Archive for the ‘School’ category

When does art go too far?

January 11, 2011

Every now and then I’m reminded of the “Philosophy of Art” class I took in college. In this class, we discussed different philosophers’ perceptions of what constitutes good and appropriate art. Some philosophers claimed the purpose of art is to inspire us to do good; thus, art must depict positive images, or images of people doing saintly things.

Others believe the purpose of art is to make you feel a full range of emotions; that in doing so your purge yourself of extreme emotions. In other words, when you see something horrible happen to a character in a play, for example (say he’s murdered), you initially feel extremely upset, angry, or fearful. But after experiencing these emotions you realize that your life is very good in comparison. You realize there’s no need to live life with lots of anger or fear. So the act of experiencing a “negative” work of art is in fact cathartic and good for our well-being.

Sometimes I feel like the first group of philosophers were “more correct” and other times I feel the second group had a better grasp of how art should be used. Lately, I’ve felt that “negative” art has resulted in more good than bad. I think that’s because I’ve heard stories of “negative” art encouraging (or at least not preventing) murderers to do bad things. For example, apparently those involved with the New Hampshire murder of Kimberly Cates and attempted murder of her daughter (she was severely attacked) enjoyed watching “Dexter.

I’ve never seen this show before, but know it’s about a serial killer. A guy I know who watches it told me that Dexter is actually a sympathetic character. Crazy, huh (being that he’s a serial character)? I guess life isn’t always black and white, but I fear the blending of good and bad in this show could confuse already deranged people and prompt them to do something bad. Maybe I should watch the show first before jumping to this conclusion.

I have, however, seen movies that blur the lines between good and bad. In “The United State of Leland,” for example, you find yourself asking whether murder can sometimes be justified, or at least viewed with less disdain. One of the characters basically murders an autistic boy because he thinks he is very sad. He wants to put him out of his misery. The movie does not reach a conclusion about whether the murderer did the right or wrong thing. Looking back, part of me thinks this moral relativism is a horrible thing. But the other part of me thinks it’s good the movie makes you think (if only to arrive at the conclusion that the murder was reprehensible).

The thing with these morally muddled shows and movies is reasonable people end the experience with a fairly sound knowledge of what’s right and wrong, despite the reflection that was invoked. Not-so-stable people, however, see a horrible act being glorified or accepted, and take that at face value. They see something honorable about hurting others. And then maybe, just maybe, they do something stupid as a result.

The problem, however, is that something huge would be sacrificed if we only allowed artists to make paintings, shows and movies depicting inspiring actions. Life isn’t always peaches and cream, and we’d be doing truth a disservice by representing it that way. Plus, maybe seeing horrible things does purge of us unhealthy emotions. But unfortunately, crazy people’s minds don’t work the same way as everyone else’s. Who knows, though- maybe even inspiring art wouldn’t keep them from doing something terribly immoral.

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Back up your data

July 9, 2010

People always tell you to back up your computer data, but until you lose it you might not listen to them.

At least, that was my case.

I had extensive research and a PowerPoint presentation on my laptop, a speech for a friend’s wedding, and lots and lots of pictures. And of course more stuff, too.

But I accidentally dropped my computer and lost everything. My hard drive was ruined. There was no way to get the files without paying $500-plus (at least so I was told).

I had to do my research and presentation all over again. I still have to rewrite the speech. I will have to recover my photos from Facebook (thank God I post most of my pictures).

And of course I will have to get a new computer, or at least replace my old computer with a new hard drive. I’m not really sure what this latter option entails, and should take some time to research it. I actually have a computer-savvy friend who was willing to give me advice, so I think I will ask him about this.

Anyway, this week I’m thankful to my bf who is letting me use his laptop. But I’m frustrated with myself that a) I dropped my computer, and b) I hadn’t backed up my hard drive. Let this be a lesson to you computer owners out there!

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Time to brush up on my speech-giving skills

June 29, 2010

This Abraham Lincoln impersonator could probably teach me a thing or two about giving a good speech.

Oh wait, I never really had them. Still, I’ve got to get better at giving speeches. In T-45 days or so I will be speaking at my friends’ wedding. I have been asked to talk about my friends’ relationship blossoming from a friendship to a romance.

I witnessed this happen over a number of months, and saw them regularly during the first couple of years they were together. I have stories to tell, insights to make, etc. But hopefully I won’t blow the speech. Or at least not say something awkward.

I’ve written out my rough draft, and plan to practice it as much as I can. It’s helpful that at the same time I’m working on this speech, I have a presentation to prepare for my class.  My professor gave us a number of tips for giving a good presentation.

He also suggested we consider joining a local Toastmasters group if we are especially committed to bettering our public speaking skills. I think that would be a fun experience. I’ll have to think about this…

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What a great compliment!!!

June 21, 2010

So, I have a part-time job at a local restaurant. The other night one of our customers, as I was pouring him some water, asked me if I was in school. Technically I am, because I am taking a (technical writing) course at UMass Lowell.

I said, “Yes, I am.” And then he went, “Oh, are you in high school?”

Oh my gosh!!! How happy that made me!!! But also, how outrageous his comment seemed to me. I definitely don’t feel like I look like I’m in high school. But I’ll take what I can get.

Anyway, in response to his question I looked him in the face and said “Actually, no. I’m 29.” Then, I paused.

He started apologizing. He was like, “Oh my, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I was so off with your age.”

I told him not to worry at all. I said that was a huge compliment he gave me. Then I started explaining to him how I was going back to school to get my technical writing certificate after working for several years as a journalist.

I told him how I had a couple of part-time jobs in the meantime, etc., etc., etc. We had a nice conversation, and afterward I was still ecstatic he had thought I was I was so young!!!

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Back to school

June 9, 2010

I recently started taking a technical writing class at UMass Lowell. I took some pictures last night of the campus:

Isn't this gazebo lovely?

I spent some time studying in this student center.

Kind of a funny name for a building

This is Dugan Hall, where my class takes place.

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Maybe I should go back to seventh grade…

May 14, 2010

This week I’m in Syracuse, New York, working as a tutor. My student is in seventh grade, and behind in his school work. My job is to get him as caught up as possible, as well as motivate him to go to school at this difficult time.

I think things are going well so far. What’s surprised me, though, is the amount of information I’ve learned this week. There are so many things that seventh-graders are learning that either I’ve forgotten or never learned myself. For example:

Did you know that in the early- to mid-1800s a number of Native Americans living in the South resisted the military’s attempts to move them west? Some of them were successful, and their descendants live in the South (states like North Carolina and Florida) today.

Well, one interesting story is about a Cherokee Indian in North Carolina named Tsali, and two of his sons, who gave up their life so their tribe could stay in North Carolina. Tsali accidentally killed an American soldier during a struggle, and escaped with his family.

The military couldn’t find the family anywhere. So they sent Tsali a message saying if he and two of his sons gave up their lives the rest of the Cherokees still in North Caroline could stay in North Carolina. The three of them accepted and were killed. Their fellow Cherokees were then left alone.

I’ve learned the most about American history.

I’ve also learned some things about grammar that I probably should have known already. (more…)

“You are what you eat”

April 15, 2010

"banana costume"One of my most vivid memories of elementary school lunch is my gym teacher getting on the stage in our cafeteria and telling us that “You are what you eat.”

I think he did this on several occasions. He said if we eat fatty, unhealthy foods, we will be fat and unhealthy. If we eat lean, nutritious foods, we will be lean and healthy.

So no eating pizza, hot dogs and potato chips for every meal, he said. And more eating fruit, vegetables, and rice.

Well obviously this message is widespread in today’s world. We know healthy foods are better for us than unhealthy foods. But I think the approach of teaching kids this message early on, with a simple or catchy phrase, is a great one.

You can read for hours and hours about healthy eating, but all you really need to know is “You are what you eat.” And that hard-to-forget phrase will stick with you forever.

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