Monthly Archives: November 2014

Link Party: 11/24-11/28

It is finally starting to look like autumn, which makes me feel so much better about everything in general.

It is finally starting to look like autumn, which makes me feel so much better about everything in general.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. What happens to English when you get rid of the letter E.

2. A profile on The Strand, a bookstore in New York I’m dying to go to.

3. A beautiful essay on Julia Child, food and love.

4. A conversation on lightsaber construction in the teaser for the new Star Wars movie, which struck me much harder than it probably should have.

5. How recaps changed the way we think about television.

And a bonus: A fantastic interview with Jenny Slate, via Man Repeller.

Have a great rest of your holiday weekend!

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Think Tank: What I’m Thankful For

My place setting at tonight's Thanksgiving dinner.

My place setting at tonight’s Thanksgiving dinner.

The world, in all of its beauty and sheer size, is such a mess these days. But I think in light of tragedy and incredible sadness, it is really important to remember that we can all still find a lot to be thankful for — and not just on Thanksgiving. And in remembering what we’re thankful for, we can remember that the world is not an inherently evil place.

What I’m thankful for everyday, in no particular order:

Cal Poly Pomona, and having the opportunity to go to college. 

The Lances and the Philps, for all of our weird -isms but also for being a great support system.

My Public Affairs family, past and present, who inspire me to push myself and be creative. 

My friends. 

The brilliant faculty of the Department of English & Foreign Languages. 

Being geographically close to one of the biggest cultural centers of the world. 

Good coffee, cold Diet Coke and Dutch crunch bread.

ENG 451.

Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace and William Shakespeare.

Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, et al.

Having a computer and access to the Internet.

Having food on my table and a place to sleep.

The ability to think, form opinions and make decisions.

Waking up every morning.

The future.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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Capstone Adventures: Research Conferences

Hey look, that's me!

Hey look, that’s me!

Over the weekend, I crossed an item off of the undergrad adventures bucket list: presenting at a research conference.

I participated in the Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research at Cal State Fullerton at the suggestion of my capstone advisor, and I’m really glad I did. I gave a 15-minute presentation on my research on Yeezus to a semi-full room, which by my standards is pretty successful. I was the first student to present out of my four-person group, and some of the other student presenters in other groups came just to see mine and left after the second presentation. That was incredibly flattering.

Of course, I learned a lot about presenting research and going to a conference.

People are researching some really cool things these days.

I didn’t get a chance to go see any of the presentations outside of my session, but the research interests in the program were incredibly varied: social psychology, education assessment, political studies and so on. When you’re in a specific discipline, it’s easy to forget a) about everything outside of it and b) other disciplines are just as dense and complex as yours.

Presenting at a conference is A LOT of work.

I suspect that most of the other students who presented at SCCUR were also using longterm research projects, because a 15 minute oral and visual presentation actually requires a significant amount of research. It took me three or four days to just decide on what I wanted on my PowerPoint.

You have to have some kind of visual component.

In the humanities, you don’t have to memorize your presentation. However, some of the other presentations I did see consisted just of the student reading their paper without any handout or PowerPoint. It made it incredibly difficult to catch the paper’s thesis and its idea map, and I realized just how important the visual component can be for comprehension. I really would have loved to have asked better questions after the presentations without visuals, but since I couldn’t follow the presentation, my questions weren’t very good.

Having to get up in front of people and speak is actually a really good experience.

Because I had never presented at a research conference before, I kinda expected the worst. No one was going to be able to follow what I was saying, my powerpoint wasn’t going to work on their computer, and I was going to flub all of my answers to the audience’s questions. Besides giving presentations for class, I had never presented my work to a group of people I didn’t really know. The idea of that is scary, understandably: you’ve put a lot of work into something, and strangers are going to critique it and ask questions you might not have the answers to. The night before, I was thoroughly stressed out.

However, SCCUR wasn’t scored and therefore had very low stakes. It was really cool to have a low-pressure environment to start out in. I ad-libbed my presentation a little bit, and the only question I got was what had drawn me to research on Kanye West. I’m sure any kind of public speaking experience will serve me well in delivering story pitches or presenting at meetings. In that sense, participating in undergraduate research conferences are a great way to practice. And it was a reminder for me that the trivial things I worry about don’t ever happen, and that things always work out the way they’re supposed to.

Have you had any research presentation experience before? Tell me about it in the comments.

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Link Party: 11/17-11/21

I didn't feel well this week, so seeing a beautiful blue sky while on an errand was very welcome.

I didn’t feel well this week, so seeing a beautiful blue sky while on an errand was very welcome.

A little later than usual today, but here’s what I read this week:

1. The history of the Styles section of the New York Times was fascinating.

2. How we look when we look at a painting.

3. The tiniest copyright violations ever made.

4. The causes of the rise in dystopian films.

And 5. a calligraphy project I’m definitely trying after finals.

Have a great weekend! I’ll be presenting at a research conference, working on projects and helping to put out a newspaper.

What did you read this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

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Think Tank: Netflix

I saw this tweet this morning (from a very good journalist, might I add), and I couldn’t get it out of my head all day.

According to that statistic, more than a third of the internet traffic in North America  is devoted to streaming Netflix television shows and movies. Judging by the hype over old television series coming to Netflix and the curated lists of must-see films, I’m not surprised.

I go back and forth on my feelings about Netflix, and I figured that I needed to parse them out to really start thinking about it.

Googling "netflix memes" will get you many, many hits.

Googling “netflix memes” will get you many, many hits.

PROS

You might get to see series and films you’ve never seen before, without resorting to piracy.

I was too young to watch Twin Peaks when it aired live, but I never would have known about David Lynch or the trailblazing show without finding it on my Netflix recommendations. I know other people who have similar stories, so in one respect, Netflix can facilitate cultural awakening for art that’s worth seeing. It helps you wade through all of the crap of broadcast television. And if the overall service is less than $10 for thousands of titles, it seems incredibly reasonable.

It heightens the quality standards for competing networks. 

House of Cards is one of my favorite shows, but I don’t know if I would love it as much if it was on NBC or even AMC. Netflix has the capital to pour into their original content, and you can see it in the overall quality (production values, casting and plot) of the shows. A show like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black gives a series like Game of Thrones a run for its money, and I think that healthy competition ends up benefitting the audience.

 

It's true.

It’s true.

CONS

It makes us really, really, really lazy. 

I will admit, I love to binge watch television series and watch movies when I feel like it. Netflix has made that a normal behavioral pattern, since you don’t even have to get up from bed or off of the couch to hit the Next Episode button anymore. There’s a really great Portlandia sketch that sums up the vicious cycle of binging shows.

Considering the amount of money film studios are making from their blockbusters, the movie theaters don’t seem to be hurting. But can you remember the last time you went to go see a movie in the theater on an opening weekend? I can, and it was last June. It’s just far more convenient to watch a show and multitask.

But I think that also leads into an interesting point. Since it’s so easy to just open a new browsing tab, pick a movie and zone out, I’m not even sure if we’re even getting all of the nuances and hidden meanings in the visual art. It does make the idea of going to a movie theater, paying for it and enjoying the experience seem incredibly precious.

It can limit the content you’re exposed to. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone about a show or movie and they ask me if it’s on Netflix, and when I tell them it isn’t or I’m not sure, they shrug me off. If you just watch the same movies over and over again, you don’t get to see some of the hidden gems that you might end up liking. A lot of people don’t watch live television anymore or go to movies because it isn’t convenient as Netflix, or another service like Amazon Prime Instant Video or YouTube.

It contributes to a growing cultural feeling of “I NEED IT NOW!!”

It has become incredibly hard to wait for an episode or film when Netflix will give you hundreds of other ones in a near instant, which is the spitting example of a first world problem. That impatience translates to and affects other aspects of life (waiting for test results, for example), which I think ruins the elements of patience and surprise that you need.

 

Netflix has become the ultimate method of procrastination, especially for people my own age.

Netflix has become the ultimate method of procrastination, especially for people my own age. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it’s definitely culturally significant.

SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE

It has become part of our lexicon. 

“Netflix” is a very culturally relevant verb these days, i.e. “I’m going to Netflix it.”  It’s also become a significant routine, as staying in on a Friday night and watching a movie at home is a badge of honor for party animals and introverts alike. In the last few years or so, Netflix has become an incredible cultural phenomenon that’s been hard to escape. Try and think of someone you know who doesn’t have it. Even my grandmother, who is in her 70s, loves Netflix for British television series and documentary films.

I was curious to see if other languages call it anything but Netflix, but I couldn’t find anything. It’ll be interesting to see where it ends up in the evolution of our language.

It’s an archive, but a temporary one. 

It’s really interesting to gauge what people think is important enough to be put on Netflix at a particular moment on time. I can’t tell you how many articles I read that were written in light of all nine seasons of Gilmore Girls being added to streaming, which put the show back on the cultural map. But the streaming will eventually expire — even if a movie or show is on your queue, it might be taken down when the contract with the distributor runs out.

I’m still unsure of where I stand with Netflix, but now I’m even more interested to see if it’ll still be a huge thing in the next decade. But I will not be surprised if that statistic continues to soar.

How do you feel about Netflix? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Undergrad Adventures: Communications Law

I did get to read this really great article (that used this painting by Honore Daumier as its photo) for extra credit for this class. Click through to read it.

I did get to read this really great article (that used this painting by Honore Daumier as its photo) for extra credit for this class. Click through to read it.

Besides Structure of Language, one of the other classes I’m taking is Communications Law. I’m not going to lie to you: It isn’t my favorite class. It’s at 8 a.m. three days a week, and we’re lucky if we have 15 people show up out of 50-something. And unfortunately, the entire class has consisted of lecture, the occasional online quiz and multiple choice tests. However, I have learned a lot about communications law and teaching in general.

There’s a lot more to communications law than the language of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court of the United States has spent the last 200+ years trying to figure out the scope of the First Amendment, and it’s been really interesting to see what the free speech clause covers and what it doesn’t. You can wear a jacket with obscene language on it or burn a flag, but you can’t burn your draft card.

I’ve yet to read about a court ruling that didn’t seem logical. 

So far, nothing has really surprised me about the court cases I’ve read about. Newsrooms aren’t protected from search warrants, and you can’t appropriate someone’s likeness for your own commercial purposes. I guess it’s a nice affirmation that the higher courts usually rule on the side of common sense for First Amendment issues, which sets the precedent for other like cases.

I’m learning a lot about the importance of classroom dynamics.

The professor who teaches it is very fair and seems to know a lot, but the class dynamic is dull. We don’t debate about the cases or talk in small groups. If I ever have to teach a class like this (after an illustrious career in journalism, of course), I would make it incredibly engaging to get the rest of the class interested. Because he doesn’t take attendance, most people only show up for the tests.

I would also have added stronger writing and research components to the class, so that we would understand how to read legal documents and the specifics of California shield law.

But it’s actually not as dull as it seems. 

I will admit, there have been quite a few times that I’ve wanted to sleep in and go straight to Chaucer at 9:15 a.m. But I haven’t missed a scheduled class this quarter, and I’m glad. In the not-so-distant future, I’ll be working somewhere and a legal issue may come up. Even though most publications have lawyers, it’ll be good to have a working knowledge. I think that makes it worth it.

Any undergrad (or post-grad) adventures to share? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Link Party: 11/10-11/14

The view from the top of the Getty.

The view from the top of the Getty.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. This scientific study accidentally included a working citation of “(Should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?)” I felt so many waves of secondhand embarrassment.

2. What makes a child an art prodigy?

3. If you haven’t seen Too Many Cooks yet, watch it and read this.

4. I agree with just about everything in this commentary on reading new books. “‘To read the Iliad, claims Roberto Calasso in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, is to appreciate that there is no progress in art. It’s hard not to agree. But that does not mean that everything has been done'” is my favorite quote.

5. The idea of someone reading my texts as I’m typing them is actually incredibly terrifying.

And a bonus: “You Wish” by Nightmares on Wax.

Have a great weekend!

Tell me about what you read this week by leaving a comment.

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