Learning to Collaborate

We’ve all been in that situation when it’s your first class of the semester and your professor is going on and on about the syllabus and, suddenly, the words “group project” leaves their lips. It’s like you’ve been punched in the gut! All of these horrible memories of past group projects flood your mind and you remember all of the nameless slackers who left you high and dry to do the project yourself, taking half the credit and the undeserved A that you slaved over to get. Now, I get it. This is probably the last thing you want to read, and I’m not conceited enough to think I can change your negative opinions about group projects. But, I want you to know that there is hope. There are guidelines that you can lay down early on in the process when you first meet your group mates that can insure success.

These guidelines come straight from Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects. Chapter 5, “Assembling Your Technologies and Your Team”, thoroughly describes how to effectively collaborate using certain guidelines. These paraphrased guidelines are as follows:

  • If possible, limit the size of your group. More members means more voices which means the possibility of trouble when coming to decisions and coordinating schedules.
  • If you have the chance to choose your teammates, try to choose members who bring a diverse set of skills and perspectives.
  • Exchange contact information with your teammates, so you can keep up with them and their progress.
  • Create a group contract that explains group expectations, member roles, communication procedures, meetings, and problem-solving tactics.
  • Contribute by coming to class or meetings, being prepared with materials and ideas, participate, and, especially, pull your own weight.
  • Listen to the ideas of others. Don’t just shut them down immediately.
  • Learn to compromise.
  • If there is conflict, let your teammates talk it out by explaining their own perspectives and suggestions for solving the issue. If it’s a serious conflict, speak with your professor who will help the team get back on track.

Some of these guidelines may seem obvious and self-explanatory, but, believe me, some people may need to hear the obvious. The problems that usually occur within groups stem from the fact that rules weren’t set and agreed upon at the first meeting. If this happens, then your group members can be held accountable for breaking them. Inevitably, there may be a bad egg in your group that just refuses to follow the status quo. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to go to your professor and tell them what’s going on. Your professor will be able to handle the situation better than you just chewing them out at the next meeting. I hope these guidelines help the next time you’re forced to work with others for an assignment or project. If not, then at least you tried.

-Rose Street

Response to Cracked’s Criticisms of “Kickass” Female Characters in Film

I am a frequent reader of the comedy website Cracked, which has articles on a range of topics including pop culture, weird science and history, and sometimes insightful personal accounts from people with unique jobs or living situations. I usually gravitate toward the articles on pop culture and media for a light, fun read. In doing so, I came across an article entitled “6 Stupid Characters That Hollywood Now Puts in Every Movie.” Like most of these types of articles featured on the site, this article was just some simple observations by a columnist about the way movies are being made today, but there was one entry that really made me stop and think. It was something the author referred to as “Kickass” Female Characters Who Don’t Really Do Anything. The main point the author of the article was trying to make is that there is an ever-growing number of  female characters appearing in films, mainly blockbusters, that are designated as being a “tough” or “kickass” woman but never prove their toughness. He says, “there’s a tendency in modern films to create kickass female co-stars with hot leather fighting abilities who are of zero consequence to the plot … no matter how bumbling their male co-stars may be.” This sounded reasonable enough and even though some arguments could be made against a few of the examples he gives, Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Widow are two that could be considered less than solid,  I was generally on board with his assessment.

My main issue with his argument is that he’s kind of missing the point of why these types of characters are so frustrating, especially to female viewers. He takes issue with the fact that these “badass” characters don’t actually serve the function of being a badass; I find them troubling because they are representative of the type of one dimensional female character that Hollywood has been churning out in response to the call for “stronger” female characters, which has been misinterpreted to mean women who can fight or shoot a gun. What is really meant by “strong female characters” then? It is a desire for female characters that are rounded, three dimensional human beings. This means women who might be tough or vulnerable, strong or weak, but who are probably all of these things because real people are flawed and possess a capacity to experience an array of emotions.

The biggest hole in his argument is one he makes himself. After giving all of these examples of characters that could be construed to fit into this frame of one dimensional badassery, he hinges his argument on the uselessness of Katniss Everdeen. He claims that she is a useless female character because she doesn’t use her archery skills to kill enough people, and because she is manipulated into providing propaganda for the revolution. With this example and reasoning, he proves that he has not only missed the bigger point of why superficially tough female characters are a problem, but that he has also misidentified and misinterpreted one of the few attempts to provide a female hero who is not the perfect, emotionless action hero. The whole point of Katniss Everdeen is that she is a reluctant hero who’s more than just good with a bow. She is only in the Hunger Games to save her sister and has no desire to kill anyone if it can be avoided. The fact that she is manipulated and vulnerable doesn’t make her any less of a “strong” character, it just means that she is a flawed character who’s more than a one dimensional killing machine.

I think it’s great that people try to point out the problems with our modern films, especially those with the portrayal of women on screen, but it’s also very important to understand what you’re actually writing about and the overall point. The point was missed here and the criticisms of female characters should depend less upon how much butt they can kick and more upon whether or not they are dynamic, fleshed-out, and well-rounded characters.

-Shelby Bess

Fighting Rape Culture at UTC

Recently, UTC has undergone some major changes. No, I’m not just talking about the new Library or the new parking lot that’s being constructed. Nor am I talking about the freshmen dorms that are being built for the next couple of years. I am talking about the rape culture dominating news stations, newspapers, and even campus events. Over the past few years, a growing number of women (predominantly, but men also) have had the courage to bring charges against their aggressors on campus.

The growing presence of the UTC Women’s Center has been paramount in this, especially as the victims turned survivors have turned to mainstream audiences and media to tell their stories, casting a wider net for an audience. Unfortunately, in doing so, we have seen significantly more backlash against these survivors or at least a seeming indifference and hesitancy to move forward on a case.

This type of graphic perversion has only recently found its way into fictional mainstream settings, so to see it become a part of our daily reality is jarring for many people. They simply find it either hard to believe it, mostly because it is not easily seen tangibly. Typically a victim’s suffering is intangible – depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. These are things not easily noticeable by the unassuming public. But the person accused of assault will suffer more tangible consequences – prison time, expulsion, loss of job opportunities. The difference is not in their significance but in their visibility.

This is why some of the administrators have come under fire for losing testimonial evidence from several students, readmitting students found guilty of sexual assault, and the general mishandling of several Title IX procedures. Because of this, some new programs and measures have been put into effect, including UTC’s Know More, a Yes Means Yes policy, and bringing Katie Koestner, founder of Take Back the Night, to speak in the UC Auditorium. Whether these two new programs are reactionary or not, they are nevertheless a step in the right direction.

It is critical to raise awareness of not only helping those who have been victimized, but as well as helping those who may need the courage to be an intervening bystander. For instance, the most common reaction to being told that consent cannot be given while under the influence is “What?”

Rape isn’t just an act of sexual aggression by a stranger, it can happen to anyone by anyone, and changing a whole culture of victim blaming and excuses to one of respect and acceptance won’t happen overnight, but this sure is better than a misogynist maniac demanding an umbrella from a total stranger in a downpour then threatening her when she refuses, and letting him get away with it.

-Daniel McNeeley

Judgements

It’s funny how people judge one another by where they come from like that can actually make a person who they are. All kinds of things determine a person’s character; like who their parents are, the people they spend time with, their hobbies, their religion, their education, and the lessons they have taken from life.

I moved to Dunlap four years ago but I worked on Signal Mountain. It seems like both towns hate each other for the most part and I sensed that before I ever moved here. Dunlap believes Signal Mountain is full of stuck up rich people and Signal Mountain believes that Dunlap is full of redneck trash (this is just my observation). However, both of these stereotypes are true and false. I have met some of the most incredible people from both places and one stereotype can never encompass a whole group of people.

If I have learned anything in life it is that any preconceived notions you have about people before actually taking the time to know them should be ignored. People will always surprise you. It’s sad when the people you judged the hardest and think you know all about, actually turn out to be the most genuine of all, because let’s face it – we all judge. There are good, humble, hardworking people from Signal Mountain and there are people in Dunlap that would feed strangers.

There is selflessness and love in all people and it doesn’t matter where they come from. I believe that beautiful people are not born but made, and only the circumstances of their lives can make them who they are. There is good and bad in all people. You can never really know someone’s journey until you know them, and even then there are still secret parts to it that you can never understand. I will never regret being nicer to people than they deserve, even if they break my heart or attempt to crush my spirit. I will always try my best to be the bigger person. People are incredible and interesting and if you think you have them figured out before they even tell you anything about themselves then you are cheating yourself.

-Hannah Childress

Mastering the English Major Lifestyle – According to Me

It’s the beginning of the week.  My weekend involved hours of work, catching up on sleep, cleaning my house, late night talks with friends, homework assignments, paying all my money for concerts, hangouts, and Pabst Blue Ribbon.   I ponder what this week has in store for me.  I have to gather music and practice for RUF worship, meet new people, more work, study for tests, write papers, practice for our house concert, and lose more sleep trying to get to class on time.  No matter what your year is in college, you immediately have responsibilities that take up your schedule.  Sound familiar?  How in the world will I get all of this done so that I can write more short stories and finish John Steinbeck’s East of Eden?

There has to be a solution.

As an English major at UTC, I think the three most important things are homework, writing, and reading.  Homework is my archenemy.

I hear this conversation between my friend and I:

“How are those new poems gong?  Started anything new?”

“Nah, I’m behind on homework.  But I have new clever ideas that I want to get back to!”

“Right, right. Keep me updated!”

This has happened too many times.

I think that the first step in conquering these tasks is to either get ahead of homework, or always stay on top of it.  Ironically, homework has a mysterious force that is knocking at the door of our brains, eager to find a home to rest.  Homework is the key to decreasing the study time we put into tests and papers, and it eventually allows more available time to write.  If I am caught up on homework, I can write more.  Simple, right?

Secondly, I think that consistent writing is essential.  I know this sounds unrealistic since we do enough writing as it is, but developing your own voice is something that can’t be ignored.  English majors love to read and write, no matter how much stuff they have to get done.  It is what gives us encouragement in our own character and writing.

I know that some people are not confortable with sharing their writing, but this challenge has to be met if you want to further develop your voice.  Please, take a class with Professor Najberg or Professor Braggs, and then you’ll be set.

Lastly, I think reading inspires better writing.  This is where I might lose some of my readers, especially if you’re trying to read a novel a week in class, and on top of writing papers and finishing King Lear.  I get it.  I trust that the materials read in certain classes are capable of influencing better writing; however, wouldn’t it be better if we could shred through 20 pages a night in a novel?  I like that thought a lot.  Think about what your schedule will entail after college when there will be more tasks that need to be met, so why not take advantage of the time now?

I challenge myself and other students to live this life style.  Maybe it will be too stressful or not worth it. But I know from experience, that this challenge is worth practicing and mastering.  Now get a friend and start sharing your creative work.

– Adam Jones

An Analysis of Arcade Fire’s Single “Reflektor”

220px-ArcadeFireReflektor

The Canadian based band Arcade Fire have released their first single, the album’s title song “Reflektor”, alongside an incredibly visually attractive and interactive music video, providing a wonderful glimpse of their up-coming album. The title track is also the first track on the album, and through it’s musical composition and lyrical arrangement, the band gives us an astounding perspective on how they have continually improved their sound while staying true to their previous work.

Here’s a quick break down of why Arcade Fire’s new album will be worth the listen.

“Reflektor” immediately launches into an irresistibly catchy tune almost impossible to keep from tapping your foot to, or straight up dancing.

The first verse opens with Win, the lead male vocalist and husband of lead female vocalist, Regine Chassagne. “We fell in love, alone on a stage in the reflective age,” Win sings. Regine responds in the Pre-Chorus singing in French, “Entre la nuit, la nuit et l’aurore. Entre le royaume des vivants et des morts,” roughly translated as, “Between the night, night and dawn. Between the realm of the living and the dead.” The husband and wife duo sing to each other before the Chorus, implying the concept of their love as being a distortion via the reflector.

Verse 2 is directed to the listener, “Now, the signals we send, are deflected again. We’re still connected, but are we even friends?” This statement asks the listener if they’re even friends if the original message is deflected in the original concept.

Verse 3 then examines how the medium, in which this very song is presented, distorts the original, “Our song escapes, on little silver discs. Our love is plastic; we’ll break it to bits. I want to break free, but will they break me down?”

Here the couple specifically points to how their music in Verse 1 literally “escapes” onto these mediums in the form of CDs, and even worse, digital files.

Ultimately, the song ends by placing the interpretive responsibilities in the listener’s lap. The interactive video specifically does this as at the end of the song the video is totally under the listener/viewers control. “It’s a Reflektor, just a Reflektor, Will I see you on the other side?” Arcade Fire has given us an amazing single that stands by itself as a remarkable achievement in creating a statement on the connection between the musician and audience, a connection that has been degrading ever since the evolution of digital file sharing. Will you see Arcade Fire on the other side?

A Review about a Zombie Podcast: We’re Alive

Zombies

Unlike most podcasts which usually feature one to two main hosts speaking on a specific topic with featured guests and music, We’re Alive is a whole new breed of podcast. The format is much like older radio dramas, with characters and scenes and sound effects, oh my! But the real hook is something that has been gaining popularity in our culture for years: Zombies! Listeners listen as a group of everyday people struggle to survive in Los Angeles as the city, and the country, is overrun with flesh eating corpses.
As the creator, writer, and producer of We’re Alive, Kc Wayland uses not only his background in animation and film making but his experiences as a soldier overseas to make the world come alive in his podcast. Each and every character is multi-faceted, deep and integral to the plot, even if it isn’t clear how just yet. If that wasn’t enough, the quality of the production is beyond anything else that you’re likely to find out there. Listening puts you right into the action. Into every argument, every gun fight and every quiet moment.
Every episode is about twenty minutes in length, and all are available for free on iTunes, Zune, Feedburner, and on the We’re Alive website itself, which is easy to remember as simply http://www.zombiepodcast.com. Go now and immerse your ears into the gory, gritty, human story that has started its fourth and final season. Two Mondays every month and you’ll be hooked, I promise!