The Creative Process of Brad Herzog

 

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I recently went to listen to reading by Brad Herzog, in which he read a chapter from his new book Turn Left at the Trojan Horse. The book is about Herzog’s journey to his college reunion in Ithaca, NY and his many stops at small towns on his way across the country. Each town he visited was named after Ancient Greek cities, or otherwise related to Greek history. The chapter from the book that he read was rather interesting, but what I found to be more insightful was the process by which he went about writing his books.

Brad Herzog is a travel writer, meaning he writes what he calls “creative nonfiction.” Creative nonfiction is interesting in that the depicted events are all real, but the narrative and preceding events are so _______ that it simply needed to be written in a way that a fiction novel might be written. By that I mean, there is incredible character development that takes place. What’s so interesting about that is Herzog actually finds these random people in these small towns, or interviews the most well-known locals (like the most interesting people in that small town, not famous). 

Herzog finds these small towns that are seemingly uninteresting, but he manages to find great characters and narrative just by asking around. I think that this concept is pretty neat. Herzog talked about several people that he had met, and they sounded like fictional characters, they were just that interesting. By interviewing all of these people and visiting these small towns, I feel that Herzog could very well have painted a picturesque portrait of a not often seen side of America.

The town I live in is surrounded by small hamlets and towns that have about 100 people living in them, and people never think too much about them. It kind of makes me wonder if those small towns have their own stories and interesting characters. Perhaps someday I’ll have to venture out on my own and find out. Probably not though, I have too much design work to do. Speaking of which, it’s time to get back to that.

 

Pictures Don’t Lie (They Stretch the Truth)

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The Crab Nebula is cooler looking than it sounds.

There are many expressions used to represent the usefulness and necessity of images. Sayings such as “seeing is believing” have been around for as long as we can remember. Such sayings are applicable to all things in life, even science and theory. How can we believe that microbes exist without seeing them under a microscope? Faith is one thing, but hard evidence is hard to ignore.

Vicki Goldberg is an accomplished scientific photographer and critic. During the span of her career, she has seen many wondrous sights, molecules, macrophages, and the Crab Nebula. Doesn’t it all sound so science-like and interesting? Of course it doesn’t, it sound horribly boring. Photographs of such things however, are certainly something to marvel at. Without such photographs, how could we ever truly understand such complex (or simple) life forms or galaxies? Sometimes however, images alone aren’t enough. In Even Scientific Images Have Trouble Telling The Truth, Goldberg talks about how more often than not these images are edited. Don’t worry; they aren’t edited to hide fat or blemishes, rather they are edited to improve the photograph. Nebulas are recolored, as the photograph cannot capture the colors correctly. These edits are made in order to help people to better understand what they are looking at.

While editing pictures of molecules may help the viewer to get a better look at it, sometimes manipulation goes too far.  In The Boilerplate Rhino, David Quammen talks about how nature documentaries don’t do nature any justice. Quammen states that the dramatic soundtracks and slow motion effects present in such videos detract from the true nature of the situation. Often, these videos take animal encounters out of context, and add a bit of flare to them to add production value to the documentary. Quammen seems to think that it has a negative effect on the films, and I would have to agree with him. Seeing nature in person is unparalleled, and cannot be replicated by watching it at home, even with an epic soundtrack. In nature, there is nothing but the chirping of birds, the rustling of leaves, and the sounds of dying zebras being mauled by a lion. These sounds in themselves are part of nature, why drown them out for the sake of a John Williams score? Nature deserves to be viewed in all its natural glory (no pun intended). However, the case can be made with Vicki Goldberg and her science photographs that sometimes editing can be helpful. I suppose it’s about how you choose to edit an image, be it for understanding, or drama.

the Unapparent Diversity of SU

Walking around the campus of Syracuse University, it is easy to see the diversity among its student’s. There are people of many different races, cultures, and religions present, and that is plain to see. I am a communication design major at Syracuse, and even within my school, the school of Visual Performing Arts, the diverse populace is still present. One look at the VPA website however, and you wouldn’t think that though. In fact, by looking at the site, you wouldn’t think that anybody actually was actually enrolled there.

When you first log onto the Visual Performing Arts website, you are greeted with a nice image of wood and vices. That, or some other close up of artsy crafty type of things. Now, the landing page is by no means ugly or inappropriate, but it doesn’t really provide a great intro to what it is that the majors of the VPA School do. It can be argued that yes, students work in these environments or create these works, but the images try to be too artistic that they don’t do these ideas any justice. Where are the students that should be working with these vices? Where are the professors that should be demonstrating how to make those pots hanging on the wall? Further investigation into the site will not answer such questions, as none of these images are present.

The fact that the site doesn’t show any images of students at work makes it hard to determine how diverse the school really is. Once again, the lack of these images makes it hard to determine if anybody actually attends these classes. What exactly does the lack of such images mean for the school? Perhaps the school doesn’t believe that it is as diverse as it should, and wants to hide that from any prospective students. As a student of VPA, I can vouch that the school is diverse, though it is still made up of a predominantly white student populace. On top of that, most students are between the ages of 18 and 22, and it can be said that there is no diversity in the age of students (though this is to be expected). As far as religion goes, the VPA student body is still quite diverse. To my personal knowledge, there are several Jewish and Muslim students enrolled with VPA, as well as numerous Christians and non-agnostic students. Once again however, you wouldn’t be able to know that by looking at the website.

Not only does the VPA website lack any significant photographic documentation of student diversity (or students in general), it is also missing written documents. The main Syracuse University website claims to offer resources for diversity on campus and within the college.  However, when you arrive at the page on student diversity, you are greeted with nothing but a measly paragraph that guarantees the diversity on campus. The page offers no statistics or any insight on the matter. The main Syracuse website at least features photographs of students, and within these pictures, diversity is identifiable. More importantly, the fact that people actually attend this school is evident, which is more than can be said about the VPA homepage.

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How can the college of visual performing arts show that it has a diverse student body? How can it prove that it has any student body at all? Simply by adding pictures of said student body. While it is okay to have some artistic photographs of pots and tables, people don’t go to the site to see those. Prospective students and their parents want to know if their child will feel comfortable their. How can a parent who has no experience with Syracuse University feel comfortable sending their child to a place that is populated by pottery and avante garde chairs? All joking aside, the VPA website provides a misrepresentation of it’s student body. All the site needs a few photographs of student at work, or students interacting with each other. These photographs could be essential in introducing people of diverse cultures into the already diverse student body of Syracuse University. On top of the implementation of proper photographs, the college would do well to provide statistics on its student body. While photos provide a nice visual representation, hard numbers are hard to argue. So if anybody from the web design department of Syracuse University ever reads this: add some pictures of student and some actual information on diversity to your websites.

The Harlem Shake, Not So Much a Renaissance.

So, it’s been about a week now since the harlem shake is still on top. Don’t worry though, it won’t be around for too much longer. The LA times recently went over eight reasons on why the meme would die out soon (check it out here). They’re all pretty reasonable and legitimate reasons, like the fact that they’ve become too extravagant, and that the Today Show did it

Like all memes on the internet, the Harlem shake will die out, and sooner than you might think. There’s simply no originality left to the movement. I mean, how many times can I watch an office building move around awkwardly, not even doing the Harlem shake. I don’t understand, why are all these people doing the same thing that other people are doing it? It’s not like a lot of these are really going the distance to separate themselves. For example, can you tell me the difference between Harlem Shake V.3 and Harlem Shake (College Humor Edition). They both take place in office buildings, they both are full of white folks that can’t dance, random people have some form of costume or mask on. Why bother doing it if you’re not going to bring something new to the table? That’s all I’m saying. 

Now, that’s not to say that there all of them are boring office videos. I mean, the UGA Men’s Swim Team did it underwater. I’d say that’s cooler than some people on bleachers or in an office. What’s really cool about the UGA men’s swimming video is that they make it unique to them. That is to say, they have a set of skills that allow them to do the harlem shake in a way that the College Humor office can’t. That’s what makes the harlem shake cool: to see all the different ways people are doing it, and how they are applying their own skills, background, occupation, and creativity into it. Another example is the Firefighter Harlem Shake, which is my personal favorite. It’s cool because those are real fireman, in a real firetruck. Listen, firefighting is pretty damn serious, so it’s cool to see them get down in a chicken suit with spiderman. Once again, the firemen one is cool because it’s a video that could only be put together by a firemen. If it was just some folks in fire gear in some vapid white room, it’d be boring. 

To all you would be Harlem Shaker’s out there: get creative before you make a video. Really think about what would make your video stand out. Don’t just simply grab your friends, get naked, put on a horse mask, and hump the air. That’s been done, at least 254 times in the past week. Really think about what makes you or your group unique, and go from there. I swear to god, if I see another office doing the harlem shake, I’m going to lose my shit.

Taboo…Yardies

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Over the weekend I saw an incredibly moving film titles “Taboo…Yardies.” The film is a documentary about the persecution of the homosexual and transgender people of the Caribbean, specifically in Jamaica. Now, I know that the LGBTQ community faces persecution all over the place, but I couldn’t have imagined it was that bad in Jamaica. I mean, on a website dedicated to aiding the Jamaican LGTBQ community there is a page full of self preservation tips. There was also a somewhat recent incident that happened the the UTECH school where security guards beat a gay man after allegedly engaging in sexual activities in a bathroom (watch it here, warning: violence). People are beaten and even slain in the streets because of their lifestyle, and the film makes it a point to show that to the viewer.

Overall, the theme of the documentary is quite straightforward, as it shows the pain and struggle that these LGTBQ people endure. Not only that, but the documentary also captures both sides of the conflict, which is to say the anti-homosexual people are interviewed as well. The film does a good job at showing the different perspectives of both sides, as well as the perspectives of the persecuted individuals.

Some of the people in the film have their faces blurred when they tell their stories, while others do not. Most of the people who’s faces are blurred are still living in Jamaica, and are still being mortified. From their viewpoint, they are still in danger, and blurring their face would protect them. It shows the fear that they face every second of their lives. Then, there are others who’s faces are not blurred. These people are in the United States, but they were once living in Jamaica and living the same fear that those who’s faces were blurred are still experiencing. Their viewpoint is that they no longer have nothing to fear, they don’t have to hide their faces. The contrast between the two groups is quite glaring, yet they all came from the same circumstances.

The film is incredibly raw and very real, which it very much needs to be. These problems are very real and disturbing, and need to be shown as they are. there is no sugar-coating what is happening over there. The film had just the right tone, in my opinion. I would highly recommend this movie, everybody should see it, whether you’re a homosexual from the Caribbean or a straight white kid from syracuse, everybody should be aware of the horrors happening to these people.

Check it out: http://tabooyardies.com/

Who Makes These Things!?

As I look around my desk, I see many things. Garbage and paper scraps are certainly present, but there’s other things as well. Mainly posters and photos, as well as a drawing. I keep looking around, and I wonder who made some of these images. I know who made the photo’s of my friends and family that are above my desk, but who designed my Walking Dead poster?

Now, I know AMC is the company that produces and airs the show, and Image Comics produces the comic books (which are way better, seriously). I have this poster though, and it’s basically just zombie heads with the text “the Walking Dead” across the bottom. It says “AMC” in the corner, but that doesn’t mean they designed it. See, I consider myself a designer, so I often think about what kind of person the designer would be behind X design. Sometimes I’ll wonder “Who the hell designed that piece of garbage?” Other times it’s “My mind is blown. Who the hell designed this beautiful masterpiece!?” In this case, I have no idea who designed my poster. I don’t even know the firm that did it! I guess that’s fine though, since it’s not that cool. Okay, it’s moderately cool.

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You know what it cool? The drawing of Jimi Hendrix that’s framed and on my wall. I know who drew it, but I do not personally know who drew it. My mom actually found it in the basement one day. The story goes that her friend drew it for her while they were at the bowling alley downtown in our town. The guy that drew it was a talented artist, and everybody knew that he was going to go far, and that he was going to “make it.” That was about thirty years ago, now he’s a notorious drug user and town drunk. I’ve never met the man, but it makes me sad to hear that. It makes me especially sad, since this picture of Jimi Hendrix is the coolest drawing I’ve ever seen. I keep it around for inspiration, in fact.

It’s always cool to know who the author is behind things. Well, most of the time it is. However, knowing who the author, artist, or designer is would give the piece all new context, and can alter the meaning. For me, the drawing of Jimi Hendrix went from a piece that meant “awe that’s so cool,” into sort of a reminder to never fall off, and to stay focused.

The Most Beautiful Place in America

One of the most beautiful place in New York, and perhaps even the entire United States, is the Adirondack Park. Tall pine trees for miles, large mountain ranges, deep blue lakes, there is no place I’d rather be than up north in the Adirondacks. I consider myself lucky, because for the past four summers, I’ve called the Adirondacks my home. My summer job is a camp counselor at a boy scout summer camp called Camp Russell. I would personally consider Camp Russell to be the most beautiful place that I have even been to. Sure, it’s located on the beautiful White Lake, and settled in a nice Forrest, but it’s beautiful in another way too.

Camp Russell is great, because this is where we are training our youth to be leaders. Not just leaders, but kind, fair, knowledgeable, and skillful leaders. It’s a beautiful thing to see kids better themselves, and it’s great to play a role in that. Some of the kids we get at camp come from very poor families, or broken homes, and camp is a breath of fresh air for them. The best experience in the world is knowing that you’ve made an impact on a young mans life. To me, that’s more beautiful than any lake or forest.

That being said, the camp itself is absolutely gorgeous. Like I’ve said, it’s located on a large, beautiful lake. At camp, we have our own waterfront for boating and swimming. We even have a floating dock, which is great to lounge out on and check out women. I mean, it’s good for life guarding and protecting our future leaders (seriously though, there are some beautiful girls on that lake). The camp itself is split into three sections: the water front, the main camp, and the CA or “Conservation Area.” The main camp is great because all of the buildings look rustic. They even have hand-carved totem poles built into the buildings that act as support beams. It fits right into it’s surroundings, everything is rustic and old looking, which is perfect. We have a wide open field for playing games, and more importantly attending flag ceremonies and eating meals. The Conservation Area is an entirely different story. It’s basically one square mile of pine trees. We have trails back there that go over huge rocks, through some cool swamps, and by neat little lakes. It’s great to just go back there and truly admire nature.

Like I’ve said before though, the lake is gorgeous. I’d say that it’s where my friends and I spend most of our time (and not just to check out girls). There’s just something alluring about the lake, and it’s hard to describe. When you sit down on the floating dock, or even on the banks, you just don’t want to get up. It’s a kind of place where you just want to sit down and let time pass in front of you. In a world where everyone’s in a hurry and chaos is a lifestyle, it’s good to just sit by a lake once in a while, and stare out at it as time rushes past you, like a wave breaking against the shore.

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The Contrast in Normany

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Before I get philosophical on your (the reader’s) ass, I would like to provide you with some background information. This is a picture that was taken of my brother Iain (far left), my good friend Aaron (left) and myself (far right). This was in Normandy, specifically at Pointe Du Hoc, a landing site on D-Day: June 6, 1944. Now, we all know what D-Day was (I hope), but Pointe Du Hoc was just a small part of the struggle between the Axis and Allied forces on that day.

Pointe Du Hoc was a German artillery fortification located on a cliff, overlooking the ocean. During D-Day, German forces were faced with a barrage of artillery from American and British naval units. After the bombardment, allied forces scaled the massive cliffs to take over the heavily fortified area.

 

Today, what was once ruin and death is an eerily beautiful reminder of what happened that day. The grass is lush and green, and creates a stark contrast between the blackened bunkers. If you read into the whole scene of Pointe du Hoc, it’s a one big contrast between life and death. For example: the grass and wild flowers run rampant, along the edges of the bunkers and in the fifteen foot deep craters created by artillery barrages. In that crater, dozens of lives could have been snuffed out, but today it is just a hole, filled with lush grass and the occasional tourist.

Even the picture above provides some interesting insight. I’m borrowing this concept from my writing professor Kevin Browne (I hope you’re reading this), but the bunker represents a wall, or an obstacle. The sky represents another world, or whatever is beyond this life. In that aspect, it seems peaceful and sort of vague. However, there is also a hole in the bunker, that leads into darkness and eventually out into the light. That represents a passing on that was full of darkness and turmoil, similar to how a soldier in combat might have passed on. For a grunt in a dark bunker, being blown up wasn’t the sort of “passed on peacefully into the blue sky” kind of death, it really was more of the ruined tunnel of darkness with a small gleaming of light at the end. For me, that’s some pretty deep stuff.

Now, my own concept has not so much to do with life and death, but with the importance of life and historical events on this earth. the bunker in the picture is so large that it dwarfs us small human beings. That bunker represents a major point in history, as WWII surely directed the course of history. It’s huge, and it is large and important in the scope of the big picture: world history. Where as myself, my friend, and my brother are small, we’re young. We have yet to make a mark on this earth, which is to say if we make any at all. At this point in out lives, we mean little in the grand scheme of things, just like we are small in the picture.

A nice thought I had about this though: a stranger would say “wow look at that bunker! That must’ve been cool!” My parents or my friends might say “Hey, that’s a cool picture! You guys look like you enjoyed yourself, Iain is cheesing hard!” I guess you could say that to those close to us, we’ve made a bigger impact on their lives than any old bunker could have. That makes me feel special, especially after writing about “all we are is dust in the wind.”

 

President Carter & Laying your Life on the Line.

ImageThis happy-go-lucky guy here is former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter. This picture was taken in 1976, while he was campaigning in Flint, Michigan. It’s a hell of a picture, might I add.

This picture is great in many ways. I mean, you just don’t see a president jumping in the air, waiving to the crowd with a huge smile on his face very often. In fact, you don’t see presidents walking the street much anymore. Thanks a lot, Lee Harvey Oswald, you jerk. Any how, the picture is even better, when you take into account that it was taken in Flint: one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. Yes, today it is considered especially dangerous for women, but it was just as dangerous for everyone in the 70’s. You could say that Pres. Carter was in fact putting his life on the line for the presidency.

Today in my writing class, we were having a discussion about what ideas or beliefs that we would be willing to give our lives for. The three main causes that were brought up were our country, our families, and freedom. When our professor Kevin (Hello Kevin) asked us to raise our hands if we would die for the causes given, the class was mostly mixed. About half the class claimed that they would die for their country, while everybody said that they would die for their loved ones. Me personally, I didn’t say that I would die for my country.

That sounds like a crappy thing to say, but my country isn’t as apparent of a concept to me as my family. I know family, I love my family, and I would have a reason to die for them; they are real to me. My country on the other hand, what does it mean to me? Yes, I live here and it’s a great place, but what am I dying for, if I die for my country? It just isn’t a concept that it wholly attainable to me. When I think of what I’d be dying for, I think of politicians that don’t know my name, or anything about me. they wouldn’t care if I died.

Thinking deeper into it however, I realize that dying for my country would be dying for my family, and for everyone who was close to me. I would die so that they could remain free, so that the country they know and love would still be there for them. So I guess you could say that I would die for my country.

Alright, now we’re going to go back to Jimmy Carter again. During his presidency, he dealt with the Hostage Crisis in Iran (where 52 Americans were held hostage in the USA embassy for 444 days), as well as the Russian/Afghani war. President Carter made the decision not to expend American lives to either cause, which in my opinion was the right move. War is a terrible thing, but sometimes it is necessary. If President Carter decided that the US would directly intervene in either situation, there would have been dire consequences, like a third world war.

Speaking of unnecessary wars, here’s a list of some: The current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dessert Storm, Vietnam, Korea. Those wars were pointless in my opinion, we had/have no reason being there. We were fighting for “freedom,” which was really more like American Imperialism. I wont get into this right now, but just know that I’m not a supporter. World War II? We were right to get into that. That really was a war for freedom. The concept of freedom is quite abstract, though I’m sure those without freedom would be able to describe it better than us. What I mean by that is nobody can know true freedom until they know utter oppression. In the case of WWII, we fought for the freedom of the countries that were occupied by Axis forces at the time. They were being oppressed, they had their freedom taken away from them by some seriously evil men. In our recent modern wars, what are we really fighting for? the vague concept of freedom? Freedom from who and what? I’m not quite sure. Yes, I know the Middle East is a hot spot for terrorist activities and that is what we are really fighting. It seems like a gallant idea, but I don’t know if it’s worth spending American lives. I don’t think that it is a cause that i would give my life for.

Reddit, and Why Other Sites Seem Useless

Hello there reader! Being a guy on the internet means that I go to various sites on the internet for my latest news and opinions. Scratch that, It meant that I did, several years ago. Then I discovered Reddit. For the incredibly few who don’t know what Reddit.com is, it is a social news and media website where users upload content that they have found or created themselves. It’s really the ultimate news site. Before becoming a “redditor,” I used to visit many, many different sites to read about music, video games, news, or view cat photos, funny viral clips, and even porn. Reddit has all of that, and more! In fact they have a “subreddit” (or forum) for everything imaginable, including cute animals, games, politics, nude women, nude women in politics, and space dicks (dont ask, just go to reddit.com/r/spacedicks).

I waste my time on Reddit, but what about the old sites I used to frequent? Well, I check back on them every now and again. When I do, I find the same god damn Reddit articles that I’ve already read, only this time they are posted hours later and often out of context or warped to match each websites agenda. Now, that’s only because these news sites look to Reddits large user base who are constantly uploading content to gain karma, a point system that has no bearing on real life, much like gamerscore or your best score in minesweeper. Not only do news sites steal from Reddit, but Redditors steal from news sites. These people are so damn quick, they basically link an article as soon as it comes out. Why should I go to any site when some neck-beard is refreshing a news page every ten seconds, so he can be the first to post how cats cured cancer onto Reddit.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Guy, everybody knows about Reddit, this isn’t interesting at all! You’re right: I suck. But, school just started so I’m just getting into the groove by talking about something I know. Stay tuned, I’ll have more things to say. I’m thinking maybe a comic for tomorrow? Who knows! Find out if I deliver, next time on “A GUY ON THE INTERNET!

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