Archive | March 2014

Escaping the Pull of Gravity!

This week was a fun one but some of those podcasts and videos were long. But the funny thing is I did not mind them since they were well done both production and story wise. I am also better able to appericate the thought that goes into these productions. When I started listening to Evelyn Glennie’s TED talk I had no idea she was deaf and played music. So once I figured that out it wowed me even more and made me so smart to be even hearing this amazing story.

Also, how great to start off the first assignment listening to some good radio programs and learning about audio editing and producing. I chose an NPR piece to write about and joked my Mom would be so proud. I must admit that I never thought of the fact that someone could record three different audio tracks for program that could include the sounds around them, the interview with no sound, and then the interview with someone doing something. It just allowed for a lot of different layering and shaping of the story. It also made me think how it could also be used to reshape a story to be what you wanted like a political ad. So hopefully people use it for good and not bad!

I cannot wait to tell people that part of my assignment this week was to blog about a commercial. Okay for the second assignment 2 you really were treating it like a good short film and they were good commercials. If they were bad or just dumb you could find this assignment boring. I did find the work a little time exhausting with the break down every 5 seconds but it actually made me pay attention to all the thought, camera work, storyline, and audio that went it producing it. I remember the 1984 commercial and now just know I can capture some of the key elements in a commercial now. Bring on the Super Bowl commercials! I need another Star Wars kid Darth Vader vs VW car to watch. That inner Sci-Fi fan can watch those commercials over and over again. Make sure you read about it here and for fun re-watch it here:

I was glad I got to catch up with my classmates and read/comment on some of their blog entries and see what was said on mine. When I was looking at some of the blogs I found a clean looking blog that was crisp and fresh on the eyes. I will need to keep that crisp theme in mind for mine. On that same blog I found it interesting that they divided up some of the blog entries into more pieces than I decided. I think that could help focus a reader but also miss some of the overall stories. Also on another blog I was reminded how much I love gif and surprised I did not think to use them in my blog posts. I use them all the time in texts and now need to figure out a way to do it in my blogs. Also I liked the use of youtube videos and links to give context.

The class was really good at giving me feedback and glad to see my Bus Story idea is a hit and folks get it. I also need to up my game with images and links to keep folks engaged . I think next week I will have to do more with gifs.

Image of gif key

Wish there was a gif key – from shutterstock


My second idea around a story is one related to performance reviews. I thought this one could be a different way to teach a concept that has system and people aspects. I am not sure how folks will get excited about it but I know it is a twice a year requirement for me!

Overall, I can tell I becoming more comfortable with the format of the class, the time commitment, the videos/audios we must read, and used to the blog tool. I feel like week 1 was my rocket just starting to blast off from Earth and now I am starting to escape the pull of gravity and really speed forward! I feel I gave each post a lot of thought and tried to get the concepts down. I feel I am getting better and better!

Okay but did you hear that story about…

So my first idea for a story around using the bus to get around the city seems like it might be a good option. Now my second idea is doing performance reviews for work. Everyone at work is feeling my pain and it got me to thinking that I have told folks some of my tips and tricks a lot over the last month. Maybe there is a story that could be told from the perspective of the career counselor getting ready to advocate for your counselee on the year end call. So you could take fictional characters that match the high performer, middle performer, and low performer and what you need to do for each character to get ready. You could take it from a system process to the people process and weave in the tips and tricks. I would stress the items you must collect to get ready and what you need to be sure you complete.
Man giving feedback

The Force is Strong in this One

Your assignment is to analyze the action and story of a commercial in 5 second increments

I was glad to see a Sci-Fi related commercial since that is one of my all-time favorite movie genres. I found this story shape to be one of disappointment to start with since this kid was so wanting to have the power of the Force (like in Star Wars) but not getting it. Then you can see his happiness and surprise when it looks as if he does have the power of the force. So the story shape would be one of low starting point to a high happy point.
Describe the action, the setting, the visuals, the changes in camera angles.

0:00 – 0:05 – The commercial opens up with a familiar scene to all Star Wars fans. Darth Vader walking down a hallway with his cap flapping behind him but you notice we are in a home and this is a kid dressed up.
0:06 – 0:10 – The camera shifts to being behind the kid as he enters into another room and we see an exercise bike in front of him. He puts his hands up as if he is calling the Force to move the bike but it doesn’t budge.
0:11 – 0:15 – Next we see the kid in the living room trying to use the power of the Force again but this time on his dog. The camera shifts from wide angle to a close up the dogs face and him not moving one inch. Camera prospective changes one last time to see the kid sad once again it didn’t work.
0:16 – 0:20 – Now we find kid has moved onto the laundry room and is now trying to use the Force on the washing machine. Again nothing happens and he is sad! We have a quick location change to what we can guess is his sisters room and a baby doll on a bed as his next target. Again it is a wide angle shot so you see the kid and object in the same screen. The theme of zooming in on the face happens but with the doll and you see no change. The kid is again sad that it isn’t working.
0:21 – 0:25 – Now we have the camera viewing down a slight hallway to the door passing in front and the kid behind him still trying desperately to use the Force on him.
0:26 – 0:30 Next we find the kid in the kitchen with him trying to use the force on something we can not see at first. The camera angle changes to show us the full kitchen and his mother beside him slipping him the sandwich he is trying to will by Force to him. But this is not seen as a good thing and the kid is sad again it did not really work and his mom helped.
0:31 – 0:35 The scene changes to a VW car pulling into the drive way. It is a wide angle to show the car and houses. The whole time in this commercial the Star Wars Darth Vader song is playing in background. We switch back to the kid in the house sad that that his powers are not working. He hears the dog barking and we see him turn as if to see what is happening. The camera cuts to his Dad getting out of the car.
0:36 – 0:40 The Dad sees the little kid running out and motions as if he is getting a hug but the kid waves him off and puts his full attention (and hands up) as if to start using the Force one last time on the car!
0:41 – 0:45 The kid is really focusing hard now and is trying to get something to happen.
0:46 – 0:50 This time the car engine revs alive and the lights blink. The kid is startled and moves back. The camera cuts to the kitchen to see a keyless remote and a finger moving away from the remote starter button.
0:51 – 0:55 We see the Dad and Mom now in a wider camera shot and the Dad raises his eyebrows at his wife. You get that sense of “I know. But he so wanted to do something to make him believe.” The kid is now back in view and he can’t believe it. He is shifting his stance back and forth between the car and the house hoping someone saw and not believing it worked!
0:56 – 0:60 The ad ends with the title of the new car coming and one last Star Wars sound as the light saber sound is made as the logo appears.
Overall, I loved how the story of this commercial plays on our childhood memories of a beloved movie and how we know more than a few of us tried the same Force powers ourselves. We can relate to the love of a child trying to be like their movie favorite characters. So the hook is our sense of childhood memories, the adorable kid trying so hard, and then his parents giving him that one little bit of hope. The car plays into that ‘hope’ and at the same time the new features are showed off. Not only the car but the remote control parts.

Now is your time to take a look.

Look Ma! I am listening to NPR. No really…

Pick examples from the episodes below to use as a basis for a blog post with your observations of the audio methods, techniques you can identify.

After listening to the sound techniques and layering that can happen in production, I was ready to test how well I was going to catch everything. As part of our assignment this week we had to listen to an audio program and practice. Now to be fair I actually do listen to NPR but not since I gave up my car about six years ago and left NC. So my mom would be proud to see me listening to NPR. Anyways, I listened to This American Life and specifically their episode 477 titled “Getting Away With It

In the Prologue Ira is on a flight with a travel writer named Ken Hegan who happens to be over 6 foot tall. The story revolves around him trying out a new gadget called the Knee defender.

Knee Defender Site

Knee Defender Site


I liked how they used the sound of the plane to give you a sense of placement and the act of this happening live. Instead of it being a post discussion the sounds clue you it is real time. They use the use of music as well to clue you into a new part of the story which helps you to know the next part is a new paragraph. Additionally they use layers of sound by having their voices happen over the plane sounds but also total quiet background while Ira is talking. It helps to keep the listening interesting and when there would be talking with no sound my ears would perk up. I really found myself wanting to listen to the story because I felt like I was in the seat next to them and getting to ease drop. That’s how I felt listening and I could sense his desire to not be a dick using the device that prevents people from reclining. However, the woman could not recline but he also did not want his knees to suffer so You feel bad for both parties.

Act One “Take Your Kid to Work Day” has me very interested in what I have gotten myself into with this episode. Here I thought I would be listening to vacation or travel blogs but instead it really is about people getting away with it. Guess I should have read closely that the title had “with it” and not “away from it”. Guess that shows my mind wants a vacation. Okay back to the story about a family that had to turn trucking illegal drugs from Mexico to USA. The theme of music to note paragraphs is used again to help booked thoughts as we move through this segment. As he tells the story of his parents at the witch doctor the music slowly turns to give a sense of almost magical but a little happier. I noticed with this piece the music choice fits the more country rural landscape you can imagine them driving through. Additionally, it even makes me think of a simple life outside of the city. So the use of the music genre is also setting the tone for me and helping me imagine them. As the story starts to climax the music changes to match but in a much calmer sense as if to draw you into the impending danger that the father can now not avoid since they are next at the check point. I find myself reacting with fear for them and wondering how this will turn out. Then the music stops as the main point of the story comes through on how risky this all was and how they almost have no hope of getting through the checkpoint. The clarity of the moment in time is laid bare by the silence of music and raw voice as he speaks. A small piece of my childhood just popped into this story because they ate at Whataburger which I was obsessed with as a child visiting family in Texas and Oklahoma. Sorry, I couldn’t let that moment pass without mentioning.
Whataburger Logo
So I find myself relieved that it all worked out and also still coming down from the anxious feeling you have as you watch a thriller on the TV.

Act Two let’s listeners call and tell stories of how they got away with things. The fact they play the voicemail messages kind of surprises me since you would expect them to give a general list of what people said. But now that I am thinking the entire idea of this show is to give folks the opportunity to speak about it with their own voice. The music is very hip and airy as we listen to the voicemails layered of it. Odd choice but does keep it light and moving through them all. I liked how Ira introduces the last and final story to alert us this will be long but the last. So it is a good set up for the ending coming and they even stopped the music to focus us.

Act Three tells us about Molly Shannon and a friend that take a trip half-way across the country but only twelve years old. And as if that isn’t enough to get your attention they do this while wearing tutus. The feeling of this segment is a lot more cheerful and fun. They mix in a laugh track (or live audience laughing) to the story as it is told. You find yourself smiling or laughing as you imagine these kids sneaking onto a plane. The banter back and forth between Marc (host) and Molly as the story carries forward just adds to how funny it is and shocking. He plays the conscious we all are thinking inside on the wild story.

Act Four has us listening to Producer Alex Blumberg tell a story of how education in Oklahoma made a huge turn around. The use of different voices to tell the story, the absence of music when they want you to pay attention, and the music being used to bookend the paragraph kept this segment going. You felt like you were getting a big secret and you needed to pay attention.
Oklahoma Flag from Wiki

I am sure I missed some of the key elements that they used in the production of these segments but I can tell you that I was picking up more. They use a mix of music, interviews, paragraphs, and layers to tell the story. I found I was drawn into the stories and excited to hear the outcomes. The music would break up the voices and then the voices would break up the background noise. It was well done.

Phew! That week 1 sure hits you like a sledge hammer.

Wow what a week! I will not lie and say I knew this class would test me right off the bat and really get us thinking. I must say that Allen set the tone with his first video blog and I knew this would be nothing like I have done before. Not to mention the addition of a wordpress blog was a source of fear but I got the hang of it.
Just picking the title for my blog and tagline seemed like a never ending task of me thinking and rethinking through what to call something I have not even started. But I feel it worked well because everything about my first blog post was an adventure. So it was fitting I named my first blog post “Adventures in setting up WordPress “ because it started out as the wild west! Slowly I tamed it and make progress.

Thinking through stories with a formula really made sense to me. I found the desire to figure out the shape of countless stories now or consider it when I see a new one. Taking themes or concepts that work for stories and blogging about it was a great exercise. Since I am so busy with school I choose Frozen for my story that I would categorize using the new concepts I just learned (Vonnegut shape, 22 Pixar Rules, and Story Spine). Don’t believe me? Well take a look at “ This story shape won’t leave you Frozen” and you judge. I feel I got a lot out of the concepts and already can apply them to the world around me.

Next having to think about storytelling and what makes a good story made me smile. Mostly because I was remembering both my Father and Grandmother’s great ability to tell a story and keep the audience engaged. Sometimes with my Father is just a simple joke but the outcome is always the same; someone paying attention. Okay sometimes it is me rolling my eyes and walking away but I promise that is only if I have heard the joke a million times and know someone will laugh which will goat him for more stories! Thus having a good foundation of what makes a story and personal experience should help me a lot. I already feel like I can do some of it but have a lot to learn. Check out my “What’s your storying telling got to do with me?

Have you ever had someone ask you a question and before they did you could name a million things that come to mind? Yeah, that was me trying to think of something that is not done well that could benefit from a story. It was not until I was on the bus headed to the metro that it hit me. I was not always so good at figuring out the bus system and honestly it was all the technology advances and apps that finally made me feel comfortable. However, not everyone has an app or the patience to figure out the horrible maps. That issue makes me think a story could really help. So my blog “Wondering how to use the DC bus system? That reminds me of a story…” is my first thought at what my final project may be for this class.

Again I am excited and think there is a lot to learn in this class. I know now why it could help me in my job because training can be boring, why not jazz it up!

Wondering how to use the DC bus system? That reminds me of a story…

I knew the minute the first video blog came out for this class that the picking of the story for my final project would be tough. In our other GMU classes it was always a struggle to come up with a topic for the final project and I knew this would be no different. So I thought back to all the things in my life that I interact with but are not always explained well to me or others. Since I live in DC and like to use public transportation it dawned on me that that could be a great topic. Almost everyone seems to figure out the Metro Trains first and sometimes graduate to adding in the bus system. But I have heard more than once in my 7 years here that folks have a hard time figuring out our bus system. I feel the reason is the complex nature and multiple lines. The metro trains are fewer and thus the map is as well. You have less of a fear of getting on the wrong train and headed in the wrong direction than a bus it seems.

Why not rethink how the bus system guides are provided and rethink how to convey the message to readers. I bet stories based in the areas folks live with a journey to the major points in the city could be exactly what the doctor ordered. I think depicting the day and life of a character as they go to work and live life could really connect with people.
Picture of dc bus system

What’s your storytelling got to do with me?

Storytelling is conveying a message to an audience through images, words, and/or audible communication.  I always think of my father who is an ex-marine and would have the craziest stories to tell. 

family photo in Sydney Harbor

Myself, Mom, and Dad in Sydney.

Some of them are jokes (no I can’t tell you them all), life happenings, or just random thoughts on his mind.  There was never a person my father wouldn’t talk to and he loved to see a smile.  So he would weave in a joke or a story to get a rise out of anyone he met, and I mean a-n-y-o-n-e.  As I aged I grew tired of this and would be embarrassed but in my 30s I learned to see it for what it was; him trying to make people smile and light up their day.  So I now no longer roll my eyes but sometimes I still walk away so I can continue on with my task at hand because he can get lost in his conersations.  I came to find out as I grew closer to my grandmother that this trait is very dear to the hearts of people in my extended family.  Everyone loves a good story and has practiced it over and over again.  So it would seem that I come from a long line of storytelling folk.  I hope I do them justice every day through my work and friends and humor! 

When I add in the thoughts of digital storytelling I think there is no limit to what you can visually show to someone in the story and how it can expand/support the story.  When storytelling was just about words and basic pictures you could leave it to the imagination all the grand pieces of your story.  But now with digital resources you can depict them for the audience.  This can be a blessing and a cruse if you think about how people revolt against a popular book being turned into a movie that does not meet their expectations or differs from their images they created.  However, I think people can appreciate that everyone’s story can co-mingle and you are not forced to confirm to any one story.  That is the great thing about storytelling, you can mix in your own thoughts, images, and plots. 

Now thinking about my work and how the videos by Ira Glass and Andrew Stanton can influence my thoughts on the implications of storytelling for my training classes.  I like to think I use anticipation, get people to care, and allow them to put the pieces together.  All these features can really help folks learn and understand the story I am trying to tell them.  That story is how the topics I am teaching them will make their work life easier or better.  The more I can convince them it is in their best interest and to come up with the solutions using my tools, the better off they will be overall.

This story shape won’t leave you Frozen

Frozen by Disney
I haven’t had a lot of time to see any recent movies and I have a bad memory with details of them sometimes. However, I did just see Frozen and really loved it. So let me tell you about Frozen using Vonnegut’s shape.

Graphic showing the story shape of Frozen movie

Story Shape of Frozen

Still need a little more help? Let’s tell the story using a Story Spine to help get the main plot points across in a simple format. I will try to avoid a “Travolta” and miss up any names!

Once upon a time there were two sisters that were princesses named Elsa and Anna. Elsa was oldest possess the power to create and shape ice/snow. Anna was the youngest and had no powers.
Every day they would play and have the most amazing adventures together with her powers.
But, one day Elsa accidently injures her sister Anna with her powers while playing.
Because of that Elsa is never to show her powers in public again and must stay locked away in the castle. She never plays with Anna again and they grow apart. Until she is supposed become Queen and her powers are exposed fighting with Anna in public.
Because of that Elsa runs away but not before unleashing a deep freeze across all of the town of Arendelle. Elsa takes after her and meets Kristoff who ends up helping her reluctantly.
Until finally the story climaxes with an epic battle between Hans and Elsa but Anna is going to die unless an act of true love thaws her heart. That act was her sacrificing herself to save Elsa.
And, ever since then Hans is out of the picture, Kristoff and Anna end up together. Their sidekick snowman Olaf continues to live and everything is amazing and happy.
After thinking about this story I really thought it related a lot to rule # 16 because you really root for the characters and there are a lot of odds stacked against them!

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

Adventures in setting up WordPress

Try writing a welcome to me blog post. Write about how the experience of setting it up went, if it feels like it represents something interesting. Make sure you use one of the categories you created from the box in lower right to associate it with the ones you set up. Try adding an image to your post as well.

Setting Up Your Digital Work Space.

Setting up WordPress was interesting to say the least. I have always seen people blogging using the website but never had the nerve to try it myself. Also I hadn’t decided that I had anything worthwhile to write about or the time to do it. Well that all changed once this class started and it is a requirement.
Thank god there were steps outlined and tips on what to do as I got lost a few times. (Great how to video Allen posted helped me a lot.) That is odd considering I am very technology literate and can figure things out quickly. I had a hard time finding my dashboard to get to all the other settings but played around and finally found it. I think once I did that the rest just fell into place. I hope folks enjoy what I am writing and I get a lot out of this experience.
If I can climb Mount Kilimanjaro I can master this as well!

Photo of Clayton on Mt Kilimanajaro

Made it to the top!