Feedback Loop

Good thing I'm working next to the fire

It’s cold outside.  The January “minimester” at Towson University is two-thirds over.  As an aside, there’s nothing mini about minimester.  It should be called the supermester.  Imagine having a week of classes in the morning, a week of classes in the afternoon, and then figuring out how to get a week’s worth of work for two classes completed once you get home.  So, that’s awesome.

For our final blog assignment in Dr. Nichols’ media criticism class (it’s the one in the afternoon), we had to leave a comment on blogs by three of our classmates.  The idea is to tell them what you liked, what you learned, an idea on how they can improve, etc.

I chose to comment on blogs by Dave, Josh and Keris.  They also happen to be my teammates for the final group presentation (we’ll be picking apart “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia“).

Political economy be regulatin’

The Gipper

Dave’s article, Selling a “Culture of Consumption”, explored political economy, deregulation, commercialization, Disney, and ended with a fun rant about a skincare commercial.  Here’s what I wrote on his blog:

I laughed a little when I started reading your blog, because you had the prominent picture of Reagan, which was the first thing thing I saw, and then you opened with how you’re extremely clever.  I couldn’t help but picture a politician framing the message, and making it clear early on in a speech what you should think.

That being said, the culture of consumerism comment was pretty witty.  Kudos.

Down to the meat of the article.  You’re talking about political economy.  I love how you led the reader down the path to your definition and explanation of political economy.  Talking about deregulation, using the example of Clear Channel, moving on to the broadcast networks (I have an antenna and it works just fine… most of the time) and cable- by the time you got to actually introducing and defining political economy and ideological criticism, I felt like I already knew what you were talking about.  It’s like you tricked me into learning.

Your apple pie hypothetical was great, as well.  It helped to demonstrate the ideas you were talking about using a more simplified idealized version of events.  Sometimes, when we use real-life examples, we get stuck with situations that never perfectly adhere to the principles we’re trying to illustrate.  The real world is too nuanced sometimes, I guess.

I would’ve loved examples of how Disney pushes certain racial stereotypes and gender roles.  If I hadn’t seen the film, I would have gotten confused at that point in the article.  I might have left you an angry comment in ALL CAPS for defaming the wholesome and innocent Disneyverse.

Your advertisement example at the end was great.  Also loved how you displayed a little anger.  It’s more engaging for us as readers to see that personal side.

Well done!

Once again- great job, Dave!

He had me at… adult things

Hat makes the man

Josh entitled his blog Hell on Wheels is a Folk Tale with Guns… and other adult things.  He dissects the new AMC show, “Hell on Wheels,” using Vladimir Propp’s eight character types.  Here’s my feedback:

Guns? Grizzly-man beards? Prostitutes? Color me interested. This show looks like a great find. It’s funny- I’ve never really thought of the connections between westerns and folktales. You bring up a fantastic way to critically think about this genre.

First and foremost, you did a great job summarizing the premise of the show.  I’ve never seen it, so it was important for me to understand the text before getting lost in the analysis.

I loved that you compared the hero, Cullen Bohannon, to “the man with no name.”  It’s great to take characters from a new text and compare them to archetypal characters from more established texts.  It makes reading about something you’ve never seen a lot easier to follow.  In addition, you give us that feeling of inclusion (that character he’s talking about… I KNOW that character!).

Your article also has a great flow.  It never bogged down, even when going through each of Propp’s eight character types.  It could have easily seemed laborious, describing each one, but it glided effortlessly from character to character.

Also, you had a lot of links.  You explained everything really well, and you left the door open if I wanted to find more information. I don’t always want to know more, but when I do it’s nice to have links (where’s the most interesting man in the world when you need him?).

Something that would have helped me out is more visuals.  I think pictures of some of the characters in your Propp section would have helped me keep everyone straight.  It’s possible, maybe even probable, that most people reading the blog haven’t seen the show, yet.

Finally, you committed an unforgivable sin. You mentioned the great Colm Meaney without including a mention or picture of Chief Miles O’Brien.  Shame on you, sir.  Shame.

Overall, good brain food.  My mind appreciated the knowledge.

Well done, Josh!  For those reading at home, that last line has to do with the name of his blog.  Look it up.

The Pendragon clan

Are they 17?

Keris also used Proppian (made that word up… deal) models to dig in to the Starz show “Camelot” in her blog, Speaking of Camelot… Big feedback go now:

I like shows and movies with swords and armor and fighting and magic and women, so I saw no reason why I shouldn’t like this blog article about Camelot.  And thankfully, I was not disappointed!

You did a great job of explaining the premise of the show.  It’s especially important with shows that “re-imagine” a common tale.  King Arthur, Camelot, Merlin- their stories have been told and retold many times.  It’s good to lay out everything for the reader so they don’t get it confused with “The Once and Future King” (the book) or “Excalibur” (the movie) or “Merlin” (the television show) or… I think you get the point.  Thanks.

The way you describe Propp’s theory is great.  You mention it briefly, and then spit out the characters and their types in a list.  Bam.  From there, you go into each character in detail, and explain how that character fits into Propp’s particular character type.  In the process, you slowly dole out Propp’s definitions for the eight character types.  I love it when learning is easy!

I like that you provided pictures for all of the characters.  It really gives a sense of immersion to the reader.  Not only are you getting character descriptions, and explanations of their roles, but you get a “feel” for the show.  That connection makes reading the article much more pleasant and enjoyable.

I would have loved if, during the conclusion, you offered up some other examples of shows that you can apply Propp’s theory to, perhaps even inviting your readers to get involved somehow.

Overall, great work!

Keris, I enjoyed the article, and may have to check out the show!

The blogs, why the blogs?

As you may or not know (whoever you are), our four writing assignments for this media criticism class were all blogs.  No essays turned in before class.  At first, I didn’t know what to think. I went through the assignments, and enjoyed it.  Frankly, a lot more classes should do this.

Lookin' good, kid... expect the horn's not put together correctly, your posture is constricting air flow, and your right pinky looks like it's trying to take flight

That’s not to say we should leave scholarly papers behind. As much as I hate them (I’ll be working on one right after I finish this blog), they are important.  Research in higher education is important.  What is also important, especially in the mass communication discipline, is learning how to write for a general audience.  How are you going to communicate complex ideas to a person who may not have any foundational knowledge about your topic?

In this class, where the primary goal is learning about various theories and approaches to criticism, it was nice to be stealthily practicing real-world communication skills.  When I (used to) teach saxophone, I talked to students about good practice habits.  Something I always tried to convey to students is something I like to call passive multitasking.  The idea is that your focusing on one thing, while reinforcing one or two other concepts without having to think about it too much.  Passive.

For example, you’re practicing your scales.  Musicians, the good ones, work through a lot of scales.  To passively multitask, you’d play some of them very softly or very loudly.  Your focus here isn’t working on dynamics, so you’re not expending much brainpower on it.  However, you’re working out different muscles, and you’re body is making subtle adjustments to make things soft or loud.  Suddenly, you get six hours of work done in a four-hour practice session.

What was I talking about, again?

Dude... not a word

Oh, blogs.  Another advantage is just the act of writing.  I meet a lot of people who simply cannot write.  They can’t spell, they can’t string ideas together, the have bad grammar, so forth and so on.  (please note that I also have trouble with these things… sometimes)  With blogs, and the informal writing style, you can remove the pressure of writing a dry, formal essay.  In the blog, you concentrate on communicating.  Logical progression of ideas, explaining concepts and infusing your personality- all well written of course (grammar, spelling, punctuation).  For example, those last two sentences are what we call crap.  I will leave them there as an example of what not to do.

Epilogue

Writing blogs is fun.  I manage our blog at work- mostly soliciting entries from other people, writing my own, or writing dry press release type articles.  It was nice to write a blog where I get to be me, and I might even write some more.  If I find time.

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