issues that I find the most satisfying to write, and remind me of how I feel after having a compelling discussion with a friend. I step away feeling refreshed and more clear-minded about complex topics. The fact that this blog provides a forum for communicating personal reflection writing is also really awesome. Articulating frustrations as a writer helps me understand how I can think through problems more clearly and incorporate peer feed-back.

It’s especially helpful for me to hear what personally resonated with you in my posts—if anything. My style is obnoxiously wordy and can be exhausting (I’m working on it) so it’s nice to hear if you think I could I have spelled out an idea in a clearer manner, and also, if my thoughts made sense whatsoever.

So THIS is why we should think before we speak.

So I think I completely underestimated the level of difficulty of this essay assignment–but also didn’t realize up until now how I’ve actually been “re-purposing” my writing and my words for quite some time now! Depending upon the person that I’m talking to, or the class I’m writing a paper for, or the social networking site that I’m posting on, I am constantly adjusting how I communicate to meet the expectations and perhaps the norms of that particular median. By virtue of the fact that facebook and twitter accommodate for witty, stupid hashtags, I’m more inclined to point out the embarrassing humor of a situation then I would be if I were commenting on a facebook status–granted the fact that only 30 subscribe to my tweets whereas 700 some “friends” choose (or not) to view my profile and social updates might also be a reason for this communication craziness. Regardless of these particularities,  my followers and friends will both understand #thatawkwardmoment I had entailed my computer, the inability to function the mute button, and Waka Flocka’s “No Hands” blasting through the law library’s reading room.

This paper presents the similar challenge of communicating an idea, or a message, or an argument, or an event, to a different audience then what I previously had. With a change in audience brings a change in literary style I must adopt so that the new audience will take away my main point–my theme–whether that it’s to turn off your music before putting your computer to sleep, or to reconsider the problematic assumption that universal human rights are inherently justifiable.

If the audience doesn’t understand what you’re saying because the jargon is too academic, or the musical reference went over their head, the you have NO PURPOSE and might as well stop writing.

Ask Yourself Solemnly, “Must I Write?”

 

Walking through the Diag this week to the graphic display of anti-abortion propaganda, and even weeks to the blatant racist and homophobic preaching of a radical evangelist has certainly instigated dialogue amongst students. A particular conversation in my political science class made me think even further about whether added shock value to a social or political message is an effective strategy.

Some call the tactic cheap and easy. Captivate people’s attention and reel them in knowing you probably won’t convince them totally, but will at least inspire a few thoughts and questions—perhaps doubts of their own beliefs. After all, a student is much more likely to take a look at a 5 by 5 billboard comparing  ‘genocide’ to the abortion of fetuses (no matter how appalling the trivialization of that term is) then they are to a happy family portrait whose mother chose life. Obnoxious? Incredibly. Ingenious? Maybe.

Lady Gaga has been known to pull similar tactic as a performing artist and social activist. Appearing to an outfit of raw meet at the MTV Video Music Awards to communicate her position on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban—namely that “anyone that’s willing to take their life and die for their country is the same. You’re not gay and dead, straight and dead. You are dead”—certainly raised a stir, as did her appearance in an egg at the 2011 Grammy Awards with the intention of communicating that regardless of sexual orientation we are all the same because we were all “born that way.”

The tattoo on Lady Gaga’s left arm is a quote by German philosopher Rainer Mari Rilke, and reads:

 “Confess to yourself in the deepest hour of the night whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. Dig deep into your heart, where the answer spreads its roots in your being, and ask yourself solemnly, Must I write?”

 It really is quite remarkable how much we value the Freedom of Speech in the United States, and it’s clear from Lady Gaga to extremist protestors how well people put that right to practice. So the audience is American society and the purpose is social change, but perhaps the true question should not be what tactic is must effective, but rather what tactic enables an individual to communicate him or herself in a way they believe is most expressive of their values.