One semester as a graduate student I took a Sound Design class. Our assignment one week involved adding sound to a short, silent animation. We were all given sound recording equipment and our task was two-fold: record sounds and then match these to visuals.
It was an enjoyable project and over the course of several days I happily stationed a microphone close to many different noises. Soft, shuffling sounds. Harder, banging, clicking sounds. Repetitive, mechanical sounds – whirs, buzzes, and beeps – and irregular, naturally occurring sounds, issuing from birds, water, and the wind. (Another subject for another day: our language is much better equipped to convey what we see, versus what we hear.)
In a couple of long computer sessions, I did my best to match these myriad audio clips to images. It was a tricky task and I couldn’t call upon any particular skills or experience to make it any easier. On the other hand, however, through trial and error it soon became rather intuitive. The animation – a sort of chase sequence involving fantastical, insect-like creatures – afforded us a lot of creative license. And, better still, I was in the safe, supportive space of a university; sound-proofed, if you will, from the many, harsher noises of the world beyond. Time was on my side, and there was nothing much at stake.
I finished up, more-or-less, in a couple of free hours before class. Adding different sound effects in layers, I did a decent job, I think, of replacing the previous week’s conspicuous silence with some persuasive snaps, crackles, and pops – hardly a symphony, but, nonetheless, an honest fuzzy racket.
One effect, especially, transformed the image I matched it to with an uncanny kind of correctness. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. If you try to be creatively successful, every now and then you will be. It feels right. The image: a bird-like creature in flight flapping its wings. My addition: the sound a stapler makes when you open it, repeated on a loop.
“Here, use this,” I said to a classmate shortly before the start of class. He was at an adjacent computer, we were talking, and the bird in his animation was still flying mutely. Why ever not? One little sound file, from one student to another. He added my little layer to his film and I didn’t give it a second thought.
Until, that is, I heard this same fellow classmate describing the small success of my sound effect to everyone else in class, with one essential detail missing: my part in the process.
It was about as brazen as lying ever gets. Our professor had asked us all if we were particularly pleased with any specific use of sound and without any further prompting my classmate described the sound a stapler makes when you open it – and, well, you already know the rest…
Why would anyone do such a thing? Twelve years later, I still wonder what could possibly be a satisfying answer.
Really, the injury to me was vanishingly slight. It was fleeting and inconsequential. But doesn’t that make it all the more inexplicable? What did my classmate hope to gain? Of course, I know people cheat and lie – but what does it say about a person when they do so for no reason? Straight-up, sincere, and altogether pointlessly.
So goddamn shabby.
I’m not a nihilist. I believe in our better angels and I lean, reflexively, toward hope and away from despair. And I also believe in the power of redemption, of second chances and fresh starts.
And yet, and yet, and yet. Some conclusions in life are easier to reach than others. Why refuse to accept overwhelming evidence when it’s overwhelmingly in front of you?
Donald J. Trump is a shitty person who does shitty things. Over and over again.
It doesn’t matter whether or not he sometimes makes salient and sensible observations. It doesn’t matter that he echoes effectively popular discontent. It doesn’t even matter that he is, or he isn’t, as successful as he claims to be.
Simply: why validate his awful personality? Why hoist up any higher something that so singularly fails to elevate the rest of us? Why paint America – and by extension the world – in such drab colors?
Haven’t we all met other ‘smaller’ Trumps in our own lives? The Alpha male bully, who never listens – only waits to speak. Who exhibits in countless ways an arrogant disregard for nuance and complexity. Who fuels his oversized ego with such a lot of bluster, and boasting, and conceit. Whose dreary, pig-headed worldview rarely, if ever, crawls beyond a zero sum, I win therefore you lose, mindset.
Just enough, already. A certain kind of man has been getting away with this bullshit forever. It’s so utterly tiresome. So goddamn shabby.
Let’s stop the cartwheels of reasoning that excuse Trump’s behavior. He has a long history of enriching himself at the expense of others. He has a proven track-record of abusing facts and truth for expedient, self-serving ends. And, perhaps worst of all, he stokes the flames of division and unrest, in a shameful bid to break the bonds of our affection.
Why should so august an office as the U.S. Presidency stoop to accommodate such a litany of tawdry behaviors? The answer, to borrow an appropriately American phrase, ought to be self-evident: it shouldn’t. Still less so when you consider how paper-thin are Trump’s plans, promises, and policies.
Oscar Wilde once was asked why America is such a violent country. He replied: “Because you have such ugly wallpaper.” The deeper truth of this apparently flip observation is a fierce warning to resist the overtures of Trump. We invite this man into our homes at our peril: his slate-grey ugliness stretches over us a larger shadow, which, unchecked, will fatefully obscure our better selves. Look around, it’s happening already.
Today’s post soundtracked by: