Spotlight (2015)

In the past, I’ve written a short little post for each movie that I watch. The purpose of this is twofold: one, to make use of the things I’m studying in school and develop my ability to think about and talk about movies, but secondly (and more importantly, perhaps), to have a record of the films I’ve seen. That way I’ll have no shortage of material to discuss when I’m ever at a cocktail party and need to sound smart. Anyway, maybe I’ll get back into writing these, or maybe I’ll just do a few, then lose steam and forget to do it for a while again… neat.

Spotlight || Tom McCarthy || 2016


Spotlight follows the Boston Globe’s investigative journalism team as it uncovers and reports upon the Catholic Church’s allegations of child abuse and the ensuing coverup. While this subject matter (child sexual abuse)is inherently controversial as a hot-button issue, this film truly shines in its portrayal of what I would call the “human side” of traditional journalism. The individual reporters struggle with the difficult topic that they are diving into, and often have difficulty separating their personal lives from their work. In an age where traditional print journalism is rapidly deteriorating, Spotlight serves as a reminder of the important public service that it provides, and the people responsible for making it happen. There was nothing groundbreaking about the film’s cinematography, sound design, or other production aspects; however, its writing and characterization provide an appropriate level of dramatization that present a true story in an entertaining and compelling way.

Apple EarPods

School is a thing, so I guess that’s why it’s been a while. Busy being a student or something… (whatever that’s about)

Anyway, I’ll probably post some of the shit I’ve been working on. Mainly so that years from now I can look back on all the things I thought I was being edgy and thoughtful on back in my naïve college years.

The following was written for my Honors College colloquia course about US Consumer Culture. The assignment was to choose an everyday object, study it closely, describe it in detail, and discuss its relation to consumer culture.


Image from

I have chosen to examine an object that most of us are acutely familiar with, yet likely pay little attention to whatsoever. It would be a safe bet that most people carry this with them everywhere they go, and often without thinking of it—the item is shoved into a pocket or backpack, where its carried until needed. This simple item that I am considering is the pair of headphones that goes with us nearly everywhere that we go.

Specifically, I am looking at my set of white Apple brand wired headphones that were included in the box when I bought my iPhone. Technically, the official product name is Apple EarPods® but they are frequently referred to as simply “headphones.” Their actual design is very simple and contains few separate components. The headphones are a small cable that is wrapped in a small rubber coating. There is a standard 3.5mm jack on one end, and the other end is split to two separate earpieces. These plastic earpieces are advertised as being designed to fit every ear shape, though there is only one standardized design for the headphones. There is also a small control piece along one earpiece’s wire, which contains control buttons and a microphone. The entire product is a uniform white color. The design of a set of headphones is something that most of us know already and are acutely aware of. Therefore, it is initially strange to write out the specific design features, and pay close attention to minute details. However, for someone unfamiliar with the idea of headphones, these things would not be as intuitive.

For someone who these headphones are a foreign thing, even explaining their purpose might prove to be a difficult task. In a general sense, their function is to transmit an audio signal from some source and play it back directly into a listener’s ears. Because the 3.5mm jack is an industry standard, these headphones can be used with a wide variety of devices, such as computers, MP3 players, cassette players, and more in order to listen to different forms of media. However, the real purpose of this item is a little more specific than that—not only does it provide a person with the ability to listen to radio, TV shows, music, and more, but it also makes it so that only one person is able to listen to those things. The purpose of headphones is one of exclusion, and preventing others from hearing and listening to the same things as someone else. Only one person per device is allowed to take part in the media experience.

Culturally, this has many implications. One possible takeaway from this pair of headphones is the incredible degree of sameness that they represent. Everything about the product is incredibly standardized. From the length of the wire, to the shade of white used—everything about my pair of EarPods will be exactly the same as someone else’s pair. This is a product that can be found globally, and every individual set of headphones will be exactly the same. According to critical theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, this sense of sameness is a product of modern-day mass media. Industries mass produce the same products over and over again, leading to the creation of a hegemony, or normalized culture that is accepted as a status quo. Specifically, society has come to accept that individuals listen to their own music, and do so using headphones. In that sense, this product is indicative of a hegemony that we live in and have grown to accept. It has become so ordinary to us, that we no longer question it; in fact, it is such an ingrained part of society that we become uncomfortable when anything challenges the hegemony and threatens to destabilize what we have accepted as the norm. The recent outrage over Apple’s iPhone 7, which contained no headphone jack, and release of new EarPods that use a proprietary Lightning connector instead is just one example of the uneasiness and anxiety that arises from a destabilized hegemony. In this manner, even though the product itself is quite simple—a set of headphones—it can still carry great cultural significance.

Magness Patch

Due to issues with the original design, Magness ended up not receiving any patches at all this summer. This meant that none of the participants received a patch after coming to camp, which is certainly a bit of a bummer. After the season was over, I was tasked with designing a new patch for them to be handed out after the fact. This is what I came up with.


Magness Patch Design 2 Magness Patch Design


Bonus – a brief timelapse video of my process:


Download the PDF file .

I finally got around to making a prettier version of my resumé. Not 100% if this is the final design I want to go with, but it’s certainly better than a plain and boring couple of paragraphs typed up in Word.


IT from Ben Pettis on Vimeo.

Chase Sequence for J206 Gateway to Media.

Music: "Prelude" by Bernard Hermann from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960)

Jenna Gillespie
Nate Hansen
Ben Pettis
Tyler Robinson

Pokémon Sun and Moon

There are no brakes on the HYPE TRAIN!


The Pokémon Company’s Ad ad PR team has been absolutely killing recently. Just enough catering to childhood and nostalgia in order to create even more excitement. Damn I cannot wait for what this year has in store.

Apple v. FBI

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 9.42.49 AMRecently, the CEO of Apple posted a statement on the Apple website regarding the company’s stance on a government request to help access the iPhone used by the San Bernardino attackers. A judge has ordered Apple to create a new version of iOS for the FBI to use in order to brute force the passcode lock on the device. Currently, a brute force attempt to guess the password would require a person to manually enter every possible passcode combination. This already time-consuming process would be made even longer by the software’s time delay that is imposed after a number of incorrect passcode attempts. Apple has been asked to create new software for the device which would bypass this software delay, as well as allow passcodes to be input electronically by a computer.

“We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.” – Tim Cook, CEO

While the government maintains that this is a necessary step in the prosecution of terrorists and for the benefit of national security, Apple argues that this action represents a clear overstep of the boundaries of privacy and provides too much power to the government to access any and all information that it would like. Privacy, encryption, and government have been hot topics in the nation recently, and I am incredibly glad to see a large industry leader such as Apple taking a strong stance as they have here.

This request represents an attempt by  the US government to compel companies to deliberately circumvent privacy measures and make devices less secure for everyone who uses them. This case could set a dangerous precedent that allows the government to compel any tech company to break and weaken encryption in order to access any data that is deemed “necessary.” Furthermore, even if the specialized software to bypass the iOS passcode security measures is only meant to be used in this case, there is no way to guarantee that it won’t leak, and be used elsewhere. In today’s media-centric and smartphone-reliant society, having this type of “master key” available to anyone is too dangerous of an option. If it can be used by the “good guys” then you can be sure that the “bad guys” will be using it too.

With any luck, Apple will refuse to comply and appeal the order. I can easily see this case working its way up to the Supreme Court – and regardless of the outcome, it will most certainly be a high profile case, with an outcome

The US Government claims that encryption can hurt national security by limiting what information they have access to. They use this to argue that tech companies should work with the government to provide access and circumvent security if needed. But what they don’t consider is that weakening encryption isn’t just swinging a punch at the bad guys, it’s also sucker punching ourselves at the same time. Weakening encryption via backdoors like these hurts everyone.