Mini 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.

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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.

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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?

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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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Mini-Essay Contest Winner

As you’ll know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, lovely lurkers, each time I teach Comp 1. This semester’s winner is Bennett Fresh, discussing CGI vs. practical effects. Good job, everyone, and congrats to Mr. Fresh!


 

Real Fake Action

by Bennett Fresh

The art of special effects in film has a long and storied past, almost as long as the history of film itself. For more than a century, film has been the greatest storyteller available to the masses. From early nickelodeons to the blockbuster films of today, special effects have been used to suspend disbelief and transport audiences to new worlds. Practical effects, until very recently, have dominated the world of cinema. As computing power has become cheaper and more readily available, computer generated images have steadily risen in prominence. Many, including myself, have asked the question of whether or not CGI has been a detriment to film.  It is my belief that while CGI can be a powerful tool to help tell a story, it should be used sparingly.

George Méliès, the father of special effects, invented many of the techniques still used in film today. It was his work that laid the foundation for the effects that would captivate audiences and confound the laws of physics for more than a century. Considering the age of these early films, the effects have aged remarkably well. As time has progressed and the techniques pioneered by Méliès have become more refined, the films that make use of such effects continue to astound and amaze the audiences of today. Early computer generated imagery, on the other hand, does not possess the same luster it might have once had. Few examples from the early days of CGI are capable of producing the impact they intend and often produce little more than confused laughs from those accustomed to the more refined CGI of the modern era.

When producing a film, a filmmaker must consider all costs associated with telling their story. If the use of special effects is required, they must weigh each option carefully. CGI has an appreciable cost-to-benefit ratio when used for short sequences. As the length of a CGI sequence increases, the cost rises as the effectiveness drops. Take, for example, the less-is-more approach of Terminator 2. For those unfamiliar, the sequel to the original 1984 Terminator film introduces a polymorphic robotic foil to Arnie’s rigid, also robotic, protagonist. The scenes in which the phase changing takes place are short and dramatic. There is not much time to scrutinize the level of detail present, which lends greater power to the sequences that make use of CG. Even over two decades since its release, the liquid metal robot in T2 is still as convincing as it was in 1991. Contrast this with films that blow their entire budgets on CGI sequences that were glaringly awful even upon release, a great example being The Matrix Reloaded. The entire climax of the film revolves around a ten minute brawl between one hundred Agent Smiths that appear to be made out of silly putty and an occasionally solid Keanu Reeves. Here, even the end result does not justify the massive budget, as the action and gravity that the scene could have had is drowned in a sea of lumpy polygons that vaguely resemble Hugo Weaver in a black suit.

This is not so say that practical effects do not suffer from similar woes. The complexity of certain sequences can make practical effects prohibitively expensive, if not outright impossible. Although, unlike the big budget computer generated action sequences, absurdly expensive real fake action almost always pays off. As an example, let us look again at James Cameron’s Terminator 2. The specific scene to which I refer is the breathtaking helicopter pursuit, easily one of the most complex and dangerous stunt sequences ever filmed. The scene looks and feels real and will indeed have you “‘gespannt wie ein Flitzebogen,’ that is, on the edge of your seat,” (Anderson 1.6.10-11) because it is real. The action was all filmed in situ by James Cameron himself, as the stunt pilot scraped skids of the helicopter on the tarmac at seventy miles an hour over an artificially illuminated stretch of the Long Beach Terminal Island freeway. The lunatics who choreographed and participated in that chase produced one of the most convincing action sequences ever filmed.

Computer generated imagery is a relatively new tool for directors and filmmakers to express their stories on the screen. It has a great deal of potential and power if utilized correctly, just like any form of special effects. There are many examples of excellent films that benefited from using CGI, but there are many more examples where that is not the case. Practical effects, properly implemented, lend weight and believability to any scene in which they are used, with generally fewer catastrophic failures. Computer generated images would best be viewed as a spice that can enhance a film when used properly, or ruin a film when abused.

The Rock as the Scorpion King, looking like an awkward diorama from a history museum. ~Jenn

The Rock as the Scorpion King, looking like an awkward diorama from a history museum. ~Jenn

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Works Cited

Anderson, Wes. The Grand Budapest Hotel. Final Revision. 2013. Google. 3 Feb. 2017. https://d97a3ad6c1b09e180027-5c35be6f174b10f62347680d094e609a.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/film_scripts/FSP3825_TGBH_SCRIPT_BOOK_C6.pdf.

Stamm, Emily. “The Most Insanely Complex Stunts from Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.” i09, 31 Jan. 2014, https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-most-insanely-complex-stunts-from-science-fiction-a-1513419585. Accessed 31 Jan. 2017.

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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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Mini-Essay Contest Winner #2: Chris

Here’s the second and last of the Mini-Essay contest winners from this semester, this one by Chris S. from the 2:30 pm ENG 121 class, on video games and violence. Please to enjoy, and good job all FRCC Comp writers!   ~Jenn

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by Christopher Snyder

On December 14th, 2012 a 20-year-old man shot 20 children and 6 adults at an elementary school before committing suicide himself.  It was a horrific and heart breaking event carried out by a deranged person, the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.  The original report pegged Ryan Lanza as the shooter.  Ryan had “liked” the video game Mass Effect on his Facebook page, and the laser space shooter was immediately blamed for warping the man’s mind.  The official webpage for Mass Effect was flooded with accusations calling the creators, “murderers” and “baby-killers”.  US Senator Joe Manchin talked to the media, stating that these violent games should be banned before they do anymore damage “see what it promotes, shouldn’t that be looked into and maybe be banned?” (Matulef).

The shooter turned out to be Ryan’s younger brother, an avid fan of StarCraft and Dance Dance Revolution.  Evidence of Dance Dance Revolution’s violent gameplay is shown here.DanceDanceScreen1

Blaming video games for violent acts isn’t new, in 2013 Obama funded a 10 million-dollar witch-hunt to attempt to find a connection between video games and American violent crimes (Matulef).  The research findings are promising.  Not only do video games not increase violent tendencies, the rise in video game sales coincides with a more peaceful America and has even been proven to have viable cognitive benefits to young gamers.  So why are video games okay?

The myth has been successfully debunked, a study by psychologist Christopher Ferguson has proven that there is absolutely zero link between “violent media and behavior and also questioned the methodology of previous studies suggesting the two were related” (Independent).  A long-term study from 1996-2011 showed that the amount of violence in video games has increased dramatically, while at the same time the rates of violence among younger people have gone down.  “Youth violence dropped precipitously despite maintaining very high levels of media violence in society with the introduction of videogames” (Ferguson).  Initial studies and statements linking video games to violence have been questioned due to incorrect testing measures.  Aggression in initial testing was measured based on how many non-painful noise-bursts a player would want to inflict on another, more noise-bursts was marked as a higher amount of aggression.  These studies are controversial due to the fact that they have very little relation to how aggression or increased violence would carry over into the real world.

As it turns out, increases in video game sales actually coincide closely with large declines in youth violence.  From 1995 to 2010 video game sales have risen dramatically.  During the same time period, violent youth crimes dropped to nearly a quarter of their incidence rate over the same time period.

If violence and increased aggression are really a problem created by video games, why are there more games and less violence?  Studies have shown that the opposite can be true and that video games can actually do a lot of good for people.

Researchers are currently conducting studies to determine the theoretical positives of gaming.  Psychologists argue that games “are beneficial to social and cognitive development and psychological well-being” (Wikipedia).  Experiments with different types of games show the benefits that they can deliver.  We’ve all seen the Wii remote.  Bringing full range of motion into video games has shown that it can help children develop full range of motion.  Action games create greater hand-eye coordination.  Violent video games have been proven to reduce stress by providing an outlet for anger.  One study showed that almost 50% of young male children actively use violent games to lower their stress levels.  Other benefits noted by psychologists include education in the form of reading and learning facts, increases in entrepreneurial and problem solving skills, some games can actually be used for physical rehabilitation.  By creating a consequence-free environment in which a person can explore while fully engaging their brain and body, we can help kids with special needs to become more active members of society.

The witch hunt on video games is a huge waste of money.  The blame game and finger pointing is a knee-jerk reaction, and has cost this country valuable time and resources that could’ve been spent on solutions to poverty or increasing energy demands.  It’s been proven time and again that there isn’t a negative link between video games and violent crimes.  It’s painfully obvious that video games can actually help our youth to grow and develop.  If we keep throwing money and the right people at it, I’m sure we can find many things to vilify in modern gaming, but why not spend those resources on tracking and developing the positives that video games bring to the table?

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References:

Ferguson, Christopher J. Journal of Communication. 1st ed. Vol. 65. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcom.12129/full

“Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting.” Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://www.citationmachine.net/bibliographies/67460940?new=true

Vincent, James. “Long-term US Study Finds No Links between Violent Video Games and Youth Violence.” Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/gaming/long-term-us-study-finds-no-links-between-violent-video-games-and-youth-violence-9851613.html

Jeffrey, Matulef. “Obama spends $10 million to research link between video games and violence.” Eurogamer.net. Retrieved from http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-01-16-obama-spends-USD10-million-to-research-link-between-video-games-and-violence

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Mini-Essay Contest Winner #1: Ashley

If you’ll recall, lovely lurkers, I normally assign a Mini-Essay when teaching Freshman Comp, and also host a Mini-Essay contest, wherein the winning essay (voted on by classroom peers) gets published to this blog. Here is one of two winners this semester, Ashley V. from the 9:30 am ENG 121 class at Front Range. Enjoy.

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YouTube Killed the Television Star

by Ashley Vigil

When it comes to entertainment it all started with the radio. Slowly we advanced to the television, which ended up replacing the radio. Following the television, the computer was created and with it the Internet. Entertainment has been developing along with social changes and other technology over the years. Today, most of our generation finds entertainment from the online video sharing website, YouTube. There are a number of reasons why YouTube is more popular than television. YouTube is convenient, big television stars have caught on to the new trend, and it’s relatable.

We live in a society where it’s become common for us to have immediate gratification. There are so many fast food chains that allow us to get food within seconds, there’s online banking, and following that trend, we have YouTube.  A popular YouTube channel, Fine Brothers Entertainment, touch base on the topic of television being replaced by YouTube. They do this by asking different YouTubers to react to Jimmy Fallon clips online. One YouTuber they spoke to, iHasCupquake, made a good point by saying: “[the] good thing about YouTube is that you can watch it whenever you want,” (Fine Brothers Entertainment). Unlike television, any YouTube clip can be watched at any moment in the day, whenever it is convenient for an individual. There is no need to worry about when a show is on because YouTube is there whenever we have the time to spare. Another part of YouTube’s convenience is that it is free. There is no price to pay for YouTube, making it accessible by anyone with Internet access, unlike its counterparts Netflix and Hulu.YouTube killed the tv star

Most recently, big television stars, like Jimmy Fallon or Ellen DeGeneres, have started to upload certain clips from their show to the Internet. The clips are more often short highlights from an episode recently aired on television. YouTuber Jenna Marbles made a compelling point that “If [we are] going to watch the best clip online, [we are] not really going to tune in and watch the whole thing,”(Fine Brothers Entertainment). Not many people know when television shows actually air anymore, and this also relates back to the convenience of YouTube, where we don’t need to know the time a show airs to enjoy an episode.

Unlike television which was created for the common person, the best part about YouTube is that there is entertainment for everyone. There are so many different channels for people to watch and relate to and this makes the entertainment on YouTube more tailored to everyone individually. If someone is interested in video games, fashion, or daily vlogs, there are YouTube channels for them. YouTuber Tyler Oakly put it best: “Shows the power of the Internet,” (Fine Brothers Entertainment). YouTube has a plethora of different entertainment options so there is always something for everyone.

YouTube is the next step in entertainment. We are currently living in an age where the Internet means everything, with almost every person owning a laptop, home computer or even a mini computer in our own pockets. YouTube has become more accessible and relatable, therefore our first choice when it comes to entertainment.

 

Work Cited

Fine Brothers Entertainment. “YouTubers React to Jimmy Fallon (The Tonight Show)” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 13 March 2015. Web. 31 January 2016.

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Mini-Essay Guest Post #3: Susan Teabault

This, being the third of 3 Mini-Essay winners from FRCC’s Comp I courses that I teach. A fascinating book review / personal memoir by Susan Teabeault of the 9:30am section. I hope you enjoyed these works by my dynamic and engaging students. More from them to come later when they create their video grammar lessons. Stay tuned!   ~Jenn

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Probed Mind On A Mission

 by Susan Teabeault

I have a neurosurgeon. I’ve also been diagnosed with a brain tumor – a meningioma to be more specific. These are two things I have in common with Liz Holzemer, the author of Curveball: When Life Throws You A Brain Tumor. Curveball follows Holzemer’s journey from misdiagnosis to shocking diagnosis and beyond. It is an honest and informative personal account of what it’s like to have a craniotomy and the subsequent recovery process. The lasting impression after reading this book is one of survival, hope and a need for further action. Liz Holzemer has made it her mission to bring attention to and raise funding for meningiomas through her Denver based non-profit, Meningioma Mommas. Because of their benign classification there is scant funding and attention given to this type of tumor. Holzemer argues in Curveball that a “benign” meningioma brain tumor is frequently a life threatening condition and more needs to be done to support those affected and to raise awareness and funds for this cause.

“If you were going to have a brain tumor…. a meningioma is the best kind to have” (Holzemer Ch 1). Wait, what? If the “best” kind of tumor can take you to the verge of slipping into a coma and dying this spells trouble. It’s a sentence that gave me chills. According to Merriam-Webster, benign can be defined as “not causing death or serious injury; without cancer, not cancerous; not causing harm or damage” (“Benign”). As focus tends to be directed primarily to malignant tumors of the brain, the medical community largely ignores the seriousness of a meningioma diagnosis. Curveball opens with Liz Holzemer, then only 32 years old, facing a meningioma diagnosis yet receiving reassurance from her neurosurgeon that she has the “best kind of tumor” (Holzemer Ch 1). Meningiomas are the most common type of primary brain tumor, originating in the brain rather than being a metastasis from somewhere else in the body. 90% of meningiomas are classified as benign. They also have a 15% to 20% recurrence rate so survivors must receive lifelong monitoring for regrowth (“About Us”). In her work, Holzemer painfully depicts her experience with her deadly benign tumor and provides a crucial examination of the impact and dangers that result from the medical community’s mistaken labeling of meningioma brain tumors.

51LmSnl9chL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_After enduring two craniotomies, Holzemer writes of her experience at a Brain Tumor Conference. At a luncheon, she is directed to the benign table as if her tumor was not worthy of validation by giving it a name, unlike the sufferers of astrocytomas and oligodendrogiomas. The emotion of the moment is palpable as Holzemer described how she feels less important, “I felt snubbed because it seemed I didn’t have the right type of tumor” (Holzemer Ch 12). The pattern of being overlooked is addressed throughout the book and ultimately motivates Holzemer to take action. “It was akin to being the most popular kid at school yet being the wallflower at the school dance – neglected and passed over. We needed a dance of our own” (Holzemer Ch 13).

Curveball effectively draws attention to the gravity of a meningioma diagnosis. Some could dispute that it does not to address the seriousness of other types of brain tumors, nor does it draw a comparison. Arguably, Beau Biden and Brittany Maynard (and their families) would have traded their malignant tumors for a benign variety and the hope that it could be found and treated before it became fatal. Hope! With the diagnosis of benign comes an infusion of hope. This fact is not to be diminished. Not cancerous will always be better than the alternative.

Curveball should be prescribed reading for anybody affected by a meningioma, both patients and those caring for them. It should also be a reference for members of the medical community that have to say the four words that nobody ever wants to hear, “you have a brain tumor.” Liz Holzemer was lucky to survive her brain tumor, go on to conceive two healthy children and give birth to the idea for her non-profit, her “brain child.” The book serves as a jumping off point to dive deeper into the message behind Meningioma Mommas.  It is a message that has kept me going since my own devastating diagnosis and surgery. It is a message of support, survival and hope. Hope that meningiomas will not continue to be dismissed. Hope that people will no longer die from this type of tumor. And hope for a cure.

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Works Cited

Holzemer, Liz. Curveball: When Life Throws You A Brain Tumor.

Denver, Colo: Ghost Road Press, 2007. Kindle file.

“Benign.” Merriam-Webster, 2011. Merriam-Webster.com.

  Web. 06 Sept. 2015.

“About Us.” Meningioma Mommas. Meningioma Mommas, n.d.

 Web. 06 Sept. 2015.

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Mini-Essay Guest Post #2: Clayton Peppler

This, being the second of 3 Mini-Essay winners from FRCC’s Comp I courses that I teach. Another essay on technology in education, this time by 1pm’s Clayton Peppler. Please to enjoy.   ~Jenn

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Too Much Technology?

by Clayton Peppler

American society puts an emphasis on the use of technology in everyday life, making it inevitable for children to be subject to the technology around them. Even though children are going to be exposed to technology in most environments, I do not think that school should be one of those places. Not only does technology pose a danger to a child’s education, but recently technology has been linked to the underdevelopment of social skills in children.

The Internet is a dangerous place for the curious mind of a child. With social media and online resources so easily accessible, education is at serious risk. According to a study done by Cengage Learning, “59% [of students were] busy checking out their favorite social-media sites” (Strang) instead of participating and engaging in classroom activity. If the child’s mind is being occupied by social media, how is that child going to retain what the teacher is teaching?

Most children are not going to have the self restraint to avoid scrolling through their Facebook or Twitter feed when the opportunity arises. This is not the fault of the child as they are too immature to fully realize the negative repercussions that looking at social media can have on their grades and future endeavors. Now, there are different ways to counteract the use of social media, such as internet safeguards and teacher monitoring, but these are only so effective. The Internet safeguards are able to block websites but often have loopholes that allow access to these pages. If teachers have to monitor these computers day in and day out, there is not going to be any time to teach as they are going to spend all their time monitoring.  The same study found that “60% [of the students] claimed that texting is a major cause for distraction” (Strang). No longer is text messaging limited to cell phones but has expanded to Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, all easily accessible from the Internet. Texting allows students to communicate no matter where they are or what they are doing. For example, one student could be taking an online test while another student is taking that same test across the room, but the entire time they could be messaging back and forth sharing answers and discussing problems. This does not allow the teacher to know what student one or two is understanding individually, rather she is getting what student one and two are understanding collectively. In order for the teacher to do her job, she needs to know what each student knows individually that way she can help them with their individual needs.

06a69719d007f1ebd1b2b5e183fb8694According to a different study done by the Pew Internet Project, they found something they deemed as the “’Wikipedia problem,’ in which students have grown so accustomed to getting quick answers with a few keystrokes that they are more likely to give up when an easy answer eludes them. The Pew research found that 76 percent of teachers believed students had been conditioned by the Internet to find quick answers” (Richtel). Students are no longer thinking for themselves, as Wikipedia has everything that they need. While Wikipedia is a very effective tool, it can often be misused. Students are going to be tempted to type in a question and get an answer because that requires no brain power, they can get an answer in five seconds instead of the five minutes it would take them to figure it out for themselves. They are not going through the process to finding the answer, which means that they are not learning anything. Wikipedia may give them the answers, but it will not give them the experience and explanation to understand what they are answering. Education is being substituted for key strokes and quick answers.

While technology poses a danger to a child’s education, it also has irreversible effects on that child’s social development. According to pediatric nurse Denise Daniels, “technology can completely rewrite a child’s brain pathways in a very different way than how they would normally develop… their neural pathways change and different ones are created. It affects concentration, self-esteem, in many cases they don’t have as deeply personal relationships… they lose empathy” (Johnson). Through extended screen time, children are not getting the social interactions that they need to survive. As the children grow up, they are going to struggle with the relationships that they have in their lives because they don’t know how to react or behave to other people. These children are not going to have any real hope for change either, as their neural pathways are literally altered beyond repair. Psychologist Jim Taylor also found that “voice inflection, body language, facial expression and the pheromones (released during face-to-face interaction): are all fundamental to establishing human relationships. And they’re all missing with most forms of modern technology” (Johnson). Society is trying to replace human emotion with emoticons. Behind the keyboard, one is able to be whatever emotion they want to be, one can send a happy emoji when in reality they are not happy. When one receives a text message or email, they are unable to pick up on the things that Taylor mentioned above, making it extremely difficult to pick up on these things in real face to face conversation; like a shift in body language or what a change in inflection is.  If you put computers into the classroom, student to student interaction is going to become more and more limited, even non-existent, making it hard for children to pick up on important social ques. As the children move into their adolescent years, again, they are going to struggle with their relationships. By learning to express their emotions with a smiley face or a sad face, that child may not be able to verbally or physically express their feelings. This could also result in these children not knowing how to comfort someone properly when they are experiencing emotion. For example, we all see those posts on Facebook saying R.I.P grandma, and people commenting back “I’m so sorry for your loss”. This is very easy to respond to with a couple key strokes, but not so easy to respond to when they are with that person who lost their grandma. Comforting people in their time of need is essential to healthy friendships and relationships, something that can only be learned through experience, something that these children are not getting from a computer.

In the third quarter of 2011, “Teens ages 13-17 used an average of 320 MB of data per month on their phones, increasing 256% over the last year” (Johnson). The Internet is becoming more and more accessible to teenagers, and teenagers are taking advantage of it. This study was done in 2011, and was only looking at one year’s time, so this number could be way more now that we are in 2015, four years after 2011. As the MB of data used increases, the face to face time decreases. This is something that schools cannot control, they cannot control cell phone use and technology use outside of the classroom, but they can control it inside the classroom. Instead of promoting technology, schools should be promoting face to face social interactions.

In the classroom, others would argue for the opposite, that technology is not only positive to a child but essential. According to securegenenetworks.com, “technology helps the teachers prepare students for the real world environment. As our nation becomes increasingly more technology-dependent, it becomes even more necessary that to be successful citizens, students must learn to be tech-savvy” (10 Reasons Today’s Students Need Technology). As technology advances, jobs geared towards technology are going to be created. Our future generations need to be up to date with the ever advancing technology, that way they can be ready to fulfill future jobs. It is important that our children are prepared for the future, but at what cost? Is our society willing to potentially hinder a child’s education or risk socially developmental retardations for technology? It is no doubt that children need to be tech-savvy, as a society fixated on technology, but it should be at a developmentally appropriate age. An age in which the child is able to make the decision to choose their education over social media, an age in which social skills will not be compromised for technology.

Moving forward technology will continue to be an institution in societal ideals. The facts are there; technology will continue to negatively impact children in multiple facets of development. By allowing technology in the classroom, our society is waging a war against social abnormalities and educational distractions and dishonesty. To counteract this very real problem, schools need to keep education and technology separate until a child is developmentally and educationally sound; otherwise the children’s education and development of social skills will be at risk.

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Works Cited

Johnson, Chandra. “Face Time vs. Screen Time: The Technological Impact             on Communication.”   Face Time vs. Screen Time: The Technological Impact on Communication. N.p., 27 Aug.           2014. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.

Richtel, Matt. “Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.

Strang, Tami. “Technology in the Classroom: A Distraction or an Asset?” The Cengage Learning   Blog. N.p., 01 Apr. 2014. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.

“10 Reasons Today’s Students NEED Technology in the Classroom.” 10 Reasons Today’s    Students NEED Technology in the Classroom. N.p., n.d. Web. 07       Sept. 2015.

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