The Lens Cap Was On, Part 2: The Struggle Continues

I can now somewhat operate a camera. Somewhat. Given enough time, and a patient subject, I can actually generate some pretty acceptable photos. Maybe I am cut out for this whole journalism thing.

*Goes to class Friday morning*

*Checks out video camera and tripod*

*Snaps back to reality*

Much like when I first started operating the DSLR camera, I figured it would be easy because I had recorded video before– on my phone. “Oh there’s not much to it,” I foolishly thought. “You just point and shoot.”

How wrong I was.

After five minutes of rotating the camera, I finally found the power button (For those who don’t know, it is the button directly under the word POWER.) I flipped out the screen and was ready to capture the world around me…

…a slightly green world. Why was everything green? Is everyone sick? I heard that some sort of bug was getting passed around. It turns out that you have to white balance the camera. In J2000, we talked about white balancing, so I was a little apprehensive about doing it because I didn’t oppress anyone, but my classmates soon informed me that I was, to use their phrasing, “wrong.” Whether it was racist or not, the camera white balanced, and I was ready to capture video. All I needed was my tripod.

“Hey you know what would be fun? If we design the top of this thing like a Rubik’s Cube.” -Inventors of the Tripod

And I thought I felt dumb looking for the On switch for the camera… I went through quite the emotional arc trying to work that thing:

R.I.P. Chris Farley

Frustration was mounting; I could feel the rage building inside of me. But luckily my classmate, Charlie, saved the day with his advice: “It goes in the other way.

I was finally ready to go. Once I started filming, I felt the familiar sting of my lack of ability. It was actually a lot like taking photos– except this time the evidence of my mediocrity were minute-long video clips instead of single photos.


Tuba? Or Not Tuba?

Music major Tim O’Sullivan has a busy schedule. He starts every day with an 8 a.m. class and is taking 19 credit hours this semester. Despite his grueling schedule, the sophomore makes time for one more ensemble on Friday afternoons.

*I have had so much trouble uploading this thing. At first it didn’t, then it uploaded with an extra 7 minutes of nothing, then it didn’t again, then it cut off the last 10 seconds, then it cut off the last 30 seconds, now it has the extra 7 minutes again. I finally just gave in and decided that this would be as good as it gets– at least the whole slideshow is on there and at the beginning.

Interviewing Strangers: The Thought Process

“I know how to talk to people, but I’ve never really recorded myself doing it. But it’s probably not that different, right?”

-Me after we were assigned to go interview strangers with recorders

Spoiler alert: It is different.

First off, in all of my previous conversations I’ve never had to wear headphones to hear the person’s voice. When I first went out and interviewed students in the J-School, I didn’t have any headphones with me, so I wasn’t able to monitor how the person’s voice was picked up by the recorder. I just looked at the bars on the display and hoped that they were at the appropriate levels.

After I conducted the first interview and located some headphones, I listened to what it sounded like. “Okay,” I thought. “This sounds good. Recording audio isn’t so ha– wait. Why does it sound like that?” It sounded like the recorded voice was jumping from ear to ear. It was actually messing with my balance; I thought I might fall over if I kept listening to it.

It turns out that I talk a lot with my hands. And that, coupled with walking around an office and my inexperience with microphone stability, made for very shaky audio. It was really quiet where we were, so the voices were still picked up clearly, but the balance was completely wrong.

Actually, it was almost like the audio was picked up too well. It sounded like we were speaking into a vacuum. I needed to record something that I could play underneath the interview track to give our voices a little texture. But where could I go to find this elusive audio?

The men’s bathroom.

It was quiet, but with the buzz of the vents echoing throughout the porcelain palace, it was the perfect place to get some ambient sound. So I walked in, checked my surroundings, then sat in the stall for one minute and recorded that peaceful buzzing.

Don’t worry; I washed my hands before I left.

Five Degrees of Tim

Tim O'Sullivan prepares to practice in 204 Loeb Hall. O'Sullivan is practicing pieces that require both an F and C tuba for University Wind Ensemble.

Music major Tim O’Sullivan prepares to practice in Loeb Hall, Columbia, Mo. on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Practice space can be tough to come by for music majors, but O’Sullivan found room 204 unoccupied while the University Philharmonic Orchestra practiced just feet away.

Tim O'Sullivan prepares his warm up materials in Loeb Hall, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. O'Sullivan has to practice both F and C tuba for an upcoming University Wind Ensemble concert.

Music major Tim O’Sullivan prepares his warm up materials in Loeb Hall, Columbia, Mo. on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. O’Sullivan has to practice both F and C tuba for a University Wind Ensemble concert on Monday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Missouri Theatre.

Tim O'Sullivan practices his solo in Loeb Hall, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. O'Sullivan will be performing at Missouri Theatre with the University Wind Ensemble, which will have the first of its two spring concerts on Monday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Music major Tim O’Sullivan practices his solo in Loeb Hall, Columbia, Mo. on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. O’Sullivan will be performing at the Missouri Theatre with the University Wind Ensemble, which will have the first of its two spring concerts on Monday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Tim O'Sullivan plays an etude at Loeb Hall in Columbia, Mo. on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. In addition to practicing two tubas for the University Wind Ensemble, O'Sullivan practiced piano at Mark Twain Residence Hall earlier in the day for class.

Music major Tim O’Sullivan plays an etude at Loeb Hall in Columbia, Mo. on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. In addition to practicing two tubas for the University Wind Ensemble, O’Sullivan practiced piano at Mark Twain Residence Hall earlier in the day for class.

Music major Tim O'Sullivan's fingers dance across the valves of his tuba in Loeb Hall, Columbia, Mo. on Feb. 17, 2015. In addition to his own tuba, O'Sullivan leases an additional F tuba from his instructor, Dr. Angelo Manzo.

Music major Tim O’Sullivan’s fingers dance across the valves of his tuba in Loeb Hall, Columbia, Mo. on Feb. 17, 2015. In addition to his own Bb tuba, O’Sullivan leases an F and C tuba from his instructor, Dr. Angelo Manzo.


Music major Tim O'Sullivan suppresses a sneeze in Loeb Hall, Columbia, Mo. on Feb. 17, 2015. It is cold outside, and according to O'Sullivan, "Everyone is getting sick; now they are getting me sick."

Music major Tim O’Sullivan suppresses a sneeze in Loeb Hall, Columbia, Mo. on Feb. 17, 2015. It is cold outside, and according to O’Sullivan, “Everyone is getting sick; now they are getting me sick.”

Everyone Shut Up; We Are Learning About Sound

“Alright, I gave you all a card with an instrument on it,” Professor Perreault told us Wednesday morning. I turned over my card and saw that I got trumpet. Not a great start to the day, but at least I didn’t get a woodwind.

“Ok,” Professor Perreault continued. “Now we are all going to play our instruments, but this is a silent symphony. We only have rests.”

The class was silent after that; we were all staring at our professor.

“I’m serious. Pick up your instruments and get ready. Now I must warn you, I’m not a great conductor.

We picked up our “instruments” and got ready to not play them. He counted us off, and the silent symphony started. Had our professor lost it?

“Ahh ahh– I see some of you playing. Don’t play. We only have rests.”

Yes it would appear he had.

After our reticent recital concluded, and the silent applause subsided, Professor Perreault revealed that, yes, there was a purpose behind this exercise. While we were counting our rests in the computer lab, we could hear the Macs humming and the birds outside chirping.

These and other sounds show up on recordings while out in the field. I never really paid much attention to these background sounds. I could hear the vending machine buzzing in the hallway, or the wind whistling through the trees on my way to class, but these never hindered my ability to communicate.

Now I am living in the world of journalism, and I am slowly learning that every sound hinders my ability to communicate. But that’s ok; at least now I am prepared to face these hums and buzzes. When in doubt, I will put down my equipment, pick up my imaginary trumpet, and listen for everything trying to make my job harder.

French/Off: Matisse vs. Manet

Henri Matisse was a French artist, and his painting The Joy of Life (1905-06) depicts a park of nude men and women frolicking and enjoying life.

Hmm, nature, nudity, and the French. That sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

Unlike Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass (1862-63), Matisse’s work was celebrated. He was even seen as a great contributor to the Fauvist art movement: art that focused on using strong colors more as how they are experienced emotionally than how they are represented in reality.

Although Luncheon and Joy both take place in nature, have characters (some nude) in Renaissancian poses, and problems with perspective, the paintings are really quite different.

Manet’s painting were done in the style of Realism. Although some of the technical elements may have been off, viewers can clearly identify the figures and setting in the painting as an accurate representation of what bearded men, naked women, and trees look like.

Matisse is painting when Fauvism is popular. Yeah the size of some of the characters in the painting doesn’t make sense, but does that really matter when the characters are bluish-green figures taking a nap on the yellow grass in the red shade of a tree?

Manet’s nude woman in Luncheon is scrunched up and doesn’t take up much space. Her clothes, fruit, and gin occupy about the same amount of room as she does. She stares directly at the viewer, contracting almost as if she were caught in the act of something dirty.

Matisse’s nude women are scattered throughout the setting with elongated, sensual poses.They are not aware of the audience. Or if they are, their euphoria outweighs their shame.

Manet was trying to capture everyday life. Fauvist works usually had more traditional subject matter. Although these characters seem to represent normal, everyday people, I don’t think 20th century France had blue and pink residents walking down its streets. Fauvism is almost a contradiction because it seeks to capture the ordinary not with amazing accuracy, but with extraordinary forms and colors. Because of the colors, this reminds me of some sort of paradise on earth. There are goats, and naked women, and ring around the rosie– that certainly sounds like my version of paradise.

But one of the most striking features of this painting is that it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. There are nude figures galore in this painting. There are even nude figures playing what appears to be the clarinet, and I am naturally distrustful of anyone who plays the clarinet. Yet, I am at ease while viewing this painting.

Manet’s Luncheon has one nude woman in it. One. She stares right at me, and I am very creeped out by it. I feel like I am simultaneously violating and being violated. She isn’t even playing a clarinet either.

By painting with vibrant, emotional colors and including relaxed, sensual characters, Matisse creates an environment where overt sexuality is normal. It’s not hidden; it’s not taboo. It is clear and present.

Luncheon on the Grass, or: Trolling in 19th Century France

Édouard Manet worked on his painting The Luncheon on the Grass from 1862-63. It depicts a nude woman sitting next to some toppled fruit and two bearded gentlemen while a large, possibly (but not probably) Amazonian woman bathes in the background.

I just viewed this painting on the Internet and really saw it up close for the first time. I have to say, it kind of made me feel weird. And this is coming from a guy that is not easily made to feel awkward. Just to be clear, it wasn’t like a my-body-is-changing-and-I-don’t-know-why weird.

Check out Representative Todd Akin’s advice column at

It made me feel like a violator. When I clicked view image after my Google search results came up, I locked eyes with the nude woman in the foreground. Wow that made me uncomfortable. I doubt I looked at it for more than two seconds, but it felt like two minutes. I actually had to close out of that image, go to a different result, and open that one instead.

I think that reaction is important. Many of the paintings inspired in Paris at this time drew from Renaissance art, which drew from classical Greek and Roman art. There were nude, female forms in those pieces, but they were depicting goddesses.

The woman in this painting isn’t so much nude as she is naked. She isn’t Venus sprawled out on the surface of an ocean; she is drunk and sticking her foot in-between a guy’s sprawled out legs.

But despite being intoxicated, she is still pretty aware of her surroundings because SHE IS STARING DIRECTLY AT THE VIEWER OF THE PAINTING WITH HER LARGE, UNFEELING EYES. Venus normally didn’t stare at you from paintings. And if she did, she is a goddess. It’s not like you feel dirty looking at her—she is a deity. That would be like looking at a unicorn. If you happened upon a unicorn in a wooded clearing, would you feel awkward if it stared at you? The reason this makes me (and probably others) feel uncomfortable is because the odds of walking into a risqué picnic in a park is much more likely than seeing a unicorn or the goddess of love.

Another factor contributing to the feeling of easiness is probably the sheer size of this painting. It is 8’8”x 6’10” –or roughly the size of a dorm room. That is massive (for a painting—not a room) and rather imposing. It’s hard to escape a woman’s gaze when it takes up an entire wall.

Speaking more to the size of the painting, I think it is very important that Manet decided to make it this large. In nineteenth century France, paintings of this size were normally reserved for historical pieces. These canvases were meant to house Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French, not Nick Bronson, baker of bread. Yet, in this painting, there are four very average looking people in a very common looking place. I’m not saying this clearing isn’t beautiful, but it is just a park.

In a period concerned with classicism and honoring history, Manet took a different approach. I think that he looked around and said, “Hey, we are living history right now. The stuff you guys are doing has been done over and over and over again. We need to pay attention to the here and now otherwise we will lose it.” It probably sounded snootier because he was French, but you get my point.

He did use his large canvas for a historic piece. He was documenting the middle-class French citizens. And on top of that, he did it in a way that mocked what other painters were doing around him. He gave his characters poses that were used in many Renaissance paintings, but he colored them in harsh, severely contrasting tones, the brush strokes in his background look quick and almost nonchalant, his characters are flat and pressed into the canvas, his perspective in the painting doesn’t seem to make logical sense…

Bottom line: Manet was a troll. And now we are learning about him because of it.