Month: September 2016

Mini-Essay Contest Winner

 

As you’ll know well if you follow this blog regularly, each time I teach Composition 1 I assign something called the Mini-Essay, and I have a contest in which the top three Mini-Essays are voted on and one winner from the class gets published here. Below find this semester’s winner, and his entry about this Mean World.

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Crime, Television and Insanity

by Forrest Wold-McGimsey

How many times per year does the average person see a dead body? A murder? How about a simple car crash? For most people, the answer is once or twice at most. But how many times have they seen these acts on screen?  The American television-watching community takes little notice of the extreme levels of violence and gore in the shows and movies they commonly fall asleep to mainly because they’ve conditioned themselves to shrug it off, knowing it isn’t real. However, shrugging off the acts they so carelessly watch does not mean that they forget about them and repeatedly watching them is having potentially serious effects on their psyches.

Shows such as NCIS, CSI, and Criminal Minds all release weekly episodes following a basic plot of first showing a gruesome and very plausible murder before having heroic detectives solve the case and bring the perpetrator to justice. Or, for Law and Order SVU, swap murder for rape. These shows all depict brutal murders and assaults while being watched weekly by millions of eyes, old and young. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is the second longest running scripted primetime television series, behind Lassie. The show has produced nineteen seasons of simulated brutality and exposed countless eyes to hundreds of individual rapes and assaults. These acts are not something a normal person would see on a day to day basis and there is a reason that those who do frequently see them tend to develop post-traumatic stress disorders. Because so many people watch these shows, there is a widespread desensitization to violence among the viewers as well as a heightened sense of false danger. George Gerbner, a communications researcher and founder of the Cultural Indicators Research Project, set out to monitor and study the tvforresteffects of television on its viewers and their subsequent views on the world. Gerbner, in his movie The Mean World Syndrome, sums from his work that “growing up from infancy with this unprecedented diet of [TV] violence has three consequences, which, in combination, I call the ‘mean world syndrome.’ What this means is that if you are growing up in a home where there is more than say three hours of television per day, for all practical purposes you live in a meaner world – and act accordingly – than your next-door neighbor who lives in the same world but watches less television. The programming reinforces the worst fears and apprehensions and paranoia of people” (Earp, 2010). In addition, a 2009 Gallup crime poll showed that Americans are overestimating the danger around them at higher and higher rates despite a nearly constant drop in crime rate. Gallup reported “74% of Americans saying there is more crime in the United States than there was a year ago, the highest measured since the early 1990s.” Gallup and many experts have hinted to the possibility of this rise stemming from an overdose of simulated violence on a regular basis. (Jones) An unprecedented amount of people are witnessing these perfectly played out portrayals of violence, rape and murder and not giving it another thought. However, whether the viewers realize it or not, these shows are affecting their perception of the world as well as shaping their personalities in less than positive ways.

It is recommended by health officials that television use should be kept to a maximum of two hours per day. Though most of Americans do not abide by that recommendation, there are plenty of better shows and movies to be spending those two hours (or five) a day watching that don’t include mind-warping scenes that people were never meant to be exposed to anyway and, in real life, would go out of their way to avoid. Exposing one’s self to violent and twisted television shows has a harmful effect on their psyche and can alter their view of the world for the worse. So instead turn off your screens, go outside and enjoy real life: the world is not as dangerous as our televisions are telling us it is.

Works Cited

Jones, Jeffrey M. “Americans Perceive Increased Crime in U.S.” Gallup. N.p., 14 Oct. 2009.          Web. 3 Sept. 2016.

The Mean World Syndrome. Dir. Jeremy Earp. 2010. Transcript.

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5 5ths of Labyrinth:reflection

The Boulder Fringe Fest posted the video of this summer’s 5 5ths production: Labyrinth. I appear in the 4th and 5th 5th of this crazy piece. Have fun, and remember how low quality filming a live show can be. And how costume malfunctions can make for comedy, if one is well trained enough not to lose one’s cool when things mess up…

Retrospective Review #10: The Abominable Bride

My latest (and last!!) retro-review of the BBC Sherlock series for Sherlock’s Home.
There is talk about me reviewing Elementary next. I’ll keep you posted…

Sherlocks Home

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Written by Prof. Jenn

As a reminder:  I am writing these as RETROSPECTIVE reviews, so I will be discussing reveals, revolutions of cliffhangers, ends of plots, etc. If you are reading these reviews without having seen the eps, a) what is wrong with you?? Go watch them now! and b) these reviews are not for you till you’ve seen them.

Er, hm. THAT was interesting…

And by interesting, I mean…I don’t even know. Postmodern? Meta? As meta as meta can be. Seriously. I’m a little exhausted.

Christmas special 2016, aka Episode 4.0, aka ‘The Abominable Bride’, opens much the same way as the Granada series. Actually, nearly exactly like the Granada series, right down to its theme music. We have some lovely Victorian snowy London and some delightful banter between our heroes and beloved Mrs. Hudson, putting us right back in comfy territory as far our characters go, even…

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Don’t Link. Don’t Even Link…

Hey, lovely lurkers–it’s been quite a while since I regaled you with a Link List, hasn’t it? Well, I am here to remedy that and mollify you. Please to enjoy:

Goths in Hot Weather. Just exactly like what it sounds.

Shakespeare Lives: Midsummer. This is bloody rockstar, yeah?

The Mighty Taylor vs. Cancer: A Very Important Thanksgaming Fundraiser, headed by Friend Ed.

5 Things Star Wars Fans Don’t Understand… Just read it.

More From the Adjuncts Get Treated Like Shit vault…

And finally, the Honest Video for Total Eclipse of the Heart, in lieu of an image. Yer Welcome.

Book review re-post: Chicks Dig Gaming

Another in the Reviews From The Nearly-Defunct Nerds in Babeland Site That I Wrote And Am Now Re-Posting Here series: Chicks Dig Gaming. I am inspired to re-post this one because Friend Ed is involved in a game-related fundraiser for an excellent cause right now. Visit me on Facebook to find out more and support him.

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Book Review: Chicks Dig Gaming

Review by Prof. Jenn

chicksdiggamingBooks of this nature can easily fall into the trap of redundancy. Witness my review for Queers Dig Timelords, another anthology of this ilk, and indeed in this series. Chicks Dig Gaming does not, however, fall prey to the trap. The collection of essays span from wicked satire to sweet nostalgic memoir, to a celebration of gaming in general or certain games, a recounting of a particular gaming event, to analysis of a game or game trope, a recounting of the history of video games, to the ever-important discussion of the unfair and even dangerous treatment of women in the gaming world. This collection doesn’t only cover video games, but board games, LARPing and pen-and-paper RPGs are discussed as well.

My problem with Queers…, as you recall, was that the essays all had the same tone and even the same subject matter (Doctor Who changed my life because…). This, especially read in big sections in one sitting, started to grate on the nerves, or at least became repetitive fawning. Chicks… doesn’t do this, as each essay has an author voice distinct from every other, and the topics at hand vary widely. I commend the editors for this, as it’s an entertaining as well as an informative read throughout.

Highlights of this collection include: a satirical look at the lack of boys in video gaming and what we can do about it, a parallelling of Mario to a bodhisattva and the Mario games to buddhism, how one author who didn’t like video games at all tried Portal, and a delightfully written description of how another author learned to get cutthroat in Eve Online.

Bottom Line: this collection is highly recommended for anyone who loves any games.

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A Moment of Nerdy History

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Remember when I appeared with a Quemment on the now-very-famous Nerdist Podcast? Before Nerdist was a behemoth media enterprise? When they did a live podcast at the Boulder Theatre? I came across this proof of same, thanks to Rod Tanaka. I presented the three gentlemen with written choreography for a staged fight scene, in case they ever needed to enact their friendly rivalry on TV. Chris Hardwick actually got the copy of my book I sent him, and remembered it! I remember being hammered, and terrified with nerves, and also look at how much more weight the old lady had on her bones back then! Hm…

NiB Review re-post: Sherlock Holmes & the Island of Dr. Moreau

More refurbished repostings of reviews that first appeared on soon-to-be-defunct site Nerds in Babeland.

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I’m a Sherlockian nerd of the first water–I’ve read the Doyle stories countless times, adore the Brett and the Cumberbatch versions of him, and love researching all about the culture surrounding the phenomenon. One thing Sherlockian I’ve never been able to abide, however, is Holmes stories written in that time and world, not written by Doyle (the BBC series is an exception, but it’s not Victorian, you see). I do this canon-snob thing with Star Wars too. Okay, maybe I enjoyed The Seven Per Cent Solution marginally. But I digress.

Guy Adams’ new Sherlock Holmes novel, The Army of Dr. Moreau, may be nearly an exception to this rule of mine. Nearly. 

I do enjoy literature that plays with remix, however, like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy, and Kim Newman’s vampire novels. Adams’ new book does a great job with this fun admixture of Holmes and Moreau (of course narrated by Watson as all good Holmes stories are), but by also adding in such illustrious Victorian fantastic fiction cast members as Professor Lindenbrook, Professor Challenger, Abner Perry, Edward Prendick, and Professor Cavor. This makes for some delightful literary Easter egg hunting, but doesn’t just throw these characters all in there just to hear the fangirls squee, like Star Wars Episode 1. No, these characters are all vital, and all make perfect sense in their roles as the mystery of the hybrid animals unravels. Oh come now, the title has Moreau in it, it’s not like that’s a spoiler.


Most of this book is just the right combination of mystery and action that Doyle would be proud of, and mostly in Watson’s (very authentic) voice. It’s a lot of fun to hear his meta complaints about how difficult it is working with editors, and that rabid fans are the worst editors of all. It’s also fun to hear more of Watson’s emotional reaction to Holmes being, well, Holmes–he gets rightfully angry and frustrated with him more than once, and more than societally correct Doyle would have written him. But it’s not so un-Doyle-ish that we nerds can’t read it and suspend our disbelief. It’s a thrilling mystery, and in fact quite an intricate plot. Until.

Until Part 6, the last section of this book, which is where the quality of it as a Holmes book falls way short. This section suddenly is told in even shorter bursts than the already short chapters, from every character’s POV. It’s apparent why we are not in Watson’s POV exclusively at that point in the story, but to jump from character to character is just too jarring, and doesn’t have anything in the way of consistency with the rest of the book. If we had stayed in Holmes’ POV during our non-Watson time, that would have been more in keeping with the tone and style of the rest of the book, but the POV jumps are too much. Also, the way in which the story concludes just seems too unrealistic, especially compared with the intricacy of the rest of the story. I don’t want to spoil the end for you, so I’ll just say that a certain character does something which I don’t buy, and it basically concludes the book. It’s too simple, over the top, and frankly feels rushed. It’s such a fun, great book until then! 

Bottom Line: Sherlock Holmes, the Army of Dr. Moreau is a fun addition to any Holmes fan’s library. I just wanted more from the ending.

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Re-Post Review: The Kingkiller Chronicles

As you’ve heard me tell you before, lovely lurkers, the website Nerds in Babeland, for which I used to frequently review stuff, is about to become defunct. So I am re-posting reviews that appeared there, here. This was one that was not solicited by them or by the publishers, but the inspiration to write this came from my astonishment at how incredibly good the second book was. Please to enjoy.

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Book(s) Review: The Kingkiller Chronicles

Review by: Jenn Zuko

Whew!

I just finished Wise Man’s Fear, the second book in Pat Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, bestselling novels that have exploded his fame and are, incidentally, my new favorite Fantasy novels EVAR. Yes, they have supplanted Lord of the Rings in the Faves folder in Prof. Jenn’s brain. So that happened.

What is most novel about these…novels (ahem) is the fact that they are mostly about storytelling and truth. This (besides Rothfuss’ insane talent and the absolute gripping, taut plot) is what makes one really want to know what happens next. The premise is: a scribe finds a legend, in hiding, masquerading as a humble bartender. The legendary Kvothe then proceeds to tell his biography to the scribe, which is so wonderful, as we get to not only hear the legends about him, but hear what *really* happened. And he is also from a family legendary for storytelling, which means good storytelling (and performance) is threaded throughout the whole tale. Don’t let my discussion about theme stop you from reading them, and don’t let the length of these books deter you. They are the most compelling story of any genre I’ve read in a long time (and am likely to, in all honesty). They are page-turners.

The world of the Kingkiller Chronicles is incredibly well-built. We are there in the world, immersed in it without questions, and without the least trace of an info dump. This is extremely hard to do, especially with such a sweeping epically-scaled story. I am so beyond impressed with this that I’m actually a little mad at Rothfuss. Just a little.

Bottom Line: Absolutely, definitely pick up both books in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Then savor them slowly. Because who knows when Day Three will appear. I’m already beginning to bite my knuckles in anticipation (between this and Sherlock, I don’t know what to do with myself).

 

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