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You know, time goes by fast like rain

Wow, first entry! And it’s already October…

It’s only the first month of my junior year in college, but I am easily busier than I have been in my entire life. I do suppose that that is what I get for being in the choir, vocal lessons, an a cappella group, the main stage play, holding down a job for Admissions and preparing to go on my foreign exchange trip to London next semester all at the same time. Oh wait, and that whole CLASS thing… Sleep and a social life fit in there somewhere. For how much crazy there is in my life right now, I’m actually finding it strangely…fun.

Being halfway through college is really strange. All of your classes become exponentially more interesting…and difficult. For me, my four challenges this semester are Social Theory (pivotal class for Sociology and Anthropology majors), Directing (thesis prep for Performance Theatre majors), Anthropology of the Body (300 level seminar class) and Theatre and Society (Greek theatre galore). Amidst all of the stress, some of us sophomores and juniors begin to question what we are doing in our academic lives. Are we in the right place? Are we in the right major? Are we really doing what we want to do with our lives? And then, something happens that reassures you. This past week was that kind of week I had for both of my majors.

For Anthropology, my little epiphany happened in my Anthropology of the Body class. At the moment we are studying a little (and by little, I mean all encompassing) thing called phenomenology. The most basic definition of phenomenology I can give you is the study of the essence of things. Basically: everything. It is the categorization and structure of how we create our reality (kind of a big topic). In this particular class, we narrowed down this discipline to the phenomenology of the senses with an emphasis on our visual capacities. Over the course of the class discussion, we started to touch on visual literacy, or how we categorize what we see into things that help us navigate and understand our world. There are many kinds of visual literacy that humans must learn in order to live in society, especially now that we live in the information age; but one that American culture really takes for granted is “photographic literacy”. One of my favorite things about my classes at LC are when my professors decide to tell stories, and in this particular class, Professor Deborah Heath decided to tell us about a time she encountered a discrepancy over photographic literacy while doing field-work in Senegal. She was doing some studies on the uses of space in Senegalese culture, and as a result of her study, she had to take photos of places that her informants would recognize. Some of her informants for this study were the people she was living with and their friends. She took photos of their houses and various other locations that they interacted with on a day to day basis, places they would have recognized instantly. However, when she gave them the photographs to conduct interviews about the locations, none of them understood what they were looking at. None of them had decent photographic literacy, and therefore couldn’t read a photograph despite the fact that it was of a location that they saw every day. She then gave them photographs of THEMSELVES, and they still couldn’t read the photograph well enough to see their reflection staring right back at them. The photograph was showing them familiar things, but completely out of context. This isn’t even the craziest part. The daughter in Deborah’s host family was visiting from Dakar where she went to school, and scanned through the photos of her house and neighborhood as well. She responded saying “these pictures are so sad; they remind me of the slums in India.” At this point, my mind in class was completely blown. It turns out that the daughter had enough of a thing called “cinematic literacy” that she placed the images into the only visual category she had for them in her head: images from the context of movies and documentaries that she had seen. This got me thinking about myself and my own culture. Americans have incredible visual literacy because we are such a visual culture with computers and television and advertising, but how literate are our other senses? Which cultures have a better sense of hearing? A better sense of smell? Taste? Touch? And why? I LOVE ANTHROPOLOGY.

My Theatre epiphany happened in my Directing class. It is a very stressful thing to do, to direct. You need to be a good leader, have an incredible sense of creativity and you must be completely CONFIDENT in all of the choices that you make; all at the same time being true to the script, managing your actors and stage crew, picking over other people’s schedules for obscure rehearsal dates, prop hunting, and finally, making sure that it all comes together to make someone in the audience FEEL something. Oh yeah, did I also mention you have a time limit? It’s a very scary thing. Luckily, this class on the whole has been proving to be extremely helpful for me getting used to wearing the many different “hats” that the director must wear, often at the same time. This class has provided more of a gradual epiphany as opposed to a spontaneous one, but what I can tell you is that my confidence in regards to being in this daunting position has gone way up and I have been learning much more about acting, set design and script analysis than I had ever anticipated to. Thesis is slowly starting to look a lot less like the most stressful three months of my artistic life and a lot more like an opportunity to “play” around and make something beautiful.

Many things have been happening outside of class for me as well. I think that the first non-academic activity that I will introduce you guys to will be my a cappella group: Momo and the Coop. I joined this amazing group of singers my freshman year, and it would be an understatement to say that being with them has changed my life. They have been one of the many families I am a part of here at LC. For some strange reason, a cappella music is REALLY popular at LC. End of the year performances for all of the groups on campus end up looking mysteriously like rock concerts. This is a strange semester for us because about one third of the group is now new members. After a HUGE audition process, we have welcomed five awesome new singers and are looking forward to how they are leave their own musical impact on the group. Last week we had our first concert, A Cappella Out Loud with two of the other groups on campus: Section Line Drive and the Merriweathers. The songs that we ended up performing were Long Train Runnin’ by the Doobie Brothers, The District Sleeps Alone Tonight by The Postal Service, and Leafhouse by Animal Collective (That’s right. Animal Collective. A CAPPELLA.). We have a big feat in front of us with arranging and learning a bunch of new music, but I’m pretty sure that by the semester we are going to sound better than ever!

Momo and the Coop!

My goodness I’ve talked a lot. Well, off to a multitude of rehearsals and some library time!

Until next week,

-Jon

P.S. Musical present of the week.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwttyMcbRNM

7 October 2009