ad hoc annotation

Season 1 of Archer perfects the art of turning a formula into consistently hilarious and notably discernible television. Each episode, despite following roughly the exact same path as the previous, is shrouded by new locations, colorful antagonists, and circulating jokes unique to each episode until its easy to recall each episode as a unique entity, despite the structural similarities throughout the season. Producing each episode as a standalone work of art is a hallmark of a successful show, particularly if the basis under which they are constructed is so uniform.

Granted, to consider the first season of Archer a successful television project requires a very particular taste in humor. It is certainly darker, quirkier, and more nuanced than its successors, which broaden in comedy and appeal (while ironically diminishing my own enjoyment) with each year. My enjoyment of it has been particularly enhanced by my own knowledge of spy/heist/’60s movie tropes, and thusly a lot of the more subtle elements that nevertheless characterize the very core structure to which I spoke – from the Bond villain stereotypes to the character types from which the protagonists are derived – may go over the head of some viewers and lessen the show’s overall appeal. And despite its nature as an animated comedy, the very power of this first season – the way in which each episode presents a self-contained narrative, complete with some callbacks to previous episodes and some contained within itself – likely appeals more to prestige TV buffs than to fans of Family Guy. But regardless, to this target audience, Archer does achieve its goal, or at least a goal, in creating a encapsulated product both in its individual episodes and in the overall season.

Capstone Brainstorm

What up y’all. Per my signature, I’ve opened this New Post 55 minutes before the deadline, so let’s hope I can crank something out in time. Having read the syllabus, I can see that I’m gonna have to do something about my procrastination; I highly doubt cutting it this close will work with projects of the Capstone magnitude. But, you know… I’ll figure that out tomorrow or something.

Before I get into the Content or Form that I want my Capstone project to take on, I need to think on an even more macro scale — specifically, what purpose I want my project to serve. Usually, going into an assignment I tailor my topic or idea to what fits the assignment best (or, more realistically, to what will swing best with the teacher and get me that A), but I knew going into this class that, with a project with the scope that this offers, my usual plan of attack wouldn’t cut it. And during our first session, when Ray talked about the jobs people have procured by way of the projects generated in this course, I realized that I shouldn’t be thinking of this as another assignment but as, potentially, the first real professional grade piece of writing that I create.

With implications that colossal, I need to be thinking a little farther in the future than the A. As far as professional goals, I don’t have much going on — world domination, superstardom, all the usual shit that totally realistic and pragmatic college seniors should be thinking about. But in all seriousness, I’ve always said my dream job would be an author… but like a cool author, who hangs out with Future and Drake and makes culturally important AND impactful works. You know, stylish stuff, but with a little bit of substance there, too.

So, with that goal in mind, and maybe, just maybe, with this project as a stepping stone to get there, here are some ideas for paths to take it down.

Content: God, where to begin. I can’t imagine myself making a work that I vaguely care about without it somehow involving music, so I guess that’s gotta be in there somewhere (hip-hop, in particular, because I adore music but have no musical talent, so naturally, as a writer, I’m drawn to the most lyrical of music forms). But like I said, it’s gotta have some substance too. As far as capital-I Important topics go, I think a lot about the fragility of the male ego, white privilege, mental illness, addiction — topics that, now that I think about it, are interwoven with hip-hop. Then again, I also think a lot about the meaning of life and the fleeting nature of youth and those maybe aren’t all that interwoven with hip-hop. But all in all, in pursuit of creating a product that I’m passionate about rather than one I think the person whose grading it would be passionate about, I’d rather find a way to mesh content together that I care a lot about, rather than find content that meshes together well a make a product that I don’t care about.

Form: Naturally, my mind jumps straight to lyrics because I’ve had little if any academic opportunities (save for, funnily enough, in Writing 220) to explore my favorite writing discipline. However. That would be too boring and kind of unfair, plus I’m nowhere near as open to criticism as I need to be when it comes to that kind of stuff. So while I want to explore lyricism somehow in this project, I’d rather it made up like 5% of my project rather than 95%. So I’d like to find some way to fuse that form into the project, possibly into a more traditional writing discipline? Maybe like a Shakespearean one-act where all of the soliloquies are freestyles or something. Just kidding, sort of.

What I want to know more about: More difficult, because like most 20 year olds I like to pride myself on knowing everything. I guess short stories have always popped out at me as an interesting art form? Interesting, that is, in the way that most things that scare me interest me. And to be clear, I’m not talking “The Lottery” here, nor am I talking David Sedaris… writing short-form novels or explicitly personal vignettes just plain scare me. But more of middle ground between the two — like Junot Diaz or some unholy combination of Jay Z and Garrison Keillor — scares me in that it maybe wouldn’t come easy to me, but also interests me because as much as I’ve aspired to noveling, there’s something to be said for creating thematic ties versus an overarching narrative. And as far as the STYLE side of things goes, this could be a nice form to try out.

So that’s what I’ve got for tonight, and the deadline is ringing so I guess that’s all for now folks. Tune in next week for more existential dread and hopefully (but almost definitely not) a more cohesive plan for my future. My future in this class, I mean.

Deuces.

Chad

 

Old Post 2: STILL NOT MY WEEK 12 BLOG POST

Rhetorical situation and repurposing an argument: what does it look like

for you?

It’s weird, coming back to this prompt after the fact—and shortly before the

deadline of the repurposing project itself—is weirdly therapeutic, and in its own

way helpful. So thus, instead of purposelessly presenting my repurposing project

after the fact, I’ll instead reexamine a rhetorical mapping of my sample material to

help me bring this race into its final leg.

As I’ve finally finished the lyrics, which came to me almost simply once I started

writing from personal experience, the most difficult part now is matching the format

of the Rap Genius sample template from which I’m working.

In our style discussion in class, my new blog group pointed out that most of the

comments I’ve sketched out for my lyrics are almost in essay format, whereas in Rap

Genius they take a much more casual, almost satirical (or at the very least, dryly

humorous) tone. This makes sense, because although it’s easy for me to break down

to the reader what I meant in writing each bar, this requires me to take a step back

and explain it to the reader as though I were another reader: interpret the lyrics on

my own accord, having not, you know, written them.

Another, less abstract difficulty is that, since the Genius interface is actually

exceedingly complex (this is counterintuitive, as the users give the impression of

little complexity), I’ve had to mock up my own Genius format. It’s starting to come

together and look quite professional in its own Word Document, but adding the

comments is going to be the hard part; one that I’m not looking forward to. Even if I

am able to find an aesthetic way to insert comments into my mock-up (and that is a

big “if”), it’s unlikely I’ll be able to augment them with photos or gifs as the sample

site does, to such a hilarious effect.

All that being said, I’ve made huge strides on this project from where I started, and

am slated to be quite proud of the final product, marginally necessary Drake gifs

notwithstanding.

Old Post 1: THIS IS NOT MY WEEK 12 BLOG POST

What constitutes good blogging?

This is another immensely difficult question to answer; in a similar vein to the first

post, “What is writing?” I feel as though this question is in fact rhetorical in nature

(pun very much intended… if that can even be called a pun in this case? More like

the etymology of the phrase “rhetorical question” just suddenly became quite clear).

Essentially, while I certainly don’t believe there can be any objective answers to the

question, I do believe that it’s question can prompt some interesting epiphanies in

its own right. The question itself is not meant to be answered, but it’s posing

provides value in its own right.

So, with that in mind, I’ll press toward the answer in two parts. The first will be the

blog that I think is worth following: Rageology (http://www.rageology.com/). Now,

I must admit, this is a little bit of shameless self-promotion; Rageology is a music

blog created by some close friends of mine from high school that actually ended up

receiving nationwide attention (and I myself have been featured in it a couple times

over the years, one way or another). Yet while it has fallen into mild disrepair the

last few years as the frequency of posts greatly diminishes, I don’t necessarily think

that productivity is a mark of a good blog, and in all other ways Rageology does

meet my mark of a good blog. [On the blog I would insert a Soundcloud link here]

Take for instance this post describing Team Bayside High’s “Keep You (Remix)”:

“It’s the sort of song a gang of Hell’s Angels plays during a shootout, chewing

tobacco and tightening their bandannas. The bass is as firm as a dried worm. When

the western whistle comes in, you better have your stirrups and fake mustaches on.”

The amount of vividness in this brief description is a far cry (and welcome break)

from the standard “this song is bad” or “this song is good” of many music blogs

today. He juxtaposes simply the oddest of images to really craft a fantastical reality

to which the listener can escape each time s/he hears the song. I know I for one have

never been able to get the author’s image out of my head when hearing the song.

Yet, this kind of effort and masterful rhetoric is not the only thing that makes “good

blogging”, which brings me to part 2 of my analysis. I have a friend who created a

private Tumblr page that she still refers to as “her blog.” I of course cannot link it

here, as it’s more or less a diary, but having looked at it privately, I found it to be

incredibly compelling in its own way. She no doubt compiled the site for her own

purposes only, with no regard to any audience, and yet, she has a rhetorically

successful piece on her hands. Thus, this question is just another example of one

that can’t be answered. What it can do, however, is introduce us to some great blogs

we may never have found before, and teach us to keep an open mind while reading.

THIS IS MY WEEK 12 BLOG POST

Well, after about 4 months of answering unanswerable prompts on this blog, I’ve finally got a prompt that I don’t even have to think about. In fact, all I have to think about now is how to drag this post out for longer than a couple sentences, because immediately upon reading the prompt I knew my answer. My advice to other Writing 220 students? Take risks.

I mean, it really is that simple, I don’t know what else you want from me. When you the repurposing project is assigned to you, your mind will immediately jump to that one high risk/high reward project that you’ve been considering for the past who knows how long. It will do this immediately, and although it will eventually start jumping to safe options, don’t lose track of that one, because at least in my experience, the riskier option has always been the more rewarding.

That’s how it worked for me, at least. I essentially conceived my lyrical-adaptation-of-a-rap-related-essay concept the second the project was announced, before deliberating for the next month about whether or not to actually go for it, or to take an easier, less risky, less potent for embarrassment route. I obviously eventually decided to go with my initial instinct, and in my opinion it paid off: even if my final product isn’t perfect (which it’s not) and still has a high potential for embarrassment (which it does), the experience of following through on an undertaking about which I had so many second thoughts was rewarding enough in and of itself to overcome any risks associated with it.

So it really is that simple, and I’m about to turn in my shortest blog post to date simply to emphasize that fact: succeeding in this course just means taking the biggest risks. Do me, your eventual teacher, your classmates, and yourself a favor – don’t squander the 220 opportunities by turning in something safe. Take advantage of one of the safest, most encouraging environments at the University of Michigan and use the Gateway course to make something worth remembering.

21 Days…

With only two weeks left in the semester (you’ve gotta be kidding me, right?), and three active assignments to finish for the gateway course before the semester closes (you’ve gotta be kidding me, right?!?!), there shouldn’t be much question as to what writing I’m doing this week. Like does it really matter if I’m grinding on the ePortfolio, polishing my How and Why I Write paper, or putting [what I totally wish were] the finishing touches on my Repurposing Project? All I know is that, in a section of my year where my thoughts are often dominated by study study study, they will instead be focused on write write write… and record, and film, and edit, as it were.

But all jokes aside, I can see the finish line on the horizon and all it’s going to take is a little bit of motivation and perseverance to get myself there. Although I’m drastically behind on my repurposing project, I have the audio studio reserved for Friday afternoon to finalize my recordings, and then excessive amounts of film equipment checked out over the upcoming weekend to shoot the accompanying video. After that, it’s just a matter of getting into the MLB and turning the raw material into, well, something.

As daunting as that sounds, that’s probably the part of the project I’m looking forward to the most… the pinnacle of every art form is taking nothing and making something. Besides, it’s been a hot second (read: 8th grade) since I’ve really tried my hand at editing footage, and I’m itching to get back behind the Final Cut wheel and give it a go.

So I guess as far as my struggles go right now, it’s sheer work volume. Is recording a song, filming a video, editing said song and footage into a music video, meeting with a teacher to review said project, reviewing two peers’ How and Why I Write submissions, writing my own How and Why I Write submission, and then compiling all of that and more into an ePortfolio that I created from the ground up (and then finishing this blog post) really that much work? Probs not. But when I write it all out there, it certainly seems like it’s a lot, and that in and of itself strikes a substantial blow to my motivation. But hey, this is college, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that no matter how much shit gets piled up in front of me, it’s still going to be a thing of my past in less than 21 days.

Sorry 4 the Wait 2

Well, I’ve run out of snappy Kanye quotes to excuse my second late blog post, so instead I’ll have to settle for Lil Wayne: “I’m soooooo sorry, so soooooorry. Ooh! This this that Sorry 4 the Wait 2.” And then, I’ll follow that up with the classic running-late excuse: traffic (and by that I mean the travel complications that are consequences of the inevitable traffic in the 700 mile trek from Ann Arbor, MI to Woodstock, VT, and then the familial responsibilities that come with the fourth Thursday of November each year). But, alas I am finally here and able to submit this post, and thankfully so, because I just can’t imagine this blog without one of my posts to lighten the mood. In the words of Mr. West, “My presence is a present, kiss my […]” …well, I’m gonna cut that one off there, but I knew I could snake a Kanye quote in here. Seriously though, my apologies to anyone to whom the lateness of this blog post caused any inconvenience.

Had I been asked what kind of writing needed the most focus this time last year, my answer would’ve without a doubt been either professional or academic writing, two fields that I for the longest time struggled with, the latter due to lack of exposure, and the former because frankly I’d no idea what professionalism is. However, due to a class in professional writing last semester and an over-exposure to academic writing through my major that forced me off my ass regarding that discipline, I’ve suddenly become semi-proficient in what I would’ve formerly identified as my weakest points in writing, while falling out of practice in what I thought was my strongest point: writing for fun.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t enjoy the writing I do through this course, or through any other. But, as with reading, there’s just a divide in my motivations between when I pick up a pen and paper because I want to and when I do it for a deadline, and despite the fact that the machinations within the two are virtually the same, there’s some elusive element missing from the latter. And with reading, the over-prominence of being forced to do it on a schedule has, with rare exceptions, disillusioned me from the practice of reading almost entirely, something from which I used to draw immense amounts of solace and pleasure.

Through my posts here, I think I’ve made it quite clear that I draw similar things from writing, so I will just state plainly that I would be crushed if I lost interest in writing on my own time the way I have with reading. And while it would be easy to blame the internet age for the lack of importance most people assign to casual reading and writing nowadays, I rather blame the dearth in downtime that I have as a college student, and the amount of energy that has drained from me by the time I have any. Do I spend my week-day evenings curled up in bed half-conscious while Netflix beams episode after non-stop episode of [insert show of the week] into my skull? Absolutely. But it’s honestly not because I want to, or even because I draw much enjoyment from that. It’s simply because I don’t have the energy to engage with anything else, not reading, or making music, or even video games, let alone writing.

College education is important. But we all know it takes a lot out of you. The struggle is to make sure that it’s not taking the really important things out of you – your energies, your passions. It’s this delicate balance that I’m working on the most recently, and unfortunately have yet to find it. But I have faith that one of these days life will slow down and I’ll get a chance again to write because I want to, not because I have to.

“Why I Write” (Orwell; Gangrel, 1946)

Ugh. Well, here we are, back to grandiose, existential questions that make me question everything about who I am and how I perceive reality… What happened to the days of class assignments asking us to ? Or better yet, those 5th grade English tests where they’d give you a sentence and ask you to proofread it? Nowadays, it’s all “What is writing?” and “What makes it good?” But alas, here we are, giving me a chance to reflect a little bit on why I am a writer.

This is a question I never really felt the need to answer (“Why” is my least favorite word in the English language… Can’t some things just be taken as given?), so unlike Orwell or Didion, I have never had a moment of intense self-reflection as to where my love of writing originated. But like them, it has been something so intrenched in my life that, no matter how much I’ve fought against it, it’s always found a way to surface and worm its way into my mind.

And, like them, this piece is about “Why I Write”, and so as with Didion, I will plagiarize the title, although unlike her, I have decided to provide proper citation.

To be fair to this prompt, it has got me thinking about an “epiphany” (I use that term loosely here) that I had around the beginning of this course, when I decided to write lyrics for my repurposing project. As I said, it’s something I’ve dabbled in before, certainly more than any other aspect of music (e.g. musical theory, composition, that sort of thing). I never realized until then that there’s probably a reason for that. I imagine it’s because I see music through a writer’s perspective, just as I see everything else. Nothing else about the medium of music comes easily to me, but when its arranging words on a piece of paper (shouts out George Orwell), then I think I’ll always be able to do it, no matter what the context.

It’s always been this way. In second grade, I told my parents I wanted to be a writer, and however my occupation goals have changed as time went on, that has stayed the same, even when I haven’t wanted it to. Sure, my current “dream job” (again, used very loosely) in politics would require a lot of writing, and I’ve gone through the usual cycle of craving other writing-related jobs – fiction author, speechwriter, non-fiction author, journalist, self-help author, you name it. But even when I’ve tried to dabble in other mediums, it’s always come back to writing for me, be it getting caught up in scriptwriting while attempting to get into acting or marveling at Mark Bittman’s culinary wordplay during my ill-conceived and short-lived celebrity chef phase. Wherever I go, whatever I do, writing has always followed me.

So, I guess that’s why I write. I write because I do. To steal a turn of phrase from George Mallory (and subsequently take it out of context and rob it of its meaning), I write “because it’s there.” I write because I can, and because I always have, and always will, and it’s just an internal quality of mine that’s never going to change. Why are some people left-brain and some people right-brain? Why are some people gay and some people straight? Why do some people love music while some can’t differentiate The Beatles from One Direction? If there even are answers to these questions, there really don’t need to be.

Introduction to Music Production

My project at this point is in a fairly unique situation where I am immersing myself in not merely one virtually foreign technology, but two – video and audio recording equipment. The former I have been forced to engage with by way of the storyboarding mock-up assignment. The latter was left vacant… until, that is, I read this blog prompt.

So rather then working on my storyboard, I found myself spending my Saturday night holed up in the Duderstadt’s Electronic Music Studio as my friend walked me through the obscene amount of dials, switches, and buttons that make up an audio mixing board. While this was far from the first time I’ve been in that studio, it’s the first time I’ve invested myself in actually figuring out how it all works.

Although it did nothing but postpone the writing of my storyboard, which I will now likely spend TONIGHT hold up in a library finishing, this ordeal did open my eyes to one thing: as sharp as learning curves may be, there is a curve for a reason, and with enough effort you’ll get to the end of it. Sure enough, although I still probably cannot tell you the difference between an EQ-3 and an EQ-8, I think I can serviceably record a song, which is definitely the first step for me to take.

Furthermore, this lesson helped me gain a fuller understanding of the beat-making software on my computer, Ableton, my experience with which previously consisted of me opening up a new file, plopping out a few notes on my MIDI keyboard, getting frustrated, and calling it a day. But, considering that an audio mixing board is just a physical version of Ableton’s many filters, this newfound experience will hopefully help me with the background music for my project.

The running motif within my blog group regarding the remediation process has more or less been that “risk-taking is good”, particularly with regards to this process, and if anything this experience has just continued to confirm that. By taking this risk with a new technology, I’ve realized that it wasn’t quite so daunting as I thought it would be, and maybe, just maybe, having taken this risk will increase the chances that my other major risk – the project itself – will be a little bit more palatable.

New Endings, New Beginnings

Despite the three consecutive sunny and 70 degrees days in November, all good things must eventually come to an end, and thus, the repurposing project wraps up and we transition to the remediation project. I’m honestly not sure whether to dread this project or to be excited for it… one thing is sure though, it will be unlike any writing assignment I’ve ever done before.

Having written lyrics to a song for my repurposing project, the obvious remediation approach would be to turn said lyrics into an actual song. A few of my friends and myself have messed around with making music before, utilizing the Duderstadt Library’s audio studio capabilities, and it would definitely be fun to make a beat for the track, and master it and what not. If I took this route, I’m not sure if I’d want to perform the song myself (something I have next to no experience with) or have a friend do it instead, while I just master and produce it. But honestly, I probably am leaning towards the former, because even with the lack of experience, I ended up writing some fairly personal lyrics, and so it only makes sense that I’d perform them myself, whether or not the skill is there.

The next question is, do I try to pursue this to it’s next logical step (a music video) for this project? Recording a song AND making it into a video would be a lot of work, but I actually do have some preliminary experience editing videos as well, so I’d just have to find someone willing to film and get an idea for it. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, as well as the original source that I repurposed, I consider the medium of music videos to have a lot of promise, and so it could be fun to try to create something like that myself rather than just analyze someone else’s work. Fun indeed, but also probably immensely more difficult than Director X makes it look.

Finally, I have the option to just more or less scrap all my repurposing work and take this in a different direction. One idea I had was a sort of documentary about how difficult it was for me writing a song, complete with interviews from my songwriter friends about their own processes and what not. To be honest, this feels like the safest choice for me. But at the same time, safe isn’t always better? I guess it’s just going to take some soul-searching and re-examination of how happy I was with my finished repurposing project before I make any sort of decision.

But if I do pick the former… y’all better cop that fire hot mixtape when it drops.