Tidying Up

•September 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Week 9 – Unibreak

Since this week was actually a holiday week and we didn’t have  a tut, I haven’t made a proper post for this week. I’ve been mainly working and sleeping this week to catch up on that missed during uni. Instead of looking for a new topic this week, and since we didn’t have a tut or a reading, I’ve just been tidying up my blog. I missed the first three weeks of term due to being on holidays, so my first few blogs were a bit cluttered and out of order, so I’ve been trying to get them looking like less of a mess, and going through inserting references where needed in my other posts. I still have no idea which posts I’m going to hand in – thank god I only have to hand in seven, as I’m sure all of my posts are over 100 words! So I guess I’d better go do that now . .

A Brave New World? Or a Violent One?

•September 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

One of the man claims people make about the new technological era is that the technology available to children these days is destroying them. As I mentioned in my post about how the internet is changing our brains, many parents and specialists these days (if A Current Affair and Today Tonight are to be believed, anyway) claim that video and computer games, and the internet, are creating new mental disorders in children, and are escalating violent behaviour. That television programs are promoting a violent society, that they cause ADD and ADHD. Now personally I think ADD is a bit of a scapegoat for parents who can’t control their children, don’t discipline them enough, whatever the reason – it’s like, if you diagnose them with ADD, drug them up on mood suppressents, problem solved! I’m not, of course, denying that ADD is a serious condition, and that some children do have it, I just feel like it’s become an excuse for parents to let their children get away with murder.

Still, studies have shown that there is a serious link between violent video games and children acting out real world violence. And you can see why – I mean, if a kid spends all his time playing video games where he can shoot people and cut them with knives and get away with it – even get rewarded for it in the video game world by leveling up or whatever, you can see how some kids might apply that to the real world. However, studies have also shown that those who had the most violent reactions to playing video games were also those who had the strongest disposition towards violence to start with (Anderson, Dill, 2000). So perhaps video games aren’t changing us . . . they’re simply showing us a darker side of ourselves that already existed.

Anderson, Craig A., Dill, Karen E., Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviour in the laboratory and real life, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 78, No. 4, http://web.clark.edu/mjackson/anderson.and.dill.html


•September 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Week 8 – Revision

This week in our tut, we talked a bit about both the blog assignment and the essay, clarifying questions and making sure everyone knew what was required for both the assignments. We were also (thankfully) told that we would be allowed to hand in 7 blogs rather than 10 if our blogs tended to be longer so we could still stay under the 1000 word limit.

We were divided into groups and had to summarise a couple of readings from the text book – my group had the preface from Week 2 and Metacommentary from week three. The preface summary basically told us how to write a good essay, outlined the premise of the textbook (The “they say, I say” concept) and the art of introducting a personal voice and the arguements of other academics to our writing. The week three reading, on the art of metacommentary introduced the concept of metacommentary – that being the art of qualifying statements or summaries of points in an essay – and how they can be used as an explanation or qualification of your writing – a method of telling people how to interpret what you have written. It’s a method of drawing out implications and preventing misinterpretations and miscommunications.

We also looked at essay structure, which, hopefully, is something most students have a fairly firm graps of by this point. We looked at a few essay introductions that were badly done, and others that were more skillfully exectuted. We also discussed the purpose of a topic sentance – a sentance at the beginning of each paragraph outlining what that paragraph would be about.

The State of Schooling Today

•September 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Tutorial Week 7 – Grammar Triage

This week we got sheets on triage grammar – a process of going through a piece of writing looking for certain places in sentances where mistakes are most commonly made. For example, they look for nouns where possessive apostraphes might be misplaced, or contractions, incorrect word use, etc. The sheet also included a list of the most common mistakes made in a series of first year essays in a writing subjects. Apparently almost 80% of students made these mistakes, which I find apalling. Most of these errors were things that should have been learnt in primary school English – things like the correct use of they’re, their and there, and the difference between were and we’re, the correct positioning of apostraphes in possesive nouns and pluralised nouns . . I couldn’t believe that there were university students still unable to use correct grammar and punctuation in academic writing. I believe it really says something about the state of our schooling system – or perhaps the state of our students – that people can make it to university and still be unable to tell the difference between the correct usage of ‘they’re’ and ‘there’.

Also this week, we had to choose our essay question and write out a few points on how we intend to tackle this question. I chose question 7 –

Literature has the power to sustain us as individuals, as a society, allowing us to understand the world in which we live and ourselves on a deeper level. Literature humanises us, making us more compassionate; it enlightens us in imaginative and knowing ways. Literature can change your life, just as it changed mine. Discuss.

The points I came up with in the time given to us are as follows:

  • Literature doesn’t just make us compassionate, but can show us a darker side of ourselves
  • It can highlight the brilliance and the repulsiveness of humanity
  • It can be life changing – but it doesn’t have to be
  • Creates understanding, promotes knowledge and imagination
  • Can create catharsis, can wake in us feelings we didn’t know we had
  • Is imagination necessary to the enjoyment of literature? Is literature necessary to the survival of humanity?
  • How do you define literature?
  • “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusack as an example of life changing literature

The Apple Phenomenon

•September 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So I think I mentioned before in my post about technology as a new religion the way some Apple Product users act – with the fevrent conviction of a religious experience, desperate to initiate you into the wonderful world of Mac. While I, happily working with my Windows 7 PC operating system, hardly understand the appeal of Mac’s artsy-pretensious holier-than-thou systems, I can’t deny that I am also deeply satisfied with my Apple iPod and use iTunes on a regular basis. My younger brother has an iPhone and an iPod touch, and most of my friends also have an iPod of some description – be it a Classic, Touch, Nano, etc. It got me thinking about the way people are drawn to technology and why Apple is now one of the biggest retailers of fancy gadgets.

The answer seems pretty simple on the surface – Apple products are the most technologically advanced products on the market. We just need to look at the iPad to see that. While I did admittedly make fun of the iPad for being the flashiest and most useless piece of technology on the market, it is an amazing peice of technology. The official Apple website proclaims the iPad as a “magical and revolutionary device” (http://www.apple.com/au/ipad) And to be fair, it’s pretty cool. You can use it to check your mail, read a book, go online, share photos, watch movies, listen to music, look at maps, make notes, take appointments, and create tables. It makes you wonder why anyone would ever need anything else – you’d think the iPad would put the rest of Apple’s products out of buisness. For instance, why by a Mac computer when you can do everything a computer does on your iPad? Why by an iPod when your iPad does all the same things? Hell, why have a tv? Why bother buying or borrowing books? Your iPad does it all! And yet people still want the iPhones, the iPods, the Macs . . . and not even hardcore Apple people! I know a lot of people who use a Windows operating system, but have iTunes, iPhones and iPods as well.

So, I suppose it comes down to this – if technology is the new religion, Apple is the new Messiah.

The Brain Drain

•September 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Switching from last week’s topic of Globalisation and Westernisation, today I’m going to talk a bit about the effect technology’s having, not on a global scale, but on a more micro level. I read an article in the Daily Telegraph (http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/how-the-internet-makes-us-stupid-20100909-15383.html) about how the internet is changing the way people’s brain functions. In summary, the article says that while people are getting better at skimming information and being able to keep track of several different things at once, the ability to concentrate and engage in deeper, more meaningful thought processes is being lost. Basically, we’re losing our ability to concentrate.

And it’s true – I mean, how many of us are sitting here with just the one IE window open? Not many, I imagine. I for one have four internet tabs open – one for my blog, one to the article, one to Google and another to Facebook. We’re becoming a race of skimmers, skippers and surfers, never engaging in one thing for long, always distracted by something else – the television, your mobile phone going off, the song coming on the radio, someone posting something on Facebook, a new Twitter . .

We no longer want to – or can – concentrate on any one thing for a long period of time. According to research, our mental performance and capacity for deep, introspective thinking is deteriorating, and it’s the distracting multitaking capabilities of computers, the internet and modern life that’s to blame. It’s worrying to think how quickly this has come to pass – and where it will lead to next.

From Script to Prose, and ‘So what? Who cares?’

•September 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Tutorial Week 6 – So What? Who Cares?

This week in our tuts we were looking at ‘So what? Who cares?’ chapter of our text book, where we were being taught how to target our writing at an audience, and show why our research and our writing is important to the subject we’re writing about. From what I can see, the “So what?” part of the phrase means “Why are you writing?” and the “Who cares?” part means “Who are you writing for?” These questions allow you to tailor your writing to your purpose and your audience. The example we used in class is “So what if Golidlocks is lost? Who cares?” and we had to think about this timelessly classic tale and why it is so endearingly popular – because people do care.

Also, this week we had to put our script from last week into prose form, but with a twist. We had to write in present tense, which can be a little challenging, and also because when Lara said so, we had to finish our sentance with a transitional word or phrase and pass it to the person next to us, and they were to continue our story, and us theirs. We then had to switch back and complete our own piece of work. My partner was Darren Low, and I put his contribution in italics.


Elle walks onto Parramatta campus, the shadow of the “Welcome to UWS” sign passing over her, causing her to shiver. The sky is dark with the promise of a storm, the wind chill and blustery. She has her iPod turned up, the blare of clashing, tiny music breaking the wall of silence that surrounds a campus bereft of life. It’s late afternoon, and most students have gone home. Elle sits herself down on  a bench, the chill metal biting into her thighs as she prepares herself to wait. A thrill of nerves bolt through her, making her shiver again. The clouds are ominous, somehow, and the knowledge that as soon as Jake, her somewhat unreliable boyfriend arrives, she will be breaking about seventy rules makes her jittery.

The plan is simple. Meet at five o’clock on the first floor of the EA building, by the lifts. Bring grog – there’ll be a party. But Ellie isn’t much like her friends, and the idea of a drunken revelry in the bowels of the university unsettles her with all the possiblities of things going wrong. Of getting caught, of someone getting hurt. She’s only there at all because Jake asks it of her.

Minutes tick by, and Elle sends off an angry text, urging her slack football-player-jack boyfriend to hurry up. The thin coat she wears does little to protect her from the biting cold, and the distant sussurus of the trees sounds like whispering – secrets passed from leaf to lea. Ultimately . . .

Elle’s boyfriend doesn’t show up, as she then starts to send numerous texts, venting her frustration. She starts to feel a sense of loneliness as she soon realises that no one is there, and that her boyfriend is not turning up. Consequently . . .

She rises slowly to her feet, not wishing to be left sitting on the icy bench a minute longer. Jake was going to get a mouthful next time she saw him, that was a certainty. She gives the empty campus one more furious glance, then turns back towards the entrance, the highway, and home. She decides she wants nothing to do with their stupid party. Incensed, she stalks down the footpath, her back to the lonely buildings. Suddenly, a deafgening concussion rends the air, the force of it flinging Elle to the biting pavement, crushing the air from her lungs. A wave of heat rushes over her, coupled with shards of shattered silence and a shower of stone fragments, bits of glass and hunks of steaming metal. Horrified, she turns towards the smoking ruins of the building . . .

Script Writing Challenge

•September 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Tutorial Week Five – Script writing

In our Analytical Reading and Writing Tut, we were challenged to write the beginning of a script for a new “Final Destination” film, set on UWS campus. The idea was to get us to practice writing transitions and working the idea of ‘choices’ into our storylines. I found this to be decidedly challenging – not the content so much as the style. Script-writing seemed cramped and unweildly to me, because I’m so used to writing prose. Still, I managed a passable attempt, which follows.

My Final Destination Script:

University of Western Sydney Campus, late afternoon. The sky is hidden by a low bank of cloud cover, stormy, tumultuous, a cold, blustery wind sweeps across the campus, blowing leaves and debris across the ground. The few trees lean and creak. A light in the building flickers insistently, eerily. There are only a few students left, walking quickly to wherever they’re going. The colour scheme is grey, cold.

Character name: ELLE [long, straight blonde hair, is sitting on a bench by herself, hair is blown and tangled by the wind, looks cold, unhappy, has an iPod in her ears, texting on her phone, sighs]

Enter JAKE: [Jock type, baseball jersey, jeans, joggers, cocky]

ELLE: You’re late. [accusingly]

Lightning flickers across the sky, thunder rolls ominously, matching ELLE’s annoyed expression.

JAKE: [shrugs casually, smirks] Yeah, so what? There was traffic. C’mon.

ELLE: [stands, gives him a glare, but kisses him before taking his hand] Are the others here?

JAKE: Sure. Damn it’s cold. You got everything?

ELLE: [pulls out a bottle of wine] Yup. [grins]

Cut to the first floor of EA, where a group of five or six teenagers wait, all carrying bottles of alcohol, laughing and teasing each other, boys laughing loudly, girls trying to shush them, looking nervous and excited.

ELLE: Shut up guys, you’re going to get us caught. [worriedly, she’s obviously not the leader of the group]

KATE: [laughs at her, presses the button on the lift] Lighten up, we’re here for a party! [laughs again lightly]

Lift tings open, with a lot of laughing and jostling, the teenagers pile into the box, lift creaks and groans, over loaded sign pings on.

KATE: Too heavy! Someone’ll have to get out!

JAKE: Go on then Connor, bet it’s you!

Largish boy gets pushed out of the lift, despite his protests, they leave him to come down by himself later, when the lift reaches the bottom, the group emerges, laughing, into a large basement-type room, lots of pipes twisting along the ceiling, clearly the boiler room, where the central heating for the building is located.

KATE: Ugh, it reeks down here. [waving her hand in front of her face, wrinkling her nose]

RANDOM TEEN: Girls, relax. It’s just been closed up too long. [throwing out blankets on the floor to sit on, others are putting down the bottles of alcohol]

ELLE: [hovers nervously] Doesn’t that smell like gas to you guys? I’m not sure about this, what if we get caught?

JAKE: [laughs] Relax, nerdette. No one ever comes down here. We’ll be fine.

The group settle down on the blankets, starting to open the bottles, laughing and joking with each other, their laughter echoing off the walls, ELLE continues to look uncomfortable. She notices water dripping from one of the pipes. KATE puts her hand down in the puddle and squeals with disgust, wiping it on another boy’s sleeve. Cut to a shot of the boiler, the pressure gauge is climbing and gas is hissing from a join in one of the pipes Everything gains a strange edge, like the feeling you get when you’re dizzy. One of the boys pulls out a cigarette.

ELLE: Maybe you shouldn’t light that down here. That’s a gas boiler over there. [hesitantly]

BOY: [laughs] You reckon the fat old blokes that work down here don’t have a fag every now and then? You’re makin’ mountains outta molehills, or whatever that damn saying is.

KATE: C’mon Elle, don’t be a spoil sport!

BOY lights cigarette, takes a deep breath. The ash glows red for a minute. Cut to the gas leak, then back to the cigarette as the ash, glowing, falls. The gas ignites with a whoosh, engulfing the boy who screams as he catches on fire. The flames catch into the alcohol spilt as they all jump up, trying to run away, the flames spread until they get back to the boiler, which explodes, sending shrapnel flying into KATE’s head, another bit slices through JAKE’s arm, the explosion engulfs the rest of the group, cut back to the elevator, ELLE gasping, looking pale, distressed, but she braces herself and enters the lift – repeat sequence, CONNOR gets out of lift, etc. This time when the water starts dripping, ELLE looks afraid, when KATE wipes it on the boy, she starts to look panicked. BOY pulls out cigarette and she jumps to her feet

ELLE: Don’t light that! There’s a gas leak, don’t light it! [hysterical, grabs JAKE and tries to drag him out, starting to cry] Get up! Get out! Come on! [kids are looking at her like she’s crazy]

JAKE: Elle, what’s going on with you? Calm down. [but stands up, KATE stands up as well, a couple of other kids hesitantly get to their feet, ELLE screaming, drags them all out, a few stay behind, the BOY lights a cigarette just as they get out of the lift and there’s an explosion]

Globalisation – The Ups and the Downs

•September 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Globalisation is the word on everyone’s tongues – at least, everyone who is aware of the effect it’s having on the world, or the “Global Village” as it has come to be known. A lot of people, especially from non-Western countries, see Globalisation as a bad thing – as a “dirty word” as Spencer (2002) puts it. And you can see why some countries would think this – Globalisation is all very well, but it tends to come hand in hand with Westernisation. Westernisation is a dirty word, especially for countries who are struggling to keep a hold of their own unique culture under the onslaught of the Western world. The West is hugely powerful on the world stage, and our values, beliefs, and culture are being spread worldwide by the internet. While sometimes this global superpower can be a positive thing, such as in cases of oppression and poverty, its effects on the cultures and the diversity of the world carries dangerous connotations. Some people fear that Westernisation is just another world for empire.

But that’s not to say there are no positive aspects to Globalisation. Leaving Westernisation out of it, Globalisation allows world wide participation on a scale not seen before. It means that people can learn about and experience different cultures. Globalisation is the increasing interconnectedness of the world and the people in it. This is because of increases in technology and the ease of travel these days, and some would argue that this it’s a good thing that the world has been shrunk to such a size that we’re all able to travel to different countries and explore different cultures.

When you get down to it, it seems that Globalisation in itself is a good thing – it’s Westernisation that’s the problem. Maybe when people start to understand that these two forces are not one and the same, we’ll be able to remove some of the xenophobia this increased connectivity is waking in some people and cultures.

Tiplady, Richard, ed. One World or Many?: The Impact of Globalisation on Mission, William Carey Library, Pasadena, 2003

The Romantic Consumer

•August 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Today I thought I’d talk a bit about advertising and consumerism. As I’ve mentioned, consumerism is a huge force in today’s society and the need to buy better, faster, more, products drives the economics of the globe. It’s a force that almost defies comprehension, because we all do it. Everyone wants just that little bit more, no one is entirely happy with what they have. Enter the advertisers – an entire buisness based on people’s desire to buy things. They only need to twist our arms a little, to appeal to that inner voice that urges us to buy that new tv, to paint the house, to order those new shoes, just because we can. Because we deserve it. Feeling convinced yet?

Colin Campbell, in his book “The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism” (1987) compares the terms “Consumerism” and “Romance”. He states that though at first glance these terms would seem to be at opposite ends of the scale, Romance has somehow found its way into the world of consumerism, and advertising is to blame.

You only have to watch TV for ten minutes to see he has a point. An example off the top of my head is the ad for Natural Confectionary Co. sweets, which shows a husband carefully arranging the lollies on a plate in a heart shape for his wife. He then eats one, and the next thing you know, he’s eaten all but one, which he offers to his wife. While the message of the ad is that they’re so good you won’t be able to stop, Romance plays an important part in the conveyance of this message. Romance is used in advertising to make us feel good about our consumer natures – it appeals to to best of us, to bring out what some people would claim is the worst. Still, we might be a world of greedy consumers, but it keeps the advertisers in buisness, doesn’t it?

Campbell, Colin. The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of the Modern Consumer, Blackwell Publishers, 1987, Great Britain.