Monday, November 26, 2007

Olsonian-style Mythos Research Project

See pithy remarks for my personal comments.

I admit, this project seemed rather daunting at first. There were many topics being thrown around in Henry Ferrini’s Polis Is This. However, the commuter rail station with the scrolling marquee reading something along the lines of “You're your own train. You're your own track. You can go anywhere”, caught my eye at once. I was fond of the use of the small, almost hidden quotes of Olson sprinkled in the different scenes of Gloucester. Since I am also a casual MBTA enthusiast, I decided to pursue this topic. And when I heard about the opportunity to express ourselves creatively – by making a video – I banded together with Simon and Quan from period 6 in order to create our Olsonian-style personal mythos.

The process of researching and gathering information is much easier nowadays with the power of the Internet. We visited the official MBTA website to learn the backgrounds of the subway and commuter rails. For a more unbiased perspective, we looked through Wikipedia articles and the sties that the articles linked to. Search engines, although common tools for Internet research, were not used too frequently, as we initially wanted to find more reputable sources of information. To complete our research, we paid a visit to the Malden Center station, serving both the orange line subway and commuter rail. There, we were able to get brochures with schedules and maps of the trains and buses that go through the station. If this was a more elaborate project and if we had more time, we would have done more research at the library, possibly looking for old newspaper articles on the T and the commuter rail. Sometimes, even with the vast, seemingly limitless end to information on the Internet, actual site visits and library archives may provide valuable knowledge not found on the web.

We learned a lot from our research. For instance, I did not previously know that the commuter rail extended into Rhode Island. The commuter rail system was contracted by the MBTA from the New Haven Railroad network, and began operating under the Commuter Rail Directorate in 1974. There are over 11 lines servicing 125 stations, with extensions being planned. All lines terminate at either North Station or South Station in Boston. The commuter rail prices differ greatly from the generally fixed prices of the subway lines; depending on what zone the person is riding to, prices range from $1.70 to $7.75. The actual service is provided by diesel locomotives with a purple coloring, hence the commonly referred nickname, the “purple line”. The passenger coaches are usually single level for the routes terminating at North Station, while double decker passenger cars are typical for trains beginning at South Station. The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR) now serves over 140,000 passengers each work day on 465 trains that travel throughout central to eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Creating our creative piece was certainly a tiring, yet fun experience. We chose to do a video/movie, since I had been making some sort of video for all of my English classes since Freshmen year. It is also a great way to tell a story, combining audio and visual experiences with subtle symbols or motifs. We developed a story about a person trying to find his way in life and tied in references to the commuter rail. The short movie begins with thematic music and a sunrise, representing a new day and new discoveries to be found. I voice Olson’s train quote as the title, “Endless Stops”, signifying the ceaseless amount of stops in life and a person’s decision to proceed to the next one or remain still, appears. Quan is then depicted as an astray young man spending his time on wasteful tasks. Since we particularly liked how little quotes were cleverly displayed throughout Polis Is This, Quan’s computer monitor has a commuter rail train on it when he turns it on. Also, Quan’s older brother admonishes him for being “stationary” and mocks him with the comment “…next stop: Loserville”. Later, when Quan goes to the commuter rail station, he mentions how it will “cost [him] seven dollars” for the ride. We weren’t quite sure about additional surcharges, so we kept the high price of seven, approximately representative of a ride to a terminating station. In accordance with our “find your path” theme, Simon appeared as a contrasting figure to Quan, and recited some facts about the commuter rail in an accent reminiscent of Forrest Gump. His voice and remark made about the 1994 movie don’t really have any meaning to the story; we just thought it was funny. After suggesting that Quan find his “track”, Simon disappears in a rather cliché way, hinting at his omnipresence akin to a god. Filming at the station took place from about 6 to 7 PM on a cold Sunday, so we missed the three hour interval that the train stops at Malden Center. Nonetheless, we included views of the track and a glimpse of the orange line subway on the newspaper that Quan pulls out of his face. In the end, Quan finds his “track” after meeting Simon, and he’ll hopefully live a more meaningful life. To match the opening somewhat, the background of the credits is the nighttime skyline of Boston and a glance of the moon as zoomed in from the station.

Overall, we felt we were successful with the research and project. Even though there’s more people, working in a group can prove challenging. However, Quan, Simon, and I pulled through and evenly distributed our work and collaborated effectively, culminating in our Olsonian-style personal mythos, Endless Stops.


1 comment:

Kevin Ta 5 said...

This was a fun and amusing project to create. And this essay, which explains our process and what we learned, was a nice reflection piece to write.