Saturday, March 31, 2012

Yes, You Do Have to Give a Presentation

You know that old adage, "People would rather die than give a speech." Well, it's true, at least until you get used to giving speeches or presentations.

How do I know? As a brand new professor, after handing out the syllabus for my very first college class, I moved a chair to the front of the room and sat down. I thought I was going to faint (I didn't). Then I thought I was going to throw up (I didn't). I READ the syllabus from start to finish without looking up. My anti-antiperspirant gave out about half way through. And for all I knew everyone could have left before I was finished. But I showed up to the next class and my butterflies weren't as bad. By the fifth class they were almost gone. Now I can't wait to get to class.

Students go to great lengths to get out of giving presentations, from calculating how many points they can miss and still have that A or B, to calling in sick, to video taping the presentation and then showing a YouTube clip to the class (NO you can't do that anymore). I most admire the student with the shaky voice who not only delivers their presentation, but also hangs in there for the full time commitment.

So what's the point? When you give a speech or presentation you will be nervous. You may even feel like you're going to barf or faint, but you won't and it does get better. However it only gets better with practice. So think of your ten-minute class presentation as an opportunity to get over your presentation anxiety.

Here's another way to look at it. You are going to give the biggest presentation of your life as soon as you get out of college -- the job interview, so this is your chance to practice.

Here's what not to do:

Do you have any tips that help keep your nerves under control when you give a presentation?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Intertextuality - It's More Than Just Text

Intertextuality is the shaping of texts by other texts. It is the theory that a literary work is not simply the product of a single author, but also the product of its relationship to other texts. Postmodernist authors and creators exploit intertextuality in some thought provoking and entertaining ways.

John Kessel's 1985 short story "A Clean Escape" - later adapted into a play - references Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four in subtle and overt ways.
"My name is Robert Havelmann."

That's right," Doctor Evans said calmly. "What year is it?"

Havelmann watched her warily, as if he were about to be tricked. "What are you talking about? It's 1984."
A prophetic reference to a dystopian diegetic that seems like paradise compared to what these characters are living through after a nuclear war.

Later in the story there is a specific reference to Orwell's work.
"What year is it?"

Havelmann adjusted himself in this chair calm, again. "What do you mean? It's 1984?"

"Did you ever read that book?" . . .

"Sure we had to read it in college . . . It just showed what was wrong with collectivism. You know--Communism represses the individual, destroys initiative. It claims it has the interests of the majority at heart. And it denies all human values. That's what I got out of 1984, though to hear that professor talk about it, it was all about Nixon and Vietnam."
Not only do Kessel's readers get an interpretation of Nineteen Eighty-Four, but they also get some contemporary cultural criticism of the story's fictional world as well -- very postmodern.

"A Clean Escape" also alludes to the 1985 non-fiction work The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sachs. In particular Sach's work contains an essay entitled "The Lost Mariner," an essay that outlines a case of Korsakov's syndrome. The case involves a man who can't remember anything past the end of World War II - not even a few minutes into his past.

Kessel's character, Robert Havelmann, has Korsakov's syndrome and the fictional psychiatrist tries to explain the syndrome with an example: "There was a famous [case] in the 1970s--A Marine sergeant named Arthur Briggs . . . He lost his memory of any events which occurred to him after September, 1944."

But as the title of this blog states intertextuality is more than just the borrowing and blending of words on a page. In fact, texts are more than just words on a page, they are also photo essays, comics, movies, music, dance, and song.

In Alan Moore's graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen every character comes from a classic piece of Victorian literature. Watchmen isn't just a graphic novel, its pages are a pastiche of literary genres from autobiographical tell-alls, to scholarly essays, ornithological journal articles, corporate correspondence, personal notes and letters, newspaper articles, arrest records, interviews, and marketing materials.

The short story "Work of Art" by James Blish contains a few lines from Ezra Pound's Personae which in turn is cites the Odyssey and contains references to 16th century translations of Homer's epic work.

Many ballets and operas interpret stories borrowed from mythology and are often staged to reflect contemporary cultural criticism.

Intertextuality is also found in the borrowing and blending many genres including music and film, as in the following clip:

Where else do you see borrowed "texts" in today's culture?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Free Comic Book Day - May 5, 2012

Can you believe it? It's almost time again for Free Comic Book Day! Each year the comic book industry encourages READING by giving comic book stores FREE comics to share with local communities. In the Bay Area we are lucky enough to be able to visit the birthplace of the world's largest comic book event -- Flying Colors Comics in Concord.

Flying Colors is located at 2980 Treat Blvd. (at Oak Grove) and they will be giving everyone who shows up for Free Comic Book Day at least three free comics.

But that's not all! Flying Colors Comics will host pro guests for Free Comic Book Day--- writer Zack Whedon (FCBD Star Wars/Serenity Flip-Book) and artist Georges Jeanty (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)! From 3PM-5PM, meet writer LANDRY WALKER and artist ERIC JONES (Image Comics' new DANGER CLUB, SUPERGIRL: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade).

You are encouraged to show up to the event in your favorite comics (especially!) or media-related costume (Browncoats, Jedi, Stormtroopers, Vampire Slayers?). Flying Colors invites you to get there at about 10:30am because they're working on a media-related event that could get you in the picture.

Remember comics are for everybody and reading is wherever you find it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Would You Do?

Congratulations! You just graduated from college and you are at your first interview. You've cleaned up your Facebook page and email accounts (no more Not only that, but you made your Facebook settings private so there's no chance of some random post (or some idiot friend) making you look bad.

The interviewer looks up from her desk, "What's your Facebook login? I can't view your page it's on private and we screen each applicant's social media."

Do you give her your login or not?

That's the dilemma Justin Bassett faced when he recently went to a job interview. What did Justin do? According to The Telegraph, "Mr Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he did not want to work for a company that would seek such personal information."

But what if you really, really, really needed that job? What if your family was counting on you getting that job? What if it meant the difference between paying your rent and living in your car?

No way, you say, that's gotta be illegal. It definitely is an invasion of privacy, but illegal? Not yet.

Some companies also ask you to "friend" a human resource manager, so they can gain access to your social networking sites. This isn't a new practice. Some companies even make you sign an agreement saying you will not disparage the company on social media.

So what would you do?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

World's Dumbest Facebook Criminals

Everybody knows to avoid posting really dumb stuff to Facebook - except, apparently, these guys.

Criminal Justice Degrees Guide just posted an infographic entitled "20 Cases Solved by Using Facebook." Here are some of the highlights:

An EMT (who lost his license BTW) posted crime scene photos of a beaten and strangled woman on Facebook.

A 16-year-old bragged on Facebook about plugging up the local library's toilets causing $247,000 worth of damage and a five month closure. Guess who's going to jail?

Another guy tried to hire a hit man via Facebook to kill a woman who accused him of rape. He now faces 11 to 22 years in jail.

A young woman posted a video of a burglar she caught in her house. "Wait is that the guy I just befriended on Facebook?" Yup. Arrested.

If someone has a restraining order against you, do not "poke" them on Facebook.

Don't eat endangered species and then post a video on Facebook. Do not masquerade as a royal prince on Facebook. Do NOT ever go camping alone with somebody you just met on Facebook.

Police are beginning to use social media more and more to investigate crimes. Social media, while fun and a great way to stay in contact with friends and family, is a haven for criminals who can surf through a large public pool full of victims. Don't end up a victim.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Science Fiction or Fantasy?

I was wondering what I was going to read this summer when a student added NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to a class discussion board.

Not to be outdone, SF Signal turned NPR's list of Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books into a flowchart.

But SF Signal didn't stop there. They turned the flowchart into an interactive list. To begin, you must first decide whether you want to read science fiction or fantasy. After clicking science fiction, you are asked about cyberpunk (Gritty noir, Neo-Victorian, or Samurai). If Neuromancer's not your thing, or you've already read it (which I suspect), then you can blast into space.

At the "start" screen, you are also asked if you like neither and instead "only read books with pictures." Hmmmm, do I detect hoity-toity comic phobia? If you choose to read "picture books", then you get to choose between Heroes (Watchmen) and or "Master of Dreams" (Neil Gaiman's Sandman series). I recommend both.

If you'd prefer to start with Fantasy, then the interactive flow chart asks, "If you are going to be upset when you don't find Harry Potter?" But if you're relieved to find out that fantasy includes something other than Harry Potter, then you're headed for Arthurian legends, westerns, or any number of magical kingdoms.

If you want to click through the hallowed halls of science fiction and fantasy, then start here.

Too busy to click through all those choices? Maybe you should run off the entire flowchart in all its 3800 X 2300 pixel glory.

I wish I had a really big piece of paper handy!