essays

Mini-Essay Winner

At long last, here’s the Fall 2017 Mini-Essay winner. Good job, Aaron, and thanks to all my Comp I and II students over at FRCC for a stellar Fall semester.


Going Green

by Aaron Lange

Last week, I was at a dead stop in grid lock traffic with no hope of making it to work on time. As I gazed to the side of the road, I spotted a young man on a bicycle. He was powering along the bike path that parallels the highway. I noticed he had quite an impressive physique, and then there was the smile on his face. It seemed as though he was passing all of the cars on the highway with ease. It turns out that there are many personal benefits to biking to work; some of the most impactful being increased health, saving money, and sheer happiness.

I have been a runner for many years, and my body constantly reminds me so. The benefits of running have always outweighed the pain and soreness of pushing my body’s limits. However, cycling produces much of the same fat demolishing benefits as jogging, but with significantly less adverse effects on the knees. Simultaneously, it also helps develop strength in the body’s muscular system, which includes the heart. (“10 Reasons”).

Financially, it is quite the endeavor for Americans to run and maintain even the simplest of automobiles. Gas, oil changes, insurance, and the occasional repair costs on average $9,000 per year. That is a lot of money to spend in order to have a vehicle for getting to work in a reliable and timely fashion (“10 Reasons”). The worst part is that most people don’t even enjoy driving to work.

I can’t remember the last time I drove down the highway without someone cutting me off. The rush of adrenaline that pulses through the body in such instances is a form of the fight or flight response. It is not a healthy occurrence to encounter on a daily basis. Fortunately, the occasional bike commute has shown to be quite therapeutic. The exercise, and wind through the hair, when done consistently can greatly decrease amounts stress, symptoms of depression, and reduce anxiety. Just getting your heart rate up in combination with the outdoors “has been proven to boost self-confidence and improve overall mood” as well (“10 Reasons”).

It sounds too good to be true. Enjoying endless health, emotional, and fiscal benefits just by substituting a simple mode of transportation. While those extra 20 minutes of sleep and a warm car on chilly mornings are a hard thing to leave in the past, the long lasting benefits of getting over those creature comforts are immensely more advantageous. I am sure that there are many other comfort zones that will have to be explored, but I can guarantee that even the occasional bike ride into the office will be sure to liven up the work day.

—————

Work Cited

“The Top 10 Reasons Everyone Should Bike to Work.” Momentum Mag, 1 Mar. 2017, momentummag.com/top-10-reasons-you-should-bike-to-work/.

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Musings Upon a New (ish) Semester

Well fuck. 

I use invective, lovely lurkers, with conscience and reason. Why I just used one of the words that would make my movie Rated R in America is that I just saw that the last post on this blog was posted in, like, mid-August. Seriously, what the fuck? Why do you tolerate this kind of behavior from me, huh? Are you all so busy reading Parallel Bars that you can’t be bothered? Can’t say I blame you, truth be told…

So I’m jogging in the reins of Week 4 at both Metro and Front Range, Week 2 of Regis, and the verrrry beginning of Week 1 at DU. And lemme tell ya about the cool shit that’s happening at all those fine institutions (okay, I’m going with this invective thing):

At Metro: I’m teaching that online Staging Cultures course I’ve told you about before. It’s a really good reading list, lovely lurkers. Let me know if you want it. I’m also doing a MW (that’s Monday & Wednesday, kids) Intro to Theatre, which is a delightful gen ed course I haven’t done in a while. Man are those First Year Success students bright eyed and enthusiastically bushy tailed! They’re just about to embark on their historical presentation projects AND their Raisin in the Sun unit, so wow how much good material can we stomach at 11am? A lot, apparently. Youthful energy, I’m tellin ya…

Beginning Stage Combat over at Metro is Friday mornings as is usual, but as is not usual, it’s SO FULL YOU GUYS! There’s, like, 24 or something people in it, and they’re all lovely young talented energetic insane theatre majors and I am having so much fun and getting so old…. They’re just about to start choreographing their Unarmed fights, and I could not be more excited!

At Regis: I have two lovely and talented grad students doing a one on one Writing the Novel course w me; and one other lovely and talented grad student doing my own self-constructed YA Literature course (one on one, natch. It’s nearly always one on one at Regis). It’s going to be some stellar writing, which will only make me wish I had more time to work on my own work….

At Front Range: it’s two evening courses: a Comp I and a Comp II. The former is revising their Mini-Essays as we speak (Er, as I type), and you know what that means! That’s right: the Mini-Essay Contest winner post is imminent! Let’s hope it’s not the next one, as I need to be more frequent than that here….

Comp II as is usual these days for me, functions under a theme of Creativity and Innovation. They just finished their (quite high quality) Elevator Pitches, and now have just been introduced to the Analyzing An Image essay, which is where they pick an ad or psa and analyze it in essay format. Should be some good reading.

And finally,

At DU: Children’s Literature started today! As my ancient, steam-powered laptop decided to become a doorstop recently, it was quite the challenge to get that course shell updated and ready to go for a fresh crop of Professional Writing graduate students. But I am nothing if not diligent. And, yes, I have a lot of work to do still, but hey at least it’s up and functioning, and thanks to the SO, I have a brand spanking new refurbished box I can now use to get everything even more ship-shape. Thanks to that generous soul…

Oh but that’s not all! I also continue to have professional endeavors:

Bronze Fox Burlesque is doing their next show at License no.1 under the loose theme of Clue (the movie) and murder mysteries in general. I am mulling over choreography for a duet and a new solo right now…

Metro is doing The Country Wife in a couple weeks, a ribald comedy of no manners at all, and I am consulting the period movement as well as choreographing and directing a raucous chick fight with fans. And maybe fisticuffs.

I’m still writing for Parallel Bars and Your Boulder, editing the SO’s spectacular new book, and I’m just now starting to think I could remount my Retro Reviews of Sherlock, over on Sherlock’s Home, now the 4th season is far enough away…..

So.

Megan shows my Intro students the ropes. Literally.

Hm.

I guess there’s a reason it’s taken me so long to post here. Yeah, well. NO FUCKING EXCUSES, AMIRITE?

Ahem. Carry on….

Mini-Essay Contest Winner #2

And here’s the 6pm FRCC Comp class Mini-Essay winner, Kristin. Good job, all!


Kristin Zachman

Stunt Actors vs. CGI

Computer-Generated Imagery is a tool commonly used in today’s filmmaking, appearing in a variety of movies across genres. The ongoing application of this technology opens the door to a new debate: Is CGI a better product than traditional stunt acting? With the help of CGI, worlds within the Star Wars universe have become increasingly amazing, but there are still some issues with the animation. These new techniques, however, are a major contributor to ever-increasing movie budgets, driving the average production cost to around $100 million. Since the birth of the technology, it hasn’t stopped advancing. Because of constant improvements, movies that rely heavily on CGI seem to age quicker than those that do not. In spite of the steady and impressive progress, real landscapes, sets, models, and stunts usually prove to be more awesome.

When Lucas filmed The Phantom Menace, he used a completely computerized army of drones, as opposed to actors in physical costumes. This decision provided the opportunity to create sweeping shots of the gigantic drone army, but the CG disappointed audiences in theaters almost as much as it does today. Unfortunately for animators, when incorporating these large digitized roles, the “Uncanny Valley” effect comes into play. This is the theory that “when something looks and moves almost, but not exactly, like humans do, it causes viewers to be repulsed” (Maison). In Rogue One, the reaction to the team’s reconstruction of the late Peter Cushing is a perfect example of the uncanny valley. Despite being much more convincing than the drone army from Episode I, or R2D2 setting fire to some droids in Revenge of the Sith, the graphics are still off. In addition to the generally unsettling quality of some CG characters, we may be losing some traditional visual effects. In Return of the Jedi, for example, Jabba the Hutt is a puppet, requiring an entire team to control his every move, and resulting in an interesting representation through the puppet’s movement and application.

Some may argue that looking back at the original Star Wars trilogy, the stunts seem comical and worn, claiming the films don’t hold up over time. Adversely, there seems to be a phenomenon of rapid aging in films that rely heavily on graphics, and it happens in a much shorter span of time. In 2004, Lucas put out a DVD remaster of A New Hope, where the original Jabba the Hutt puppet was replaced with a digital version. Watching the two side by side, the original looks quite dated, but is much more watchable than the digital remaster. The computerized Jabba moves too fluidly, almost weightlessly across the floor, as if there is no resistance or gravity. In the prequels, Lucas used a significant amount of computer-generated imagery, trailblazing the application of fully digital actors. Since they were some of the first, they unfortunately have issues aging. Despite many classic film’s stunts and special effects having trouble maturing, many stay relevant through nostalgia, cult followings, and simply by being great films.

Finally, the implementation of computerized backgrounds, characters, and other effects in the Star Wars franchise has caused the budgets to skyrocket. Considering the average inflation rate is about 3.55% per year in the U.S., the $11 million budget for A New Hope in 1977 would be equal to about $44.4 million dollars today. This budget included stunt doubles for each of the main roles, the production and execution of puppets, models, and costumes, as well as all other special effects. The most recent installation of the franchise, Rogue One, included two CGI characters, Governor Tarkin, and a young Princess Leia in the final shot. To make this possible the studio was still obliged to staff stunt actors for green screen work. These were difinitive factors in driving Rogue One’s budget to a staggering $265 million. Though movies have much larger profits than in the past, it can still be agreed upon that computer-generated images are a key player in the increase of costs to produce and see movies.

At the end of the day, I’d watch almost anything over the third-rate graphics of A Phantom Menace, which despite being some of the pioneering uses of CGI, are disappointing. Even the new applications of CGI lead to an uneasy feeling in the audience. It is also obvious that the technology will only continue to advance, soon rendering the impressive graphics of today obsolete. So instead of spending billions trying to create amazing worlds and stunts, let’s acknowledge the magnificent abilities of stunt actors, and the beautiful and amazing reality of the world around us.

——————

Works Cited

Maison, Jordan. “Why People Can’t Enjoy the VFX in the Star Wars Prequels.” Cinelinx. Cinelinx Media, 14 July, 2014. http://www.cinelinx.com/movie-stuff/item/6025-why-people-can-t-enjoy-the-vfx-in-the-star-wars-prequels.html. 9 June, 2017.

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Mini-Essay Contest Winner #1

As you’ll know if you’ve been following me for a while, lovely lurkers, each time I teach Comp I (which is often), I host a Mini-Essay contest, with the students’ first assignments. The students vote on the top essays in the class and the winner gets posted here. Below is Ian’s winning essay, from the 10:30am class at FRCC. Congrats!


Ian A. McGregor
How Technology Has Become A Detriment To Education

As if there weren’t already numerous environmental factors such as puberty and general rebelliousness affecting the already shortening attention spans of our youth, now it seems that at least 78% of our youth age 12 to 17 own a cell phone (Adams). Not only are these incredibly resourceful handheld google machines contributing to their lack of face to face social interaction, but they are also becoming a detriment to their health and ability to learn. In this essay I plan on discussing the pros and cons of technology as an educational resource.

Cell phones are an obvious distraction in the classroom in many facets such as actual texting during lectures, anticipation of an “important text from that cute girl in 3rd period,” and simply
exploring social media. There are a few less commonly known, more sinister factors that contribute to the growing decay of students attention spans. One study showed loss of total sleep could be as much as 46 minutes nightly due to use of cell phones after sleep onset (Adams). 46 minutes may sound insignificant, but this adds up to 16,790 minutes of sleep lost annually, or in other words 279 hours, or 11.66 whole days of sleep lost. According to the CDC, “the average adolescent requires 8.5–9.25 hours of sleep per night…” (Adams). Interestingly enough, the average complete sleep cycle for adolescents and adults is about 90-120 minutes (Scammell). If 46 minutes are lost nightly due to cell phones, this cause them to wake up mid sleep cycle, as opposed to naturally waking up when their last sleep cycle has completed. This has been shown to cause the individual to feel groggy, and out of focus throughout the day, especially when it is a recurring occurrence. This can have a significant impact on the attention span of any human, but especially in children. Sleep is extremely important for many reasons, such as the storage of information in long term memory, ability to focus in class, and their hormonal development. Children who sleep less tend to be more irritable, less attentive, and less likely to contribute in the classroom.

Another study showed that the sound of a cell phone chiming could trigger a response similar to that of a mother awakening to the sound of her child crying in the middle of the night, describing it as “hyper-vigilant”(Adams). I personally experienced this while I was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, where I was expected to answer my cell phone at a moment’s notice, while being expected to be ready to deploy at a moments notice, literally. If I did not answer the call during specific drills I could have been subject to losing my job, and pay and I can assure you, this affected my sleep quality significantly. This affected my ability to concentrate on simple tasks such as driving, socializing, and most importantly my memory. On multiple occasions I can recall driving home after being awake for twenty four to forty eight hours, and barely making it home safely simply because I could not focus on driving.

Though cell phones, or technology in general could have the potential to detract from modern education, it appears they may also have their place in aiding educators, but only when strict rules are enforced, and discipline is intrinsic. The ability to have unlimited access to information via a device that fits in your pocket should need no explanation as to its significance. While arguing with a professor in class a student could access supporting evidence in seconds. Some may argue that this can detract from education because the student becomes reliant on the technology as opposed to their memory, however I can see it as a valuable resource.

Technology in the form of virtual reality could some day cut costs in many fields of study, but especially medical fields. Imagine being able to access a fully digital, 3 dimensional cadaver as medical student who aspires to be a surgeon. This could prove to be an invaluable study tool, and I can certainly foresee its eventual use. By simply taking notes via a laptop or cell phone in class, students can also reduce the amount of paper wasted significantly, which would obviously have a positive impact on our environment as well as their bank accounts.

Cell phones are quickly becoming a detriment to students’ health, education, and overall social skills. With sound discipline not only in the classroom, but in the home as well, one of my generation’s greatest liabilities could become a tool to further our ability to educate, and reduce our impact on the environment. There are many benefits to using technology as an educational resource, but are they worth the costs?

——-

Works Cited
Adams, Sue; Daly, Jennifer; Williford, Desireé.

“Adolescent Sleep and Cellular Phone Use: Recent
Trends and Implications for Research.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Sage
Publishing, October 3rd 2013, 4
th,6th and 7th par.,
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4089837/. Accessed 18 June 2017.

Scammell. Thomas. “Natural Patterns of Sleep”. Healthy Sleep at Harvard Medicine. Division of
Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, December 18th, 2007, 9th par.,
healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/what/sleep-patterns-rem-nrem. Accessed 18 June
2017.

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Beast as Cyborg Notes

I have been meaning to write this article for you all, lovely lurkers, for a long time, and I haven’t gotten the wherewithal to get beyond a detailed outline. So it hit me today: why fight it? I hereby post the detailed outline of my article about villains and beasts in recent story as cyborg–in other words, why is it that the cyborg is scary today, whereas the scary monster back in the day was a beast?

This idea was inspired by musings about Marina Warner’s excellent academic work, From the Beast to the Blonde, further filled in by looking at old class lectures and materials from my DU course: Villains, Monsters and Foes, and today finally posted as I just watched Blade Runner again (a cut I hadn’t seen), and so the idea of the android “skin job” is still rather on the brain. 

I am hereby inviting you all, lovely lurkers, to add meat to this skeleton in the comments of this post. Any of these mere mentions/notes/premises that spur a thought or a tangent, please do share. Maybe together we can finally get the article written. Oh, and all page #s you see haphazardly cited here are from Warner’s book.


SCARY MONSTERS ARE ROBOTS NOW. THEY USED TO BE BEASTLY. WHY?

Outline by Jenn Zuko

  • Borg (hive mind)
  • Replicant (can’t tell who’s who)
  • I, Robot (existentialism / danger of AI) Also Terminator for both
    • [does Frankenstein’s monster fit here?]

All of the above are potentially uncontrollable.

  • Why so scary?
    • Humanoid but Not Human (uncanny valley)
    • Unstoppable (Tripods)
    • Replaces reality (how to battle?)
  • From the Beast to the Blonde –Marina Warner
    • Latin “monstrare” = to show (p.299)
      • [notes from DU Villains course: *to unveil the monster is to vanquish it*] How to unveil when it’s impossible to tell? (Voigt-Kampf test infallible?)

Replicants aren’t shown: they hide in plain sight (like Dr. Who’s plastic Autons). More difficult to unveil than a beast, as it’s hard to tell who’s the monster, who the human

    • Being Devoured = sexuality
      • “Bestiality, cannibalism, & eroticism are bound up together” (p.302)
    • Ferociousness of being a beast not so scary in this day of us overpowering and overtaking anything truly wild.
      • “Tapping the power of the animal no longer seems charged with danger, let alone evil, but rather a necessary part of healing. Art of different media widely accepts the fall of man, from master and namer of animals to a mere hopeful candidate for inclusion as one of their number.” (p.307)

      • Nostalgia for the wild: nostalgia = regret (also Noble Savage)

        RoyBatty

        …like tears in the rain…

  • The cyborg is leaving the wild at best, eradicating it at worst. Many cyborg monsters live in a world where there is no wild left. That’s terrifying.
    • The Devil:
      • Medieval image: devil has horns, goat legs, fur, tail, etc. Angels are “bloodless, fleshless” in “gleaming armor”
      • Now it’s the other way around
  • Eroticism old school:
    • Used to be: beast as male virility (beauty & the beast; satyrs; centaurs, etc.)
  • Eroticism new school (w the cyborg):
    • Why is the Borg Queen sexy? (or is she? She’s also slimy)
    • Replicants: beautiful female replicant or clone (Leeloo?)(Pris: made for sex but also deadly)
    • “Mudd’s Women” (is Data sexy? [Old Yellow Eyes])
      • Does this have to do with the female as attractive only bc of her body?
  • Scene in American Gods: man gets devoured by goddess (swallowed up literally by her sex); is the allure of the female android connected to the terror of being devoured? [Warner: in old stories, being devoured = sex]

(is eroticism a tangent, or immediately related to what it is to be human?) (another related-to-eroticism tangent in here about the living dead: why are vampires sexy? inhuman that used to be human but now dead; Walking Dead characters having trouble seeing that the zombies aren’t the person anymore. But this is another paper, methinks. Something related to the inhuman as scary here, though…)

  • CONCLUSION: Loss of humanity = terror
    • Animals = subhuman
    • Robots = non-human (or inhuman)

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