Month: February 2014

Blog #8: Lament of Joe Hall

I have opted to analyze the Lament of Joe Hall.

Since the recording began as soon as the page loaded, I didn’t have a chance to read the introduction paragraph in its entirety and grasp what the story was about. Because of this, the first element of the story to capture my attention was the youthfulness of the voice coming through the microphone. It wasn’t what I was initially expecting and was effective in immediately grasping my attention. After all, rarely is a story told from the perspective of child. I was hooked and wanted to hear more.

In terms of format, I loved that the creator began by sharing a background story of Joe’s childhood and upbringing. It gave me strong sense of the terrible hardships he underwent and endured, and caused me to sympathize with him. I developed an emotional attachment to the little guy. This was just one of the rhetorical effects. I felt that creator made the overall story flow by allowing the main character, Joe to express his emotional responses to the events that were taking place around him, sharing his opinion on the matter, in first-person, narrative format. In terms of this, what specifically stood out to me was when he was recounting a night trip with father and Nazi comrades, as they patrolled the Border of Mexico in search of illegal immigrants. Joe explicitly said he was “afraid that [he’d] have to actually shoot someone.” The creator compiles all of these mini-stories and events to build upon the climax of the story, when Joe finally kills his father. The story was concluded well and brought full-circle because the creator chose to not abruptly end the storyline. Instead, he included what happened to Joe following the murder.

One creative element that we discussed in class last week, was the use of music and other soundbites to assist with transitions and enhancing the overall presentation. The creator did an excellent job of this. Not only were musical transitions smooth, but whenever he could insert relevant soundbites he did so. (I.e. following Joe committing the murder of his father, I recall hearing sirens in the background, as well hearing his stepmom, Krista, on the phone calling the police.) All of these things helped to paint a very vivid picture for the listener, and made me feellike I was actually present. I could see everything happening as Joe told it in my mind. 

To further assist the listeners with following along, I loved that the creator also provided a synopsis of the documented event below the audio recording. This helped me to better understand or clarify things that I perhaps missed while listening.  The idea that smooth and relevant transitions (whether music or other soundbites) can make or break a story was reemphasized with this project. The proper utilization of such tools is what helped keep my attention and interest. This was very well done and I hope to execute my project just as well, if not better.

Side note: I loved the title of the piece. The word “Lament” made me think of  a jazz song by the same name that my grandfather introduced me to. Before even listening, I felt that I would be hearing something that provided who or whatever the subject might be with a sense of inner peace. I’m not sure that Joe Hall has yet obtained this, since he is still currently incarcerated, but I pray that one day he does.


Ominous Sound

Take the intense, suspenseful, ominous, scary music and sound effects from the climaxes of a bunch of movies.  Put them as background to a 10 minute podcast.  And there’s the Lament for Joe Hall.

If I had been reading the script instead of listening to the performative sound piece, I would have been effectively pulled in.  The story itself is suspenseful and I’m sure would have stirred up most of the same emotions that the sound piece does.  But the difference is that Matt Gray made terrific decisions about how to have the sound amplify the emotions.  At the end, my heart is racing, I’m scared, and the weight in my stomach refuses to go away.

Let’s start with the very beginning.  The listener hears an ominous screech.  It says something went wrong.  Something terrible happened.  I don’t know why, but I’m personally reminded of a heart monitor beeping that the person’s heart has stopped.  Then we hear the “voice” of Joe Hall.  The choice to have a child read the lines was a great one; there’s something about a child’s voice that makes most people immediately sympathize with the child.  But there’s another quality to it that made me feel sorry for Joe Hall: the echo.  Everything “Joe” says has an echo-y sound to it.  For me, it creates the feeling of a dark, dark room.  There’s a sense of dark finality about it.  It’s the echo of the past that will always be ringing into Joe Hall’s future.

Moving ahead a bit to about 57 seconds, we hear the music enter.  It’s the type of music you would expect to hear during an intense movie scene.  It’s ominous.  It has a clear, steady beat in it that’s faster than your heart rate, but something about it makes your heart speed up to match it.  The quickened pulse makes you on edge as you listen to the rest of the story.  And the music recurs many times in the piece, often actually as a signal of the end of one “scene” and the beginning a new one.  At 57 seconds, it’s the switch from talking about his mom to introducing his dad.  Using such ominous music to bridge scenes builds the intensity of the story; you hear one horrific thing and then the music enters, making your heart beat faster, making you dread what you’re about to hear because you know it’ll be worse than what preceded it.  But you can’t possibly stop listening.  Just like the way you can’t tear your eyes away from the TV screen during a scary scene, even though you know you don’t want to see what’s coming.

I don’t think we always realize the impact sound has on our emotions.  It’s been a few minutes now since I listened to the part of the podcast at 57 seconds so I could accurately describe the music above, but I still feel a weight in the pit of my stomach.  But Matt Gray really utilized the affordances sound offers to its fullest extent.  When I’m paying attention to specific authorial choices like the ones I described above, it normally distances me from the emotions the author is trying to invoke.  I’m analyzing the emotions, not feeling them.  But that’s not the case with this piece.  The sounds echo in my ears, recreating and recreating the feelings.  His choices flow seamlessly together.  The screech at the beginning doesn’t immediately go away when “Joe” starts speaking.  It stays there.  It burns into us the association between that screech, that terrible, terrible screech, and the story of Joe Hall.  Matt Gray is retelling a memory that will forever echo into the future of Joe Hall.  The sound flows with the story and the emotions of the story perfectly.

My own sound project is actually also going to be about a shooting.  My one uncle’s great-great-grandfather (or something like that, I have to nail down the exact relation) was the sheriff of a small town in Ohio in 1933 when he was shot and killed during a jailbreak.  Three men were convicted for the murder, and one of them was my other uncle’s great-great-uncle.  Small world moment, right?  Well, I want to paint the story of the shooting in a light similar to the Lament for Joe Hall.  I want it to be ominous and final, to create dread.  And the sound effects he used like the screeching and echoes and the music are good examples for me to learn from.

Question: What other noises do you think Matt Gray could have used to create the affect in the Lament for Joe Hall?

Blog Post #8: Audio Analysis

Choose either from the Lament for Joe Hall or  This American Life–Superpowers!— and write a careful (full of care) analysis of it. For example: What do you notice about how it is put together? What are its rhetorical effects? Can you talk about it’s affective power (contagion, layered experiences, emotion)? How does it draw upon the distinct affordances of sound as a mode of storytelling? What will you take away from this piece as you begin your own work in audio documentary? Be sure to point to specific moments in the podcast to illustrate your ideas.

birds are chirping,


**don’t forget to categorize your reply in “blog 8 replies.”

reminder | Critical Blog Posts: 

1) Should engage slowly and carefully with the text

2)  Refer to specific examples from the text under examination.

3) Pose at least one question for class discussion.

4) Be a minimum of 300 words.

5) Include a descriptive title and relevant tags for navigation and indexing.

6) Must be proofread and spell-checked.

Give your page a custom cursor

Giving your page a custom cursor can be down with some basic CSS.  For me the most difficult part was finding the correct cursor to download.  There are some things such as cursor sets that were confusing and certain cursor file formats available on websites that offer free cursors for download aren’t compatible with all web browsers.  Therefore I downloaded a free program called RealWorld Cursor Editor.  It allows you to create your own cursor from scratch or make an already existing image into a cursor.  I chose the former. 

Select “cursor from image” and open the desired image.




Save your file to the appropriate folder.  Insert the appropriate CSS for the portion of the page which you’d like to have your new custom cursor appear.  Be sure to include “default;” after the file name, and that is how to create a cool custom cursor.



Unfortunately, the cursor doesn’t appear in screen shots, but believe you me, it’ll be there.

Photo effects in CSS

While creating this effect is fairly simple to do in Photoshop, it can also be performed solely through CSS and HTML. It is very simple process that gives a pretty cool result. The reason to do this technique is CSS rather than Photoshop is that if you do not like how the effect turned out, instead of going back in to photoshop to redo the entire vignette, the problem can be fixed easily in the CSS code.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 11.51.54 PM

 The first step is to create a div with the desired image set as the background. The picture I’m using for this post is taken directly from my recovery project, so I know the exact dimension already (900*600). Once the dimensions are set begin coding for the webkit (which helps render CSS elements for browsers) and select  “box shadow.” Enter down a line and code the “inset” and set  the vertical and horizontal offset (the first two numbers) to 0. After this select a color, most likely #000, which is black. I repeated this process three times because with only one inset, the edges were not quite dark enough.  Use the same inset shadow for all three different browsers (webkit, moz, and box-shadow).  

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 11.20.38 PMScreen Shot 2014-02-18 at 11.51.20 PM

I used a 200px shadow in my photo due to its size, but each image is unique and the size of the shadow should be tailored as such.

This is just a simple div class, there is no special HTML coding that is required.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 11.51.30 PM


Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 11.51.43 PM        After

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 11.51.54 PM

Stitch your website

The first thing you need to do is make a container in html with whatever wording you want to put in it.

stitch pic1

Then you have to create a .css for it. Select the color you want the container to be.   Then, select the size of the text you want in the container, along with the font style.  You may also want to align the text to the center, too.

stitch pic2

Then you will want to make the “stitching” for the container.  Make the outline dashed like stitching by putting in the 1px dashed.  You can also select the height and width and margin size.

stitch pic3

Then you can make the shadow on the box to make it pop and look more like a button than a 2 dimensional box.

Final Product!

stitch pic4

make the header stay

The menu bar that appears to follow you is a popular trick on most websites nowadays and actually really easy to do in CSS.

First, figure out what component you want to stay at the top of the page and in its css attributes, I’ll use the header for example.

make sure in HTML you use <div class= “header”> and not simply the <header> tag



setting the position to “fixed” means that it stays put on the page. After that, voila! your header stays atop the page no matter how long you scroll.