La Pedrera

Despite the wind and slight rain on the day of my weekend visit, Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece known as La Pedrera was no less astounding.

As explained by the tour guide, in the late 1800’s La Pedrera’s design was completely out of the ordinary—before Gaudí, buildings were functional but boring. However, with the blossoming of modernism in 1890, the beginning of the movement from the old city to the new city began. During this time, the bourgeoisie started to move to new and up-and-coming areas of Barcelona, but obviously refused to live in a mediocre type of apartment, as architecture is not only for fiction but also a form of class and status. Therefore, beginning when the scaffolding of the Violet House came down, the city started a contest to see what architects could create a building that could capture every persons interest.

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During the tour, I learned that color is life and is one of the most important features in Gaudí’s architecture. Here, it seems as if Gaudí contradicts his philosophy but the truth is that Gaudí wanted the tenants and the apartment owners to plant ivy and other climbing plants in their balconies so the façade would become living. Instead of imitating nature, this building would be the first to have incorporated actual plants. However, La Pedrera had bad luck, not only were the apartments never fully occupied, but Gaudí was involved in many disputes with the owners, resulting in his building to incompletely materialized (although many of the architectural elements are 100% Gaudí). It is clear that if Gaudí wanted La Pedrera to provoke one thought, it would be the importance of understanding the balance between symbolism and function.

Throughout the construction of La Pedrera, Gaudí solved one of the worst architectural problems to ever occur in Eixample. With wavy facades, he unifies the entire perimeter, allowing for a continuous and dynamic movement, with curved unions that allowed for distribution of space in apartments. This way, two courtyards could provide light from both sides.

In terms of the actual structure of La Pedrera, the structures terrace has three parts: the air vents, the chimney and six staircases that are separated in three pairs. However, only four of the six staircases are decorated for pragmatic reasons, as Gaudí took budget and saving money very seriously. He believed the other two staircases didn’t deserve to be decorated because they’re located inside the area of the terrace and can’t be seen from the street.

Though there are many rumors/legends surrounding the chimneys that Gaudí designed, the true origin of his inspiration were mushrooms. In Catalunya, there is a large tradition surrounding edible mushrooms. Every year around the month of September, there is a rush of people who travel to the forest and pick mushrooms. The mushrooms grow in groups and the shape and mythology of them are very close to that of Gaudí’s design.

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Not to mention, Gaudí observed that when smoke rises it doesn’t go up vertically, but instead spirals, and believed that constructing the chimneys in a spiral shape would match the smoke’s natural parable and help it disappear faster.

On top of the structures is the Catholic cross—originally, Gaudí envisioned a sculpture of Virgin Mary and two angels. However, during this time period there was a riot in Barcelona, so the building’s burro refused the idea of placing a religious symbol on his building because he was worried that this would cause La Pedrera to become a target. Unfortunately, Gaudí didn’t accept this refusal and stopped working on La Pedrera, suing the patron for unpaid fees.

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I enjoyed both touring the actual building and the story behind La Pedrera. It’s incredible that Gaudí ultimately founded the idea of restructuring space inside a living area according to individual needs, as well as incorporating massive iron staples to increase indoor insolation.

I appreciate Gaudí’s precise attention to detail and strive for perfection, as he equally paid attention to both aesthetic appeal and function. He most definitely applied these characteristics while building La Pedrera, as specific as studying the wind to determine which windows should be open and closed to increase airflow.

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Freakonomics Podcast

One of the most frequently listened to and most successful podcasts in the world, Freakonomics, all began when author and New York journalist Stephen Dubner traveled to Chicago to write a column about award-winning economist, Steven Levitt, for the New York Times Magazine. Through this undertaking, the two men developed an unexpected friendship, leading them to co-write a book, Freakonmoics, which covers a variety of bizarre topics ranging from “cheating teachers, bizarre baby names, self-dealing realtors, etc.”

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The men anticipated their book would only sell approximately 80 copies, however their prediction was incredibly low—Freakonomics spent more than two years on The New York Times Best Seller list, selling more than 5 million copies in 40 languages. Not to mention, this unforeseen success resulted in two more books (SuperFreakonomics and Think Like a Freak), a blog, a documentary and a radio show.

Freakonomics Radio is an award-winning weekly podcast, airing on public-radio stations all over the country and receiving an average of 7 million downloads each month. In fact, Dubner and Levitt have turned this show into a full-time job, as they co-host every episode together.

While on air, the two men discuss an assortment of topics concerning the puzzles and challenges of everyday life and the peculiarity of human nature—focusing their shows on themes such as cheating, crime, parenting, gender roles, food/diet, health, etc.

Freakonomics’s exceptionally high number of listeners is no surprise, as Dubner and Levitt cover subjects that are of interest to individuals of all sorts:

“Our listeners are, in a nutshell: rather male (77%); relatively young (45% are 25-35 years old, another 24% are 35-44); well-educated (38% have a graduate degree; another 43% have a bachelor’s degree); and — according to the survey data at least — pretty well-off (17% earn more than $150,000 and another 23% earn between $100,000 and $150,000; then there are the 14% who earn between $0 and $30,000, most of whom are likely students),” wrote Dubner.

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In fact, personally speaking, one of my most favorite recent Freakonomics podcasts called, “When Willpower Isn’t Enough,” discusses the idea of “temptation building.” This is a topic that listeners of all ages are likely to relate to, as almost everyone strives to make positive and healthy lifestyle decisions, but the idea is sometimes easier than accomplishing the actual goal. To help listeners gain a better understanding of this topic, Dubner features professor and researcher Katherine Milkman, who discusses a somewhat new field called behavioral economics. Essentially, this topic combines psychology and economics inhabited by people who blend economist view incentives with the psychologist interpretation. Milkman realized that after a long day of work, she should push herself to go to the gym, but always ended up coming home to relax and watch her favorite television show instead. In an attempt to solve this habit of procrastination, Milkman only allowed herself to watch her shows while at the gym. Thus, Milkman found an effective way to combine a temptation/guilty pleasure with something she knew she needed to do, but struggled doing.

A podcast on my weekend trip to London, England

 

Museu Picasso

Considering I have been living in Barcelona for almost four months and have only been to a handful of museums, this weekend I ventured to Museu Picasso and walked from room to room to understand the artist’s emotions depicted in each creative period in his life.

The first room in the museum consisted of paintings from Malaga, which is known as the earliest part of Picasso’s life. Here, portraits of his father and two of his earliest self-portraits are displayed. Each individual portrait represents the time period he was in and showed the ideas taken from primitivism. I most definitely find it understandable that Picasso felt overwhelmed by his father’s power, as memories of this control appears in his art decades later. I also thought it was interesting that this room contains a portrait of Picasso’s mother, who he was greatly attached to, as it is speculated that Picasso may have thought of her in an intimate way.

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The second room contained work from Picasso’s years in Barcelona. During this time, Picasso’s father received a position at a university and therefore, Picasso became a student here. At the academy, anatomy and color were learned, thus instilling realism in the artist. Picasso was a witness of a time period and helped document the city, painting streets and squares that no longer exist due to urban transformation.

In the third room, I was able to see Picasso’s depiction of his sister at her first communion, painted when he was just 15 years old. During my research regarding this painting, I learned that oil painting is one of the most difficulty techniques and requires expertise. Picasso’s accurate portrayal of his sister proves his great potential. Not to mention, at such a young age Picasso still manages to incorporate symbolism in his work, as for example, the natural flames on the candle represents the spirit of Picasso’s parents. This room also displays Picasso’s painting of a doctor and a sick patient, which helps to understand cubism and works through linear perspectives that gives it structure and illusion of space through lines converging on a horizon. This work assumes that the spectator is standing at a central position, as when you walk from one side of the painting to the other, the size of the bed changes. This painting shoes the lack of truth of an illusion, as cubism is two-dimensional and only works on the surface, bringing the truth of reality through appearance. In this room, I learned that the way we view realist is flawed because of our limitations. For example, the hand of the ill woman in the painting is imperfect, proving that Picasso still has room for improvement.

Not to mention, the third room contains Picasso’s paintings of el Retiro Park in Madrid. Instead of attending class, Picasso explored surrounding cities and museums. However, this freedom didn’t last long, as the artist was forced to return to Catalunya after receiving Scarlet Fever, where his interest in primitivism began. Picasso wanted to be in touch with nature, so he lived outside for several weeks until a store flooded the cave he was living in.

The fourth room brings us back to Barcelona during a dark, expressive period. At this time, Picasso was introduced to El Greco, who was a very peculiar artist, as despite living during the 16th century, his style was extremely different than the conventional classics. Picasso had an elevated style and was admired for his uniqueness, stressing the artist as an individual who id free to create a new, personal universe with a spirit projecting symbolism.

This room also touches on the blue period, which shows the evolution of elements such as freedom and individuality that we have also seen in the past. Now, the lack of perfection that was protracted in Picasso’s academic period is not present, since he is not asked to make perfection and instead concentrates on self-expression.

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In the fifth room, Picasso’s work reminded me of doodles, which allowed me to see Picasso’s personality, as the drawings are done unconsciously by setting his wrist free.

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Next, we entered the sixth room, which shows Picasso’s first trip to Paris. The artist’s pastel drawings elucidates to the Paris nightlife, with a portrait of a dwarf that combines aspects of impressionism and post impressionism—blending energetic brush strokes with a subject that elucidates to Belasco. This shows the tragedy and reality of a morphine addict who could likely be an amusement from a parade.

In the 7th room, I was surprised to see the pornographic drawings that are periodically changed by the museum. In this room, we learned that Picasso’s mother told his first wife that Picasso already had a true love, as he was married to painting.

After this, the museum moves on to paintings from the 50s, as Picasso donated a series of approximately 57 works of art. In terms of change, Picasso’s style did not evolve much after World War 2, acknowledging that we shouldn’t be afraid to accept that Picasso’s ascendance over young artists began to fade.

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Following this plateau, Picasso moved to Cannes, France and set his studio in the attic of his mansion. Here, he bred pigeons that brought back the memories of his father and the nourishment of his child, and in a way begins to transform into his own father. Picasso acquired a fear of death that he then adapted to his productions, as painting and working became a way for the artist to stay alive, as he believed that the moment you stop, you’ll die.

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Politics 2.0

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This week’s lesson focused on the idea of Politics 2.0, ultimately highlighting the idea that social networking and e-participation technologies will revolutionize our ability to follow, support, and influence political campaigns. This form of strategy was especially present in Obama’s 2008 campaign—Obama instantly acknowledged the fact that most people weren’t interested in politics itself, but rather how legislative decisions affect themselves and their life/occupation.

If one thing is evident in Politics 2.0, it is that the United States and Spain have very different ways of addressing voters:

  • Microtargeting in the U.S.— This advertising strategy uses consumer data and demographics to identify the interests of specific individuals/small groups of similar people to successfully influence their thoughts through their preferred communication channel.

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In both 2008 and 2012, Obama established a massive analytics group comprised of behavioral scientists, data technologists and mathematicians to interpret data such as voter history, demographics profiles, financial standing, and even what magazines people read in order to better understand and influence Obama’s target audience.

Not to mention, Obama’s use of microtargeting even allowed for an effective broadcast buying approach—although both Romney and Obama purchased spots on local broadcast stations, Obama added infomercials to networks such as TV Land, whose viewers were determined to be “less political,” and therefore more likely to be persuaded.

  • Election manifesto in Spain— In Spain, both those elected and working on a campaign are professionals from businesses specialized in politics. Thus, an election manifesto is a straightforward booklet that tells people exactly of its political party’s programs, opinions and policies.

In Spain, it is sometimes considered taboo to be patriotic, whereas in the United States it is common for ultimately every citizen to be patriotic and proud of your country, regardless of political party. Growing up, I have always associated nationalism with Fourth of July barbeques and wearing red, white and blue. In contrast, in Spain the idea of being patriotic is perceived in a much more political manner. For example, in Barcelona I have noticed that the only devotion citizens’ show is wearing national colors for an FC Barcelona match.

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Truth & Trust

This weekend, I came across an intriguing podcast titled, “The Blindness of Exuberance – Mike Daisey and the Apple Factory.” The podcast is based on a famous journalism case known as “Truthiness: This American Life and the Monologist” details the difficult decision TAL is faced with when discovering the subject of one of their most popular radio shows, Mike Daisey, fabricated approximately half of his “nonfiction” broadcast. This dilemma is especially problematic for TAL, as unlike most deceitful news that is published as true, TAL was completely unaware of Daisey’s lies. Although this inaccurate story has already been listened to by thousands of TAL’s loyal listeners, I believe this is an example of an ethically defensible error. Considering TAL “followed its usual procedures” in fact-checking and contacting a variety of industry sources, it is clear they deemed Daisey’s story to be accurate and truthful. However, the radio station should have further investigated Daisey’s main source, translator Anna “Cathy” Lee, after Daisey stated her phone numbers “just weren’t going through”. If TAL had taken similar steps as reporter Rob Schmitz, such as contacting China correspondents and googling “Cathy Shenzhen,” the crisis they are currently in could have been prevented.

Although it can be extremely challenging to determine the dependability of a source, if TAL abides to the NPR ethics handbook, which opposes letting “sources offer anonymous opinions of others” and advises avoiding “pseudonyms for sources whose names we [NPR] withhold,” their chances of experiencing mendacious sources would be less likely.

In all honesty, I believe the standards of truth should be equally abided in both journalism and other nonfiction genres. If one publishes their work as a nonfiction piece, whether it’s a monologue, article or radio broadcast, it should be completely factual—distinguishing the truth from a lie should be strictly black and white without any gray zones.

To regain audience trust, TAL must be straightforward and apologetic. In fact, I believe the uncovering of Mike Daisey is just as intriguing as the original broadcast. If Rob Schmitz agreed to an interview, TAL could dedicate an entire episode discussing Schmitz’s trip to China and the importance of source accuracy.

Path to Journalism

Ever since I was little, storytelling has been the essence of my imagination. To this day, my mom still laughs at the memory of me begging her to recite Cinderella over and over again until I memorized the entire book before even knowing how to read. The simple act of writing words on a page can affect individuals in all sorts of ways—it can provoke emotion, resurface memories, and inspire creativity. Through the writings of others, I have been fortunate enough to encounter all of these reactions at various points in my life. In the future, I hope my words will both captivate and inform people in the same ways that I have experienced.

Two summers ago, I traveled to the Middle East for the first time. In fact, I have never been anywhere so culturally dissimilar from my home in San Francisco, California. Even though I live in one of the most diverse cities in the United States, everyone respects one another equally. Whether you’re straight, gay, black, white, wealthy, or poor, uniqueness is embraced and accepted. However, after flying sixteen hours across the world, I received an entirely new perspective regarding the ways that people of contradicting ideals treat one another.

During my travel, I gained the once in a lifetime opportunity of touring a village that also doubles as a bomb shelter, located near the border of two conflicting countries. Never before have I seen groups of individuals so prominently separated. As I gazed off in the distance to find the tall, chain link fence containing large coils of barbed wire at the top, I realized the separation of these opposing worlds is much more than a physical barrier, as the history behind these divided states dates back hundreds of thousands of years ago. Although weaponry and technology has advanced, the common argument of land ownership remains constant.

As I stood on the sandy, arid ground, I realized the surface beneath me has come to be defined by those who inhabit it. Acceptance and appreciation of diversity is crucial to be able to embrace the countless varieties of races, ethnicities, and cultures that surround us. At that moment, it became apparent that providing honest news to Americans, not to mention citizens all around the world, would be my primary goal in striving to inform and better future generations.

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As strange as it may sound, a newsworthy story and a renown fairytale share a common theme, in that they are both made possible by protagonists who act contrary to expectation; who would have ever thought Cinderella would have the guts to oppose the projected life of being a maid for her abusive stepmother, and instead, attend a royal ball where she meets her prince charming? Whether it is an enchanted myth or an article in a newspaper, a story is worthy if it draws the reader’s attention. People are the essence of storytelling—nothing would be communicated if there was not a daring individual to create a momentous headline and an eager watchdog to relay the occasion. Although I may never partake in actions that will allow me to star on the front cover of The New York Times, I hope one day I will be fortunate enough to write about a daring individual of that sort.

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Marta Alonso

During Wednesday’s class we had the pleasure of hearing from Marta Alonso, former head of digital in Edelman, Spain and current founder and director of CircleLine.

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During the presentation, Alonso explained that although she enjoyed the working as Edelman’s Senior Account Manager and learning the ins and outs of the digital world, she wanted to further her creativity to generate desirability among brands that seek a modern day management title amongst today’s clients/users.

Thus, in 2010 she created CircleLine, a digital storytelling agency that builds creative narratives and marketing tactics for all sorts of brands in order to build a long lasting relationship between the company and the buyer. To do this, Alonso explains that every worthwhile campaign must be delivered through all relevant social media platforms that combine interactive content on social networks with brands.

During the initial launch of the corporation, Marta developed offices in Barcelona, ​​Madrid and Andorra dedicated to the externalization of Community Management and development of software for social media with clients such as Doctors Without Borders, Spanair and Fira de Barcelona. Soon after the success of the initial publicity, Alonso continued to expand her clientel by creating the first community in the world of what is now the global network of Instagramers, which is basically an online FAQ for new users that consists of 400 international groups in 3 years. Since, Alonso has acquired clients of all sorts, including FC Barcelona, ​​Vueling, Damm Group, Sonar Music Festival, PayPal, Rockabox, Sagrada Familia, Catalan Tourist Board and the Generalitat de Catalunya. Not to mention, she has also worked as a journalist for RTVE and media as guest professor at La Salle, TecnoCampus (UPF), University of Barcelona and University of New Haven (Barcelona).

After further researching Alonso, I was extremely impressed when reading about one of her most well-known campaigns with Vueling, an airline I’ve happen to fly on quite frequenty during my time studying abroad. Ultimately, Marta took an idea that Vueling originally created, and used her creativity and marketing experience to generate a visual production capable of impacting our society. The final product is truly a work of art and was not possible without Marta’s input and assistance.

Marta’s background and accomplishments are both unique and inspiring, as there are not many people who are able to take something they have a passion for, in Marta’s case, Instagram, and turn it into an effective, successful, and most importantly, enjoyable, career.

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