Category Archives: Thots

Rrrradical Mmmedia

Three weeks ago or so, I attended Paper Tiger Television’s conference on  Radical Media.  A few days before the event, some little voice inside my head told me I needed to go.  So I did.  And it was a great decision.

The morning was filled with talks by a wide variety of brilliant people.  The first up was a woman, Martha Wallner, who serves as the Media & Communications Coordinator for the Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.  She spoke about the media’s unfair portrayal of prisoners and those who were formerly incarcerated.  Since this subject hits close to home, I really appreciated her passion for helping the situation.  I thanked her for her thoughts and efforts, and she gave me a hug.

After Martha the speakers were as follows:
Jesse Drew (professor, Techno-cultural Studies, University of California, Davis), Pablillo Jose (hacktivist), Shannon Mattern (assistant professor, School of Media Studies, The New School) and Isaac Wilder (Executive Director, Free Network Foundation).

During the afternoon, we were all split up into groups for a workshop.  We were taxed with the task of designing a “new radical media.”  All of the groups came up with some pretty neat, very idealistic, “save the world” stuff.  My group named Radical Paws, however, took a different approach…

Idea #1
Wouldn’t it be great if we could break out of the same old boring routine of getting our energy from the electromagnetic spectrum? Well, what if we harvested our intercellular energy? Say, perhaps, from a cuddle puddle?  All you have to do is snuggle up and take our pharmacological remedy and you’ll be charging your macbook with the power of human chemistry in no time.  Don’t worry, lonely people, we’ve invented a device you can wear around your neck like Flava Flav to harvest your own energy when you lack another warm body to cling to.

Idea #2
“Dr. Hoot” is the premier new doctor app that makes sure you know exactly what you’re getting into when downloading other apps onto your various devices.  When you download something, Dr. Hoot lets you know invaluable information about the app and its owners.  This information includes what the company does with your personal information and whether or not the company is involved in any lawsuits.  Dr. Hoot (a cartoon owl, of course), looks to the left if you should be careful, looks to the right if you’re okay, and downright shakes when you’re about to download something treacherous.

Idea # 3
Radical Pause by Radical Paws.  This is a small round device powered by human dynamo.  You twist it, and it generates a local area connection.  With the app, you can leave and take short messages of text from the device.  It’s a digital leaflet.  The first stage of our prototype would be for use in taxi cabs.  Step 1: Someone gets in the cab and puts the device on the bottom of the seat, between their “paws.” They then exit the cab (after reaching their destination of course). Step 2: Another person gets in the cab and “checks between their paws.” If there is a Radical Pause device there, they power up the app on their phone.  They can then leave one message and take as many as they want.  These messages could be anything from radical PSA’s such as “Corporations kill!” to “My band is playing next week at Such and Such Club.” to “Check out my website!”  Groups could even make many of these devices with similar messages as a blanket awareness campaign about their political and community causes.

Radical Pause was designed to personalize public space.  It is an attempt to infiltrate and combat all of the media and noise we are bombarded by in public spaces, such as the screens in taxi cabs and in elevators.  Plus, doesn’t it just sound like a good time?  Like you’re a part of some secret information disseminating club… or something.


Radical Paws was one of three groups chosen from the conference to present at the MoMA as a part of the Documentary Fortnight Festival.  Awesome.

A week or so ago, we did our presentation and it was a hit!  Everyone enjoyed our ideas, but I think they especially enjoyed that we didn’t take ourselves too seriously.  After all, it’s the MoMA and it only seemed right to be a little off beat and off the wall.  Usually, I get significantly nervous when speaking in front of people about a topic which will be opened up to questions.  Somehow, however, I got up there and adlibbed pretty convincingly and enthusiastically, much to the delight of our group leader.  I even answered some questions.  There’s something liberating about working in a group for three hours, coming up with some crazy (so crazy it just might work) idea, and then presenting it two weeks later as if it was the next iPad.  It’s so much easier to answer questions confidently about something that doesn’t even exist.

And it’s kinda fun, too.


McLuhan and Me

Welcome to my Spring 2012 semester!  This semester I’m taking Media Studies: Ideas and Documentary Research Methods, both of which are already proving to be pretty useful in the production of my Connie Converse project and in the expansion of my media-making mind.

Last week my Ideas class had a discussion about Marshall McLuhan and his famous concept, “The Medium is the Message.”  I am interested in theory, but that does not mean I know much of anything about it.  I am pretty terrible about openly arguing my Ideas and ideals in public.  Situations arise in which I am forced (or I volunteer) to give an opinion or make a statement about theory, and I freeze up most of the time.  Even if I’ve read the piece a million times and have opinions about it, I can never seem to defend them or explain them articulately.  I’m hoping this class forces me out of this awful, uncomfortable shell of intellectual insecurity.  I took a big leap tonight and actually posted on my class blog about Mr. McLuhan.

Here’s what I wrote:

The medium is the message in a sense, yes. When you choose to produce something, just by choosing the medium through which you are going to distribute your message, that’s an argument in itself. Your choice is an argument or message ABOUT the kind of message (content) you are trying to share. Whether you choose to make a film, draw a picture, write a paper, play a song, sing, do a dance, produce a radio piece, etc., there are so many implicit and explicit factors that come as a result. For example, let’s say someone wanted to somehow review an album of music. That person could do this in any number of ways: write a short article, write a longer piece, create an audio piece, make a video of themselves, or even paint something, etc. The choice that person makes says a lot about what they think is important/what they want to emphasize about the music. Do they play some clips from the album in their radio piece? Do they transcribe lyrics in the article? We are in a sense limited by whatever medium we choose and we are limited by how that medium affects the receivers of your message. However, that’s just a part of it. Once you actually employ the medium you are constructing the rest of the message and putting in your own spin/content. Once someone starts experimenting with different media and tries to “use” them in “different” ways, that complicates the situation – and makes it more interesting, as well!

I’m hoping no super-smart theoretical geniuses pick apart every word and blow my humble opinion completely out of the water.  If they do, I will try and make some kind of incredibly charming and well-researched counterpoint.  Or maybe I’ll just pretend I didn’t see it.

We shall see.

Reflecting on Las Vegas

I loved it. And I did not expect this. And it was there I discovered the glory of dueling pianos. It’s everything I love about life in one place.

1) Wide variety of Music (from Elvis to Elton to Eminem)
2) Singing and Audience Participation
3) Goofiness
4) Charismatic and Crazy Talented Performers

This post is taken largely from emails I wrote to my brother-in-law and one of the dueling piano players I saw in Vegas.

The more I think about it and talk with others, the more I know that dueling pianos/piano players is an excellent subject for a documentary film. Before I saw the show in Vegas I had of course heard of dueling pianos, but the shows really struck me. Since then I’ve been to a couple more, including one in NYC, and my interest has been growing exponentially. There’s so much great stuff to cover in a film, from the origin of the form, to how the “bits” were developed, the state of the shows/community today, and – most importantly – the players themselves. The players are by far the most interesting aspect. The skill, confidence, talent, patience, and intuition required is immeasurable. I feel like anyone who has ever performed as a dueling piano player must have a pretty intriguing story/personal philosophy/outlook on life. That’s just my inclination, at least. I’ll be quiet about it now until I do more research.

Since I’ve just really started thinking about the dueling piano project, I am honestly not sure when it will actually happen. But do I have the same feeling about this project as when I realized I needed to do a Connie project. Obviously, this one won’t happen until the Connie project is done with or well under way or if I am in a position where I can make some kind of “short” to be later developed. Pre-production and research take a long time, anyway, so it’s good to have it on my and others’ radars now.

Sesame Street had it right.

We brought my littlest niece to the doctor’s office to check out her ears. It’s Christmas Eve and I’ve been feeling a little unsettled and wistful. Then I found this in the waiting room. Thank you, Jim Henson and crew.

I’m ready for next semester!




Friday Morning Post-Class Thought

If I could play the drums in any way even remotely approaching what Glenn Kotche does here, I’d be a very happy media studies student.  I better keep practicing.

This song needs to be used as a soundtrack for something. Maybe everything.

Korsakow is my new religion.

Here is my video self portrait.  It is my last project for the Media Practices: Concepts class I’ve been taking this semester.  I used a software called Korsakow, with which I am pretty in love.  Every Christmas I make a music video of my nieces for my sister and brother-in-law, but I think I will be making a Korsakow this year instead.  Perhaps I’ll add to it every year.  By the time they’re 18 they’ll have a video database of their childhood!


Here I am.

This is terrifying.

Peter Watkins makes films that I want to make.  Well, not exactly, but I’ve always wanted to make documentaries about things that never happened.  Not “mockumentaries,” per se, but documentaries about fake historical events that are so well researched and fit seemlessly into a certain time period.  As the movie progresses, I would want the audience to realize that things are a little “off,” and the situation would become subtley more ridiculous.

The following clip is from a very disturbing piece that we discussed in class about what life would be like if a nuclear attack struck London.  When we were talking about it, I thought, “sure, maybe it was scary for its time and place, but I bet it won’t be that bad.”  Then I watched it alone, in the dark, late at night.  Not a great idea.  Although the film does say, “this is what could POSSIBLY happen if…” as a viewer you’re so sucked in by the images and explosions that it still feels real.