With nearly 100 registered attendees and more unregistered, the 2nd Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Extrapolation, Interdisciplinarity, and Learning on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 was a great success! We were honored to have Samuel R. Delany give the event’s keynote address, and we had excellent presentations and panel discussions from scholars, graduate students, and undergraduates! Below, I’m embedding video of all of the presentations from the symposium. Visit this site for a copy of the program.
I read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books over the winter break. All of them: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). I couldn’t stop there. Then, I read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001), Quidditch Through the Ages (2002), and of course, The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2008). Luckily, there were more stories to be read in the Pottermore Presents series: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies (2016), Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists (2016), and Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (2016). There’s more to be read on Pottermore, I think, but I haven’t yet fully explored the site.
Why did I voraciously read all of these stories about Harry Potter and the magical world he inhabits in parallel to our muggle world? Rowling’s books and stories filled me with delight and joy! They transported me across time (I’m almost 40 years old), place (back to the United Kingdom), and imagination (the self-consistent fantastic elements of magic, magical creatures, and magical history).
Rowling guides readers to her magical world through Harry and his two closest friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Then, the world widens through the development of Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy, and his widening circle of friends, including Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, Fred and George Weasley, and Ginny Weasley. We discover more about Harry’s past through his godfather Sirius Black and his favorite defense against the dark arts teacher Professor Remus Lupin. We learn about different forms of evil from the controlling Delores Umbridge to the megalomaniacal Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord Voldemort. We witness tragedy through terrible loss–from Harry’s parents’ sacrifice and the sacrifices Harry’s closest friends and secret ally.
Through the lives of these characters, Rowling weaves struggle and triumph; mundane and wonder; bravery and fear; happiness and angst; courage and uncertainty; kindness and cruelty; and love and hatred. These themes explored and experienced by Harry and his friends drew me into the books unlike anything that I have read in a very long time. I felt the things that Rowling wrote her characters experiencing.
I felt an affinity with Harry and his friends as they confronted the challenges presented by youth, school, and Lord Voldemort. I encouragingly agreed with some of their choices, and I steadfastly disagreed with others. This tension between their choosing the path that I would choose and choosing the path that I would not choose endeared them to me as would real friends. Their youthful humanity made their world as alive and real to me–if not more so in some respects–as anything considered mainstream fiction.
Besides reading about Harry Potter, I consider myself very lucky that I can return to his adventures with LEGO. For those of you who know me, I enjoy building with LEGO. Even though Y and I had not read Harry Potter before, she bought some of the last LEGO Harry Potter sets when we lived in Ohio–4867 Hogwarts, 4841 Hogwarts Express, 4842 Hogwarts Castle. We had left these with my parents in Georgia, who I visited before school started back. I made a point of filling my checked bag with all of the LEGO that I could hold, including those Harry Potter sets and some LEGO train gear (motor, battery pack, IR receiver, IR controller, and track).
During the snow day last week, I assembled all of our Harry Potter LEGO sets and recorded a short video of the Hogwarts Express (with the Weasley’s car flying overhead) traveling past Hogwarts. Over the weekend, I modified Hogwarts to be three bricks higher and the buildings rearranged to be slightly closer to their film arrangement (I have only seen the first three films and those many years ago, so I have all eight films to see in order now, too!). I also made a LEGO vignette of the final duel between Harry and Lord Voldemort. Unfortunately, the aftermarket for Harry Potter LEGO sets is through the roof! I hope that I can get some of the other sets such as Hagrid’s Hut (4738), Graveyard Duel (4766) and Snape’s Class (4706)–I’ll have to save my galleons!
If you have never read any of the Harry Potter books, do yourself a favor and pick up the first one. After you begin reading, you won’t want to stop until you find out how it works out for The Boy Who Lived! In the meantime, you can watch the Hogwarts Express make its way to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry below.
For the second major project in my ENGL1101 class at Georgia Tech titled, “Maximizing the Brain’s Potential,” students work in teams of several students each to produce collaboratively an entertaining and educational video based on a single chapter from John Medina’s Brain Rules.
Building on the success of my students’ work on this assignment in Fall 2013, I revised the assignment to make it more streamlined and process-driven by building a weekly, recursive structure into the peer review schedule.
During the first half of the semester, my students had already read Brain Rules and individual students had presented on the readings during class. The remainder of the class had also written Tweets (outside of class) and short summaries of these chapters (during class).
With this project, the students demonstrate their understanding of the material by transforming their chapter’s content into a video of their own creation. They went through the steps of creating an outline, script, and storyboards before filming and editing the video. The outline, script, and storyboards are peer reviewed on a team-to-team basis at the beginning of each week of this project’s duration.
Today, we will conclude the project by showing the videos in class and having each student write a review of the video (what works, what doesn’t work, suggestions for improvement, etc.). Each student also wrote and submitted a three page analysis of their use of WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal) modalities used in each deliverable of the composition process.
During today’s class, I would like us to watch these videos and discuss what these videos attempt to accomplish rhetorically using WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal) modes of communication.
10 Amazing Facts About the Brain:
Interesting Facts About the Human Brain:
NOVA – Inside Oliver Sack’s Brain on Music:
The other big news this past week besides SOPA was MegaUpload.com’s MegaUpload Song on YouTube:
Universal Music Group (UMG) had a conniption fit, because some of their signed artists provided testimonials for MegaUpload, a file sharing site that makes it easy to share files with others.
Despite MegaUpload having every right to use the testimonials in their music video advertisement, UMG used a tool provided by YouTube/Google for big media to easily remove copyright infringing content to nuke the MegaUpload Mega Song. However, UMG had no right to do this, which made it a violation of the DMCA and worth $150,000 in favor of MegaUpload.
According to Wired.com’s Threat Level Blog here, UMG admits that they used Google’s filtering system, but they claim that their use of it does not violate the DMCA. Essentially, they ADMIT that they were fucking with MegaUpload!
Now, if SOPA were to go into effect and entire domain names were wiped from the Internet and all of the sites hosted on those domains, I can see in my crystal ball that many more episodes like the one taking place between UMG and MegaUpload will take place. The collateral damage will be those of us who use the Internet on a daily basis for our work and enjoyment.
I don’t want corporations to have more power over what I do online especially when they don’t own what I do or the work of others. They don’t own the infrastructure that they will be given so much control over.
What does this sound like to you? To me, it sounds like theft. Big media is so twisted over its defeats over its iron grip over culture that it now wants to steal back that control through legislation aimed at the people’s culture. We, the people, cannot stand for this kind of dickery. Big media corporations are not above human failings, and as UMG has demonstrated, they will use any means necessary including hijacking democracy and insider agreements to control our culture.
My cousin Ian Cox turned me onto this Star Wars cut set to AC/DC’s song “Thunderstruck.” The editor did a very good job transforming the film into a music video with carefully timed transitions and editing techniques.
I found this gem on BoingBoing yesterday morning. “George Lucas Strikes Back” is an over-the-top movie idea presented in the form of a movie trailer without a movie. These types of trailers are created by fans and filmmakers as a way to pitch an idea or present a “what if” scenario. They can also be used as leverage for funding to make a full short or long film based on the concept presented in the trailer.
“George Lucas Strikes Back” posits that the real Lucas was kidnapped after Return of the Jedi when he began talking publicly about making smaller budget films. It was, according to the logic of the trailer, an evil, logical mastermind who replaced the real Lucas with a fake Lucas, supported by Jar Jar Binks, Darth Maul, and Clone Troopers, who went on to create the Star Wars prequels and the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones films. It is irreverent and fun. I recommend checking it out.