Tag Archives: everyday

The Transmedia Dentist

Jack in the Bamboo

Me at the Dentist, Kind of

I hate going to the dentist. It’s the physical and emotional pain, is why. Physical: scraping a pirate hook across my gums until they bleed, as if I’m in the brig, stuffed between barrels of rum. Emotional: guilting me for not flossing enough. (I don’t floss enough.)

For my last three visits, though, I’ve dealt with this pain with a new mental strategy: I think about Lost. I come in with a specific mental task to perform about some unanswered aspect of the show–this time, the question of Jacob’s cabin, and how we saw the smoke monster on the island at all if he was really trapped inside by the ash, as seems likely–and then I think and think and think and ignore Captain Hook and his multifarious torture devices.

Why bring this up now? This time, I went in, more prepared with my strategy than ever, reclined, and–!–saw that there is bamboo shooting up right next to the dentist chair, out of a big pot. So, looking up at the ceiling, there’s an effect kind of like what Jack saw when he first landed on the island, looking up past the bamboo at the sky. (I won’t make an analogy between his plane crash wounds and my bleeding gums. Never mind, I just did.)

I respectfully submit that watching Lost and being prepared to think about it at the dentist allowed me get a richer, more enjoyable experience out of that bamboo plant than the average patient. In other words, I had a transmedia moment, except that instead of a media narrative being conveyed through multiple distribution methods (TV, Internet games, tie-in books), it was conveyed and continued through my own life, my own mind, as one more step in the converging story of what Lost is and what it means to people.

This isn’t really that mind-blowing. We’re affected in real, everyday lives by the media we consume, contemplate, and re-project into the world, and people have talked about that since forever. It’s related to how our lives reflect whatever we put into our brains (relationships, books, discourses, God). And I’m not even the first person to think about this kind of thing with Lost–there’s an entire blog, still regularly updated, called My Life is Lost, where people list the moments when Lost shoots into their minds from external stimuli. (An example: “I was recently at a baseball game, and at 8:15 pm exactly a plane flew across the sky. I silently prayed that Desmond would fail to press the button so the plane would break apart over the stadium.”)

Another illustrative story: our friends at church have two girls, 6 and 7, who think that our house is the most fun place ever. (Um, because it is.) So they came over for a sleepover the other night, showing us immediately that they had brought their prize DVDs of Planet Earth, which they insisted on watching later that night. As I cooked and they colored, I overheard the older one narrating her image out loud in a distinctly Planet Earth style: [to no one in particular] “A group of lions is called a pride. This pride has 1 male and 29 females, for a total of 30 lions. Female lions see extremely well in the dark, much better than the elephants who get too near.” And so on. She had learned the discourse style of her favorite show, and she found it pleasurable to mash up that discourse with her everyday life. (Is the bold thing annoying?)

The question, then, is how far this goes. I wrote a personal essay on this a few months ago (which I can’t post here, as I’m trying to publish it), and the more I wrote, the scarier it became: the language of TV, movies, video games, and books creeps into my everyday experience in thick, regular ways–so much that it eventually becomes hard to find times when I’m not mixing my life with outside sources in some way or another. That sounds extreme, I know, but at times, it feels true. It’s the spirit of the remix, but in a cybrid, half-human and half-machine sort of way. And I don’t know what I think about that at all.

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New Section: Portfolio!

This is just a friendly note to point out that I have a new section: a portfolio! Check it out for some of my zany videos, some of my uncouth design work, and some of my wildly innovative teaching materials. Zounds!

I would have more to say, but I’m putting last minutes on my presentation for C’s and applying for a USF graduate student award. Plus, getting ready for the awesomest game party cookout that’s ever been. (Carcassonne, here I come.)

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Audience Participation?

[Wordpress is pretty strict about what you can and can’t embed here, so I can’t embed into this post the music I want you to listen to while reading it. So open this link in another window and use your imagination.]

So last night Margo, a friend, and I saw Béla Fleck perform at Orlando’s Plaza Theatre with some “Amazing African Musicians” (according to the press for the show), including  Bassekou Kouyate and Anania Ngoglia.

It was one of those shows that are hard to forget, with a stellar mix of mellowness (two songs with just guitar, thumb piano, and two harmonized vocals), rambunctiousness (four different n’gonis plus two percussionists plus a crazy banjo player), and jaw-dropping-ness (Béla playing an entire solo song without fretting any of the strings, only changing the notes by constantly retuning the banjo).

But I’m mentioning this here because of some interesting excitement at the end of the show. A gentleman in the audience, who seemed to have one more substance in him than a gentle man ought, got up toward the end of the show and started dancing in front of the stage. In a lot of contexts, that wouldn’t have been odd at all, and there was definitely something friendly and nice about his exuberance. But two problems:

  1. He was clearly up there not just to enjoy the band, but to grab attention. I was clued in to this by his repeated turning to the audience and pumping his fists in the air, with a, “Yeah! How about some applause for me?!” kind of gesture.
  2. The Plaza is a “pay for your specific seat” venue, which means that for every person who stands up in front of the stage, there’s a person or two in the first couple rows who paid $40 for the front rows and can now not see.

So when others caught the excitement and started slowly streaming to the front, I was torn. On one hand, it was a fervent, intuitively felt, bold decision to dance to music that practically demands dancing. But on the other hand, in that context dancing felt inherently rude to others.

So–and tell me if this is a stretch–it’s making me think about audience participation in other areas. Not like there’s a one-to-one correlation between rushing the stage and, say, making a fanvid, but perhaps as an illustrative example? A “let me tell you a story, and let’s use that story as an inroads to the unmediated beauty and rambunctious rudeness that can come from interactive participation” kind of thing. No?

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My History with Music and Sound

As I’ve been reading academics talk about remixing and the use of sound in composition studies, I’ve been increasingly reminded (sometimes surprisingly so!) of how much I’ve played with music in my life. For fun, let’s remind ourselves of some of them:

  • Fifth grade: inspired by my sister, I kept a tape ready in a handheld tape recorder, just in case something cool came on the radio or if a cool theme song came on TV. I held the mic up to the speaker of the music source and went completely frozen, later yelling at anyone who made too much sound and thus ruined the recording.
  • Sixth grade: Got my first two-tape boombox, the first one in the house. Quickly found two things: 1) holding the pause button down would play the tape back at a distorty, uneven high speed (which I would record onto tape 2, sometimes until my pause-finger ached), and 2) quickly pushing the play button down halfway would make a sound like a record scratch.
  • Seventh grade: In a letter to a friend back in San Diego, I mentioned that one of the things I liked doing was “making remixes.” His response included a single-sentence paragraph: “What’s a remix?” What I meant was to take a song I had taped off the radio (I think Bell Biv DeVoe got the treatment once) and add quick clips from other songs that “responded” to various lines in the lyrics. The results were choppy, awkward, and I loved them.
  • Eighth grade: My dad gave me an old karaoke machine that his office had grown out of. It had two cassette decks, two 1/4″ mic inputs (for one handheld mic and one lapel mic), and one 1/4″ headphones output, making it the most complexly powerful machine I had had yet (or would have for years). Main application in 8th grade: recording prank calls. Here’s how: held lapel mic to phone output, turned volume of karaoke machine way up, listened through the headphones, and spoke into the phone input.
  • Ninth grade: Began using the karaoke machine to make intentionally misleading recordings of friends. E.g. would ask friends to just talk for 10 or 15 minutes while I recorded. Then I’d kick everyone out and spend an hour or two relistening for potentially damning or perverted sentences. Then I’d record myself asking a question (“How far do you like to go with your mom?”) and then splicing in a previously innocuous sentence (“All the way!”). These recordings got very popular in our group of friends, and some folks made a big deal out of recording their session so I could make them look bad later on.
  • Tenth grade: For an English project, a friend and I recorded a complex, soundtracked, multi-layered, weird as snot dialogue between Creon and his son in Antigone. I’m sure we used sound effects from airplanes crashing, women screaming, farmyard animals, and music from Star Trek: First Contact, Nine Inch Nails, one hip-hop tape or another, and the videogame Quake. High- and low-speed effects were created with the aid of my brother’s talkboy (made famous in Home Alone 2).
  • Eleventh grade: I made a couple mix tapes for friends on which I recorded favorite lines of dialogue from movies and had the end of the dialogue fade into a song I thought was appropriate. (By this time I had a list of “songs that should be in movies” pasted on my bulletin board.) This was without a computer, you remember: I hooked up my parents’ cassette deck to the TV, recorded the dialogue from VCR to the cassette tape, took it upstairs to the karaoke machine, and ran the CD music into the karaoke machine through one of the mic inputs while playing the movie dialogue on one of its cassette decks, recording in the other, all the while trying to keep the volume near normal levels.
  • Twelfth grade: My friend Matt and I created a purposefully rough and machine-like sounding 30-second clip from a woman speaking an African language recorded from the shortwave radio, a crazy guy laughing on the hidden track at the end of Better than Ezra’s first album, and the spoken phrase “I don’t want you to blow on my candle” slowed down to last 30 seconds using the talkboy to slow down, and then re-slow down, and then re-re-slow down the phrase.


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A Lesson in First Impressions

In Panera, a middle-aged woman played a couple of loud, short clips on her laptop. I thought, “What’s her problem? We’re in flipping Panera, and there are lots of people around, and Vivaldi is playing through the restaurant’s speakers.” I read her face as cold, emotionless, screen-staring.

A couple minutes later, she smiled and said, “I’m sorry, sir, but I have a question. Do you know how to look at an Internet site without closing the site you have open?”

Me: [Pause.] “Yeah, like to have two windows open? Or two tabs?” Recognition started to dawn in me: she probably had no idea how to turn down the volume or even stop the sounds coming from her incomprehensible laptop’s speakers.

Her: “Oh, so it can be done? I would love it if you could show me how!”

I showed her how.

She thanked me and thanked me and thanked me, saying, “I’m just still so touched that you showed me how to do that! Praise the Lord!” Then, while winding down from laughing, I think she even gave me a quiet little blessing, waving her hand in my direction and muttering quickly.

It was very nice. I’m glad she asked.

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