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Showing posts from 2012

The Top Ten Books of 2012

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The New York Times' editors chose the best books for 2012 naming Chris Ware's Building Stories, a kind of graphic novel, as the year's number two book.
Building Stories puts a boxful of anecdotes at your fingertips, stories you have to tease out from pamphlet's and puzzles, game boards and leaflets.

This "erector set" of ideas was specifically designed to foil any attempt at reading on an iPad or computer. The reader has to unsnarl the memories of a few different protagonists to deduce their story as presented by a few collected bits and pieces.

Do you have a scrap book or memory box at home? If you went through the memories you've collected--old newspaper clippings, tickets to sporting events or movies, dried flowers from the prom--what story do you think the stuff of your memories would tell?

Better yet, since the Holidays are just around the corner, what kind of memory box could you create for your parents, children, or significant other?

The Top Ten Essays Since 1950

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Robert Atwan, the founder and creator of the Best American Essays series, has read a lot of essays. “To my mind,” writes Atwan, “the best essays are deeply personal (that doesn’t necessarily mean autobiographical) and deeply engaged with issues and ideas. And the best essays show that the name of the genre is also a verb, so they demonstrate a mind in process–reflecting, trying-out, essaying.” As a college writer now specializing in essays you might want to take a look at Atwan's choices for style and organization.

Here's his list of the Top Ten Essays Since 1950 along with links to online versions of five of the Top Ten Essays Since 1950: >James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son,” 1955. "Against a violent historical background, Baldwin recalls his deeply troubled relationship with his father and explores his growing awareness of himself as a black American."
>Norman Mailer, “The White Negro,” 1957. "An essay that packed an enormous wallop in 1…

Illustrating Scientific Mysteries

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Can you guess what this picture illustrates?

If you look at the context clues by reading the picture, what does the apple represent? Click on the apple for the bigger picture.

Could it be the story of Adam and Eve? No?

What about that universe inside the apple? Do you remember the story about Sir Isaac Newton and how an apple dropped on his head while napping and voila he realized there must be some force acting on the falling apple, and everything else for that matter.

Over at BrainPickings they reviewed 75 Scientific Mysteries, Illustrated by Today's Hottest Artists, a book that explores scientific complexities through pictures, including gravity and the big bang.

About gravity, Terry Matilsky notes: [T]he story is not finished. We know that general relativity is not the final answer, because we have not been able to synthesize gravity with the other known laws of physics in a comprehensive “theory of everything." Another artist illustrates his vision of what e…

The US in Japan

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When you think of the Japanese you may think of pachinko machines, but when the Japanese think of Americans they picture Nicholas Cage square dancing?



Do Japanese people think every American drives a pick-up truck while singing along to Beethoven? Cage played his "American-ness to the very hilt. When pachinko machine manufacturer Sankyo recruited Cage, they went all-out, getting him square-dancing in the middle of a lonely southwestern highway with a pack of metal ball-headed aliens" says Open Culture.

But the Japanese aren't the only ones who stereotype foreigners. How do American commercials stereotype other cultures? Do you think these stereotypes are fair? Why or why not? Why do we stereotype?

Ancient Rome: When Being a Teen was Tough

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Being a teenage in ancient Rome wasn't easy. There were no X-box 360's to play or cars to drive, or even chariots to cruise around in. Don't get me wrong, there were chariots, but the only teens that got to drive them were those young men going off to fight the latest Roman war, or, if they were lucky enough, race around the colliseum, a sport that often resulted in death.

According to A Glimpse of Teenage Life in Ancient Rome while your average American teenager devotes more than seven hours a day to imbibing media – to watching TV, playing video games, hanging out on Facebook — the average 17-year-old Roman kid (circa 73 AD) had some more serious business to deal with. Like mastering reading and writing in two languages, fighting in imperial wars, taking care of (obscenely young) spouses and various other items. See for yourself:

The video was created by Ray Laurence, a classics professor, from the University of Kent.

How is being a teen tough today? Do you see …

Naughty, Naughty

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Have you read Lord of the Rings? How about The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in the Rye? If you have then you are reading banned books.

In honor of Banned Books Week (Sept. 30) here are the top twenty banned "classic" books according to the American Library Association (ALA).

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

Why are books banned in the first place…

What do you get when you cross a Photographer, an Astronaut, and a Geographer?

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A great combination of college majors! Art, geological and earth sciences, as well as engineering, astronomy or mathematics offer a career in a field you may not even know existed--geoscience.

At NASA there is a geoscientist that asks astronauts to snap pictures and take videos of earth from 250 miles above the planet in order to study planet phenomena. It turns out earth has more geographical diversity than we once thought (for example, there's a lot more deltas).

But they also produce some beautiful videos, such as Earth at Night.



Open Culture also offers a link to What an Astronaut Sees from the International Space Station.



Have you ever thought about combining a science major with an arts major? If so, what kind of creative science would you like to be a part of?

Working in Pajamas

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People who work from home don't get much done, right? Wrong!

According to a recent study conducted by Stanford University if you are a person working on the kitchen table wearing your pajamas you're a more productive worker.

Seems counter intuitive, doesn't it? I mean if I could stay at home all day and wander from the computer to the fridge to the computer to the television to the mailbox to the laundry room, well you get the idea.

Ctrip, a Chinese travel agency, agreed to be the guinea pig for a work-at-home study and during the 9-month period found:
> A 12 percent increase in productivity for the at-home workers. Of that increase, 8.5 percent came from working more hours (due to shorter breaks and fewer sick days) and 3.5 percent came from more performance per minute. The researchers speculate this was due to quieter working conditions.

> A 50 percent decrease in attrition among the work-from-home group.

> Substantially higher work satisfaction as meas…

Books About America's Colleges

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15 Books That Take American Eduction to Task is a post that at first glance is a bit depressing. For you education majors, some of these books may help with research into K-12 practices.

Let's take a look at the books devoted to college, they have some useful things to say about what you are doing right now!

No. 5 Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa: Even with ever-higher tuition, more students are heading to college than ever before, but are they really getting the education they’re paying for? Sociology professors Richard Arum and Josipa Roska don’t think so. They have research that points to some disturbing trends in higher ed, including a study which found that 45% of students showed no improvement in key skills, including critical thinking and writing, between their first semester and the end of their second year. They believe that the current culture at most colleges doesn’t adequately value education, preferring to …

How to find a Decent College Roommate

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This post isn't entitled, "How to find a GREAT College Roommate," but "How to find a Decent College Roommate" because while you may think you are looking for a lifelong BFF with whom you can swap college prank stories in your old age, that's not the way it works in the real world.

In the real world you end up with roommates that can be slobs, eat all your food, or have late night booty calls with their significant other in your dorm room. Yikes!

In an article at USA Today, studies show that one of the top five reasons for leaving college is "roommate conflict."

So how do you find a decent roommate?

Well, apparently that's not an easy question to answer. But here's how some colleges select your roommates if you choose to live in the dorms:

Speed roommate search - think speed dating, but rather than a lifelong commitment, you're looking for someone to spend the next couple of semesters with.

College directed selection - some colle…

Business Majors: Best (and worst) Small Businesses

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Intuit put up a flow chart documenting the best (and worst) small business opportunities, and some of them may be surprising to you.

Good small businesses include pilates and yoga studios and accessory stores while bad choices range between movie rental franchises, music stories, and bookstores. Surprisingly, electronics (computers, etc.) aren't doing well either.
If you plan on opening a small business (or going to work for a small business franchise) consider some of the "good" options. Try working in your dream industry for a while (maybe even take a part time job to pay your tuition bills).

Accomplished small business owners and entrepreneurs fail before they ever become successful. In the same way, good salespeople know that they have to get a certain number of "Nos" before they will make a sale. This also translates to the entrepreneur who wants to convince a banker or venture capitalist to invest in his or her business. So if you are planning on goi…

Movies From Mars (and Mars' Science Laboratory)

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We did it! We landed on Mars! Well, really NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory did it. If you have read this blog for a while you know that geeks (a term of affection here) hold a near and dear place in my heart.

Can you imagine how great all those scientists, computer and software engineers, launch pad operators, command center technicians, janitors, data entry personnel, optics and robotic experts, lab technicians, personal assistants, electronic experts, mathematicians--those modern day magicians--feel? Great! (Where's a bottle of champagne when you need one).



NASA created a full resolution decent and landing video of the $2 billion Curiosity's trip through the Mars atmosphere to its touchdown at Bradbury Landing.



Can't get enough? Me either! How about Curiosity's first jaunt across the Mars surface. There's no video yet, but here's a picture of its first drive.



Want to stay caught up with Curiosity's antics? Here's a link to NASA&#…

The New Face of Community College

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Do you watch Community starring Joel McHale? Are you tired of all the stereotypes about dumb students, inept professors, and substandard education?

Yes? Me too!

As a proud graduate of San Mateo Community College I sometimes find it offensive that the media and pop culture continually bash community colleges and so does AccreditedOnlineColleges.com.

According to the authors of "The New Face of Community College," enrollment is exploding at community colleges for a variety of reasons including cost and quality of education.

Community colleges boast some of the best faculty and state of the art facilities offering an education at a price that is easier on the wallet than most four-year institutions.

What do today's community colleges have to offer?

>Partnerships with local businesses.

>Training for high-demand but specialized jobs.

>Lower tuition costs.

>Help for the middle class.

>Many of the same amenities as four-year colle…

The Top Ten Things you Should Have in your Backpack

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No. 1 is pretty easy...CASH! Maybe not $100, but enough to buy a BART or bus ticket if your car breaks down, a scantron or blue book, or maybe even something to eat. Do NOT walk out of the house with air in your wallet, make sure you have a couple of bucks.

So what else does Top Ten Online Universities recommend?

No. 2 - A Phone charger.

No. 3 - Ear plugs for power naps. Not ear buds to ignore your professor's lecture.

No. 4 - First aid kit. They make little tiny ones just for backpacks that contain band aids, aspirin, and antibiotic ointment for those massive blisters you get from your brand new "back-to-school" shoes.

No. 5 - Umbrella? Obviously this author is NOT a California sun worshiper. But for those couple of weeks in the winter, it's probably not a bad idea.

No. 6 - Energy bar. Yes, indeed. Don't go all hypoglycemic during class - that's a bad thing.

No. 7 - Disposable camera. I'm not sure if I agree with this one. It seems kinda redu…

Are you Lying to Yourself?

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Good! According to some experts lying to yourself is a great way to boost power and influence.

In "The Case for Lying to Yourself" researchers found that "Believing we are more talented or intelligent than we really are can help us influence and win over others, says Robert Trivers, an anthropology professor at Rutgers University and author of The Folly of Fools, a 2011 book on the subject. An executive who talks himself into believing he is a great public speaker may not only feel better as he performs, but increase 'how much he fools people, by having a confident style that persuades them that he's good,' he says."

But lying to oneself can also be detrimental.
It takes a certain amount of self-discipline to keep self-deception from becoming a hindrance on the job or in relationships. Getting too wrapped up in achievements or public image is one danger sign. Dodging a chronic problem by telling yourself you'll solve it in the future is a…

Job Skills and the New Millennium

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While you thought getting a job was hard, keeping a job is just as hard, especially in the new millennium.

Most employers think recent graduates were born with all the computer skills they need from tweeting and designing websites to email and Facebook. But what do you do when your boss asks you to create a portal on Google docs for clients to give performance feedback. Huh?

With unemployment hovering around 8 percent, many employers find it unnecessary to supply in-house employee training. They figure if you want to keep your job, you'll figure it out on your own. But taking another class costs time and money.

So what is a new hire to do get up to office speed? Take a FREE online course.

ALISON—an Irish company with an uncatchy longer moniker: Advance Learning Interactive Systems Online—provides free online courses in job-friendly skills. Some are basic but essential—Fundamentals of Google Docs or Touch Type Training. Others are more specialized (Programming in Adobe F…

The Great Gatsby Graphic

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Did you read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in high school or college? Did you have a hard time keeping track of who is who? SomethingSoSam.com created a slick art deco Gatsby Character Map to help you keep track.


But SomethingSoSam didn't stop there, there are also some graphics of memorable Gatsby quotes, like this one:


To finish off this trilogy of visual fun, here is a video with a little bit more about the Gatsby characters . . .

A Look Into the Characters of The Great Gatsby from SomethingSoSam on Vimeo.
It's obvious this graphic artist is passionate about The Great Gatsby. Warner Brothers would be well served to hire SomethingSoSam to create the posters for their movie slated for release December 2012. It is billed as an "American 3D romantic drama film", and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan and Isla Fisher as Myrtle Wilson.

Do you have a …

It's all Text Messaging's Fault

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Two apostrophes in one title? Not possible?

Well, it's obviously possible, but text messaging may mean the death of my belov'd apostrophe. That's the claim in the article Dear Apostrophe: C Ya over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. The author, Rob Jenkins, believes that as someone who teaches college writing to the text-messaging generation, I have observed that not only apostrophes but also capital letters have become, if not extinct, then at least increasingly conspicuous by their absence–sort of like some of my students when their essays are due. Yikes! Not only does he dis students for bad grammar, but he also doubts their veracity when it comes to absences and due dates (c'mon you know you are at least a little guilty).

I love apostrophe's. In fact I love them so much that I use way too many of them. While Jenkins worries about capital letters and apostrophes because of text messaging, I worry about too many spaces in my writing. I find that whene…

Comics Journalism and Education Reform

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A comics journalist and an assistant professor walk into a bar.

What'll ya have? asks the barkeep.

"Pictures of Reformtinis," says the journalist.

"A panel of Education Fizzes" responds the professor.

The barkeep frowns, "Okay, but you'll end up in the gutter." I know the punchline could be better . . .

Education reform is no joke so Adam Bessie, assistant professor at Diablo Valley College, and Dan Archer, comics journalist, took on the education reform movement in their interactive comic featured at TruthOut.org. The first episode, The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price of Education Reform and second episode, Murky Waters: The Education Debate in New Orleans take on the system while trying to make sense of how we teach our students.

But before you click on the links -- it gets even better.

Bessie and Archer designed their visual essay as a fully functional interactive comic with built in links to all their sources. Take a …

Summer Getaway? Don't Forget a Beach Book

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21 Classics That Make for Great Beach Reads includes some new classics and perennial favorites. So before you take your summer trip, pack your towel, slap on some sunscreen, and grab a book.

Some favorites:

1. Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
hits most of the usual beats of a contemporary beach read — love, danger, tragedy, and finding personal strength in rough times — but stands apart for its historical significance and hauntingly gorgeous prose. Written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, for modern readers the story of Janie Crawford’s eventful, not always satisfying life offers up some excellent lessons in America’s racial and gender history.

If you didn't read this in high school you should have. A real page turner.

2. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Beachy bibliophiles who want a little splash of sci-fi with their sun might want to give this classic thriller about a mysterious Connecticut suburb where all the wives lose their ambition entirely and tra…

Afghanistan: The Way It Was

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I remember my mother wearing clothes like this when she went to the record store looking for 45s of her favorite songs. There were little booths where she would listen to records before buying them to play on our high fidelity record player at home. But this isn't a record store in downtown San Francisco, this is a record store in downtown Kabul in the 1960s.

CSUEB's former president Mohammad Qayoumi had this to say about the Kabul of his childhood
‘Given the images people see on TV, many conclude Afghanistan never made it out of the Middle Ages. But that is not the Afghanistan I remember. I grew up in Kabul in the 1950s and ’60s. Stirred by the fact that news portrayals of the country’s history didn’t mesh with my own memories, I wanted to discover the truth.

‘Remembering Afghanistan’s hopeful past only makes its present misery seem more tragic. But it is important to know that disorder, terrorism, and violence against schools that educate girls are not inevitable. I wan…

What Makes a Book a Classic?

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Mark Twain once said, "A classic is a book which people praise and don't read." On the other hand Italo Calvino, a Nobel Prize nominated writer and journalist believes “'Your' classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it." In other words, it cancels out Twain's definition because a classic can't be "your" book if you don't read it.

Brain Pickings provides Calvino's 14 Definitions of What Makes a Classic:1. The classics are those books about which you usually hear people saying: 'I'm rereading…', never 'I'm reading….'

2. The classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them.

3. The classics are books which exercise a…

10 Best Viral Visual College Jokes

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Sometimes school just has to make you laugh!

You know those pictures on the web, at places like quickmeme.com, that have the Success Kid photo with a caption that says something like, "Day off in the middle of the week. TWO FRIDAYS!" Bachelors Degree Online collected The 10 Best Colleges Memes from this School Year and some of them are really funny.

Here's a couple of my favorites:

Lazy College Senior

I'm not sure I would just say this about seniors. C'mon it's funny! Considered the antithesis of College Freshman, Lazy College Senior drinks beer and deals with senioritis. Originally created in November 2011, this meme really took off with nearly 10,000 up votes prior to being archived. 10,000 votes! His parents must be so proud.

Having been a returning college student this one made me giggle:

Senior College Student

I have also seen this one as "Corrects History Professor. Remembers Being There." This meme features Nola Ochs, a Guinness W…

Beautiful Pictures of Unusual Words

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Project Twins, a graphic design studio, created a visual study of obscure and endangered words. They use bold graphics and visual wit to interpret and represent a collection of strange, unusual and lost words. These are just a few examples, click on the link to see more.

After opening the Project Twins site I was instantly struck with tarantism as I viewed graphic words with a feeling of xenization making me scripturient, thus this blog post.

What do you think? Can you think of unusual words that could be instantly defined with pictures? Do graphics help you when defining a word?
Acersecomic
A person whose hair has never been cut.

Biblioclasm
The practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media.

Fanfaronade
Swaggering; empty boasting; blustering manner or behavior; ostentatious display.

Recumbentibus
A knockout punch, either verbal or physical.

Scripturient
Possessing a violent desire to write.

Tarantism
A disorder characterized by an uncontrollable u…

Elmore Leonards' Rules for Writing

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Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and the small screen's Justified, offers some advice to would-be writers and even though his advice is for budding novelists, a great writer is just a great writer. Take Elmore Leonard's advice when writing your college essays.

Some of Leonard’s suggestions appeared in a 2001 New York Times article that became the basis of his 2007 book, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. Here are the basics:

1. Never open a book with the weather. If you open an essay with the weather, it better be a paper for a meteorology class. In other words, don't begin with a "It was a dark and stormy night."

2. Avoid prologues. Hmmm, prologues are a wind up to the action. Think of a prologue as your introduction. While an introduction is important you don't want to give too much away (or bore your readers with information that is common knowledge). Tell you reader what your paper is about and then get to it.

3. Never use a …

Income-Based Student Loan Repayment Plan

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Many college graduates face crushing student loan debt and discover, after they have landed their first out-of-college job, that starting wages don't begin to cover all of their expenses. American students owe over $1 trillion (yes, that's with a T) in student loans.

According to the New York Times:
For all [student] borrowers, the average debt in 2011 was $23,300, with 10 percent owing more than $54,000 and 3 percent more than $100,000, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports. Average debt for bachelor degree graduates who took out loans ranges from under $10,000 at elite schools like Princeton and Williams College, which have plenty of wealthy students and enormous endowments, to nearly $50,000 at some private colleges with less affluent students and less financial aid. Some parents who co-signed student loans, many now totaling over $100,000, have started taking out life insurance policies on their new graduates.

But if you took out federal student loans, there…

5 Things You Should Know When Giving a Presentation

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You will have to give presentations for the rest of your life--throughout college and during your career--so here are some suggestions for making them count. According Dr. Susan Weinschenk there are 5 Things Every Presenter Should Know About People to get audiences informed, inspired, and motivated.

Here's an informative short animated video illustrating Weinschenk's points:



So what are the five points?

1. People learn best in 20-minute chunks. This is true for most mammals. I know that I can only make my horse work for twenty minutes before he decides to join the Rodeo and buck me off. Dog trainers say the same thing--well, maybe not the bucking off part.

2. Multiple sensory channels compete. Don't fill your PowerPoint slides with text--once your audience starts reading slides they stop listening. Here's what I do, I print off my slides and write my notes on them. I don't repeat what's on the slide, and I only put a small amount of copy of slides.

3. Wha…

Reading Beyond the Plot: 9 Graphic Novels

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People often wonder how (and why) a college professor would assign graphic novels (aka comics) to a college classroom. Well, the folks over at The Best Degrees have provided some answers in their article 9 Graphic Novels That Revolutionized the Comic Industry.

Their post is not entitled the "9 Greatest Graphic Novels Ever" (I would then have to argue some of their choices), but rather it is a look at graphic novels that changed the way we look at comics. They include links (click on the pics in Best Degree's post) to some really exceptional analysis essays, essays that anybody writing essays (that's you) should look at as A+ examples of what can be achieved. These are not just book reviews--they go beyond rating comics--they analyze certain aspects of specific texts and critically explore rhetorical strategies you may not have tried before.

Best Degrees places Kurt Busiek's Astro City in the number 8 position because of the way it "showed the comic …

It's All Twitter's Fault

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New hires (that's code for young adults) can't spell, use proper grammar, or write an intelligent memo. At least that's what some employers and grammar experts would have you believe in a recent WSJ article entitled This Embarrasses You and I* Grammar Gaffes Invade the Office in an Age of Informal Email, Texting and Twitter.

The article catalogs the extreme lengths some companies employ for a standard English image, such as having employee letters reviewed before mailing, 25-cent grammar fines, and in-house tutoring. Ruined advertising and a tarnished company image provide employer justification, but to me it seems a lot of this could be avoided by a good proofreading.

These examples triggered a couple "new hire" memories of my own. First, my boss wasn't worried about poor grammar, but bad language, so every time an employee dropped an F-bomb in the office, he or she had to pay the can. Secondly, my boss had spelling problems of his own and creat…

Ray Bradbury Predicted the Future

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When reading or watching science fiction we often run across products or futuristic visions. But if one looks at the past works of science fiction, say from sixty years ago, we can see just how prescient a certain author or cinematographer is or was.

Ray Bradbury was one of those prescient visionaries that predicted among other things: spy satellites, automatic teller machines, cell phones and flat screen TVs. Many of his books are classics: "There Will Come Soft Rain," and Fahrenheit 451 are just two. As you look at this infographic from Ria Novosti, think about recent creators and their predictions. What do you see in science fiction that will become a reality for you or your children.

Personally, I want my hover car!

The Earliest Cinema

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European Cave Art!


According to Open Culture, Marc Azéma came up with the idea that paintings in Paleolithic caves are the first sequential art (think flip books). Others compare these 30,000 year-old cave paintings that dot the European continent to comics (think panel-to-panel visuals).

In 2010, the award-winning filmmaker, Werner Herzog, created a 3-D documentary entitled The Cave of Forgotten Dreams where Herzog gained extraordinary permission to film the caves using lights that emit no heat. But Herzog being Herzog, this is no simple act of documentation. He initially resisted shooting in 3D, then embraced the process, and now it’s hard to imagine the film any other way. Just as Lascaux left Picasso in awe, the works at Chauvet are breathtaking in their artistry. The 3D format proves essential in communicating the contoured surfaces on which the charcoal figures are drawn. Beyond the walls, Herzog uses 3D to render the cave’s stalagmites like a crystal cathedral and to capture…

Film's Dark Predictions

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Films set in the future often present a dark dystopia where people are barely surviving after a variety of catastrophes -- zombie apocalypse or global pandemic -- leaving society and people broken, alone, and in shambles.

Michael Hobson over at Tremulant Design created a beautiful infographic entitled "The Future According to Films" and records dozens of movies with cyborgs, underwater worlds, hell, precogs, aliens, anarchy, and shenanigans.

If you like science fiction, horror, and/or fantasy, here's a movie list for you....which are your favorites? How does this visual film timeline square up with your own vision of the future?

Think about your own essays. Can you see how a visual timeline can make material easier to place in history, making events easier to connect? Think about using one in your next history paper.

For essays where you have to make a prediction, say about the effects of a proposal, do you see how you can record the steps of a process along a …

Top 10 Most Read Books

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Top 10 Books by Jared Fanning

1. The Holy Bible
2. Quotations from Chairman Mao
3. Harry Potter
4. The Lord of the Rings
5. The Alchemist
6. The DaVinci Code
7. The Twilight Saga
8. Gone with the Wind
9. Think and Grow Rich
10. The Diary of Anne Frank

Information graphics are great additions to papers, especially ones that look this good. They can convey a massive amount of information in the briefest glance.

Here's what I mean. If you wrote The Top 10 Most Read Books as a paragraph it would begin, "The top ten most read books in the world refers to the number of books sold, not printed. The number one book is The Holy Bible which sold 3,900,000,000 copies. The number two spot is occupied by Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, selling 820,000,000." You would have to read a whole lot more before you got to "The Diary of Anne Frank is the 10th most-read book in the world having sold 27,000,000 copies." See what I mean? This could be a reall…

The Great Depression: From Farmer to Tramp

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"1927 made $7000 in cotton. 1928 broke even. 1929 went in the hole. 1930 went in still deeper. 1931 lost everything. 1932 hit the road.”

The Great Depression began on October 29, 1929 and lasted until America's entry into World War II.

During an economic depression farmers usually remain economically stable, but during the Great Depression the U.S. not only experienced an economic crash, but also an environmental disaster known as the dust bowl. It destroyed croplands and sent farmers packing up to look for work, like the man and his family in this photograph.

According to Open Culture, "the Farm Security Administration took on the task of 'introducing America to Americans' through photography. The FSA hired Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks and other artists to capture images of ordinary Americans, specifically poor farmers."

Many of the Farm Administration's photographs have been missing for decades, but recently a NYC library curator …

Fan Fiction is Good for You

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Do you write stories set in the universe of your favorite comic book, movie, or novel? Do you keep your fanfiction life a secret from friends and family? Well, it's time to declare your passion. Why? "Because [you]’re creating paracosms — an activity that, research is showing, builds creative skills that pay off in real life," says Clive Thompson over at Wired.

What is a paracosm, you ask? "Paracosms are the fantasy worlds that many dreamy, imaginative kids like to invent when they’re young. Some of history’s most creative adults had engaged in 'worldplay' as children." What's more people who engage in this kind of activity are more likely to be creative as adults. In 2002 researchers Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein conducted an elegant study. They polled recipients of MacArthur genius grants — which reward those who’ve been particularly creative in areas as diverse as law, chemistry, and architecture — to see if they’d created paracosms a…

"Truth Nothing But Shadows of the Image"

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Plato expressed this idea in his "Allegory of the Cave" from The Republic. But what does it mean? If you live in a dark cave with other prisoners and suddenly you are released what would be your response? How would you see the world outside? Would you return to the cave with sun-dazzled eyes that slowly fill with darkness? Would you enlighten your fellow prisoners?

Franz Kafka's nightmare parable "Before the Law" asks, "Do you believe the law accessible to everyone?" Should it be?

These are questions asked in two short films from texts often assigned in college (or high school)--Plato's The Republic and Franz Kafka's The Trial. As you watch these animated images (Orson Welles narrates Plato's cave allegory and Kafka's parable) think about this: How is reality an illusion? Do you have an obligation to the unenlightened? How can you apply these parables to today's society?

Oh, yeah, what does this have to do with Joh…

2012 Summer Reading

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The folks over at teach.com created a summer reading flow chart just for you! In between summer jobs, socializing, and sleeping, you may find yourself in need of a book - many of these texts are available free online, or even better free from your local library.

This list contains fiction and non-fiction books for all tastes. There are a few graphic novels, although I would add Watchmen if you haven't read it yet. Think about the classes you need to take in the Fall. If you have to take U.S. History, I can definitely recommend McCollough's John Adams. For you Administration of Justice majors, try Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Something to consider, even if you aren't looking forward to psychology, sociology, or English (how can that be?), these are all GREAT books that will keep you entertained.

So what's on your reading list?
Via Teach.com and USC Rossier Online

Ray Bradbury R.I.P.

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Ray Bradbury died Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at the age of 91. Remembered for his science fiction works such as Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, and The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury was a profilic writer who helped science fiction escape "pulp" status and legitimizing a whole genre.

In 2001, Bradbury offered twelve pieces of advice to aspiring writers. Even though most of your college writing will be essays which many see as not very creative, if you want your Professor to be engaged (and therefore entertained--that's a good thing) in what you're writing take Bradbury's advice from Open Culture:

>>"Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. 'Worth waiting…

What Superpower Would You Choose?

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Do you want to fly? Would you like be invisible? How about superhuman strength or X-ray vision?

My superpower of choice is to be able to speak every language in the Universe - from Elven to Italian, Mandarin to Romulan, cat to bat, and everything in between. I'd like to hear (or receive, if it's a telepathic language) everybody's story in their own language and understand all the delicate nuances intelligent beings can fashion.

Speaking of stories . . . think of the stories these guys could tell. Imagine talking to Thor in Asgardian or being able to translate all the spells from the stacks at Hogwart's (BTW - the best class EVER!).
So what superpower would you choose?

2012 World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report

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The World Wildlife Fund's 2012 Living Planet report notes that "we are using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide. By 2030, even two planets will not be enough."

Rising populations and rising incomes have and will lead to a larger human footprint on the planet.

Are we a plague? Ask Agent Smith who tells the captive Morpheus in The Matrix? "Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure." Yikes!

I don't think we need to get that extreme, but how do we balance population while protecting nature? How do we bal…

Geeks (will) Rule the World

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Comics often present a world where science (fiction) meets art--and what an inspired vision. Comics are filled with things like shields that can absorb and store power, hammers that control lightening, wireless powering, suits that give you superhuman power and interdimensional portals. Sound familiar? It should to anyone who reads and imagines in the Marvel Universe, or anyone who has seen the new Avengers movie.

Life's Little Mysteries recently published "5 Awesome Ways 'The Avengers' Bends Physics" that explores the science needed to produce these novel gadgets. Some say "The laws of physics prevent such inventions," but true believers know better--we just haven't figured it out yet.

This article is so good that a large portion is pasted below:

Captain America's Shield

Captain America harnesses the power of "Vibranium," a metal extracted from a meteorite that crashed in Africa. The shield is capable of absorbing, storing a…