Project 2: Podcast Analysis

The podcast chosen was one called, “Shadowboxing.” This podcast was about the career of the “Boston Strong Boy,” John L. Sullivan, who was a heavyweight champion of gloved boxing. John was a Irish kid growing up in South Boston during the 1860’s. He was the first American athlete to win $1 million, fighting 195 times in 135 towns in 235 days. The podcast went through many facts like these about his life and career, in a short amount of time. This short time span allowed for short yet concise facts. The tone of the podcast was a quiet, sometimes sad and monotonous one. A man’s voice was speaking the whole time, with soft rock music in the background. His voice remained unchanged and this is where the podcast became monotonous at times. In Mckee’s “Sound Matters,” she comments that “Meaning is carried not solely by the verbal content but…also by the vocal qualities” (6). However, John Sullivan’s life story was interesting that it makes the listener want to continue listening to see what would happen next. Just talking wasn’t enough, there should’ve been pictures involved for a visual. For visual learners it’s preferred that media and images are present to help see a story someone is trying to tell. A viewer could’ve gotten a better image of what John Sullivan and  his life looked like. Pictures would’ve especially added to this podcast because we could see the differences in the times, from the 1800’s to present day 2000’s. We are so tied up in our world today that we have not seen much of the past, so we do not known much about it or what it looked like. However, when there’s only vocal delivery and no type of visual, the listener is not distracted and tends to really focus on what the narrator is saying. Heidi McKee also believes that, “the qualities of vocal delivery in a web composition create tone and convey mood…” (7). When the narrator begins the podcast talking about Sullivan’s experience in the ring during a big fight, the listener feels that they are Sullivan himself fighting the opponent. They are immediately put in his shoes because of the vivid imagery. At times there were some silence, which only made the podcast more dramatic. It left one on the edge hanging and wanting to know more about John L. Sullivan. Silence is even a sound that we hear. Heidi Mckee says, “Even in silence, which does not ever truly exist, we hear the sound of our breath and the blood going through our veins” (2). Sometimes the narrator would ask a question like “Where do we put heroes when they fail themselves and us?” and there would be moments of silence after. This silence provided time for the viewer to think and answer the question. In addition, the creator of this piece leveraged affordances. From reading “Literacy in the New Media Age” by  Gunther Kress, it’s taken that the meaning of affordance is an aspect which suggests how media should be used or interpreted. Kress states that, “The concept of affordance gives us the means to ask about the potentials and limitations of the different modes, and at least to begin to examine what might be real or potential losses…” (51). This podcast “Shadowboxing” leaves its viewer with statements and questions that can require deep thought. For instance, this narrator ties alcoholism into this podcast. Because John L. Sullivan was defeated badly by one opponent, he gave up and became an alcoholic. However, every time he “fell off the wagon, he climbed back on.” The narrator completes the podcast with a single line, “He was a man who got up.” This leaves a intense impression on the listener, conveying the message that it is possible to overcome failure. The listener is also left with positive thoughts about Sullivan. The narrator’s voice is left in one’s head allowing them to make use of what he says and even learn more about John L. Sullivan, as well as relate to him as a person.

Shadowboxing

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Writing on the Bias

When seeing that the author of this piece was a female, I feel like I could relate more to her, being a female myself. Just like Wallace, I feel like Brodkey wrote more casually and conversation like, so it was easier to understand the reading. Her use of flashbacks and experiences helped the reader understand the reading as well. The part of this piece that really invoked me was when she started talking about literature. Linda commented that, “Literature is scarce. Almost anyone can tell or write stories (even a child can do it). Not just anyone can write literature (most adults cannot), and not just anyone can read it. Literature is an acquired taste…it is acquired through associating with the right people” (page 9). I believe that literature is scarce, especially since texts these days are nothing like how they were back in the 1800s. The meaning and perspective of literature has changed.  As Brodkey mentions later on, “Writing is about following a bias that cuts against the grain, like sewing, writing recognizes the third dimension of seemingly two-dimensional material” (page 21). It’s as if all literature must have a bias, otherwise it is not true literature. Words and sentences must be looked at from different angles and it’s up for us readers to create our own perspective on it. My favorite line in Linda’s piece has to be when she says, “The problem is not that writing cannot be learned, for many have learned to write, but that writing cannot be taught as a set of rules or conventions that must be acquired prior to and separate from performance” (page 22). Throughout all my schooling years and especially in high school, I felt like English was taught too formally and not lenient enough. Everyone writes differently and writing is about setting the mind free and basically perfecting word vomit. No student should be forced to write a certain way because that’s the proper way, or that’s what the teachers were taught themselves. This may be true for just myself, but I believe the best writing comes out when people are not forced to create a structured piece  following certain guidelines. With more and more guidelines, students are turned off from writing and after all, “learning how to write comes follows from wanting to write…”

Authority & American Usage

David Foster Wallace gives an outside perspective on writing in this piece. He believes that there’s SNOOTs (Syntax Nudniks of Our Time) in this world, or people who know what dysphemism is and let you know it. These people are ones that resemble Conservatives. Wallace portrays a negative vibe towards these people and believes that we should not become like them. Wallace does not keep the reader bored because he proposes many hooks and questions. He points out some problems of writers which can be rather interesting. The people should have a Democratic spirit, “one that combines rigor and humility.” They should also be Descriptivists, or people that reject “conventional usage rules in English” and confuse regularities with norms. They use the scientific method without being judgmental, qualities that any liberal contains.  Even the dictionary should be descriptive and not prescriptive. However, as appealing as being a Descriptivist is, David Wallace believes that it is impossible to achieve. So, being a Prescriptivist sounds better now even though they are closer to SNOOTs. Within these two ways of life, there’s many different dialects that people will get criticized for or judged. Wallace comments that a dialect is, “learned and used either because it’s your native vernacular or because it’s the dialect of a Group by which you wish to be accepted.” He thinks that teachers and some students are very rigid and SNOOTs who rely too much on what was taught to them in their childhood. These people are “stupid” and do not teach their students wisely. The teachers should provide honest arguments for why a certain dialect is actually worth learning. Wallace’s statements make me think about whether I would be a Descriptivist or Prescriptivist or whether I’m constantly  learning foreign dialects even if I’m reading English. This foreign dialect can be considered Standard Written English or SWE as Wallace calls it. This SWE is something we use everyday and how we communicate with others. If we don’t agree with it, we will still have to use it and be around it. Wallace lets his readers know that there will always be two conflicting opinions and we can choose a side, but the other side will always remain whether we like it or not.

Anne Lamott reading

As I began to read Anne Lamott’s, “Shitty First Drafts”, I felt that she tried to connect more with the reader but talking as if she was just having a simple conversation. She did not use many fancy and intricate words but rather expressed her thoughts and opinions nonchalantly. Lamott put a different image in my mind about writers, especially great ones. She explained how very few writers really know what they are doing at first and will not always find writing enjoyable. Most people think that successful writers can sit down and write a great work right then and there without any problem. Little do people know, that great writers do not feel confident all the time nor get the right story right away. They make mistakes and aren’t perfect just like us college students. The way to get anything written is by writing multiple poor drafts.  After all, you need to start somewhere. Anne Lamott believes that all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. The first draft should consist of word vomit and your voices or visions that have come to mind. The first draft is the a child’s draft where, “you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later” (paragraph 4). Writing a first draft is more about the product as well. Even though writing multiple drafts is apart of the writing process, it gets you closer towards a finished product. By writing a second draft, more details and descriptions can be added with a proper introduction and conclusion. The third draft is like a “dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed…” (paragraph 10). By writing one draft, several more drafts will be constructed to perfect the first and achieve the final. After completing this writing process, eventually one will begin to trust the process. Lamott refers to a time when she does this through experience in paragraph 7. Even though this writing process can help make a writer more confident with their writing, there is always that stage of fear and aggravation when a first draft is created.