Friday, March 23, 2012

Thoughts on Reality TV

Akshay:I don't think there's much reality in reality TV. The contestants, or what ever you want to denote them as, are more like characters than the actors in a sitcom. It's much easier to relate to the cast of How I Met Your Mother than the cast of Jersey Shore or Mob Wives. Characters in a sitcom are created to be real, to be relatable. They are scripted to ignore the camera, where as in reality TV the camera and the director are characters too, picking and choosing what footage is present in the final edit to suggest a certain message. Survivor isn't just a random compilation of people chilling on an island, but rather hones in on specific story lines within the characters, brewing conflict and giving life to the show. Characters in a reality TV show are supposed to just be themselves, but with a camera watching your every move, just how much of yourself are you going to reveal?

Nate: I agree with what Akshay said. Although they say certain TV shows are reality shows, there are people in front of the actors when shooting who give directions and words to say in order to make the audience laugh or to create suspense. On the other side, though scripts are given to the actors in sitcoms or dramas, the actors interpret the script in their own unique ways and also uses ad-lips to make their character more realistic and alive. Thus, I believe that reality TV shows are not realistic. Rather, sitcoms or dramas are more realistic in that each actors make their own characters with what is given.

Pete:Reality TV is somewhat silly, in my opinion. As soon as people are isolated by an array of cameras and producers any semblance of reality leaves the building. People stop acting like themselves and start acting like who they THINK they are as soon as they're in front of a camera.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

May the odds be ever in your favor!

In preparation for tomorrow's grand event, this is a review of Hunger Games from the Austin-American Statesman (and also written by a good friend of mine). What I like about this review is that Joe does a great job of telling the story but also explaining the film elements, many in relation to other films and cultural experiences.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

sound + vision

Hope y'all are having a grand spring break.

A friend posted this article to Facebook from the blog io9. This is actual footage NASA released of the rocket boosters from the Space Shuttle. Watch and listen! And then remember-- this is real. 2001 was shot on a soundstage!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Dalai Lama on Buddhism & Science

A friend of mine posted on Facebook a quote that was attributed to the Dalai Lama. It read, "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change." Immediately skeptical, I did a quick Google search to see if any other sources could verify the quote's authenticity. To my amazement, I found an editorial in the New York Times written by Tenzin Gyatso that contained this exact statement (for those who don't know, Tenzin Gyatso is the name of the 14th Dalai Lama). So, here we have a rough equivalent of the Buddhist Pope saying that religion must bow to the authority of science. What a statement!

The conclusions we can draw from this are endless - The Dalai Lama isn't saying that Buddhism will adapt with science. He is, quite literaly, suggesting that science is superior; he is suggesting that traditional Buddhist doctrine would instantaneously be wrong if science found itself in disagreement with the faith (Could you image the Pope suggesting that?).

There are a great deal of reasons why I find Buddhism to be so fascinating, but chief among them is the Dalai Lama. Not only is he a religious leader (I believe) who is before his time, but I think that we'll start to see more religious leaders begin following his example by embracing science rather than staunchly opposing it at every turn. If not, as I've said before, I think we'll see religion begin to change on a fundamental level, unrecognizable from its current form.

There are other supremely interesting quotes from the same editorial:

"If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview."

"The goal here is not to prove Buddhism right or wrong - or even to bring people to Buddhism - but rather to take these methods out of the traditional context, study their potential benefits, and share the findings with anyone who might find them helpful."

"You see, many people still consider science and religion to be in opposition. While I agree that certain religious concepts conflict with scientific facts and principles, I also feel that people from both worlds can have an intelligent discussion, one that has the power ultimately to generate a deeper understanding of challenges we face together in our interconnected world."

Also, this last quote plays into the discussion we are having over AI: "Just as the world of business has been paying renewed attention to ethics, the world of science would benefit from more deeply considering the implications of its own work. Scientists should be more than merely technically adept; they should be mindful of their own motivation and the larger goal of what they do: the betterment of humanity."

If you want to read the whole editorial, here's the link: Our Faith in Science By Tenzin Gyatso.

Hope you're all having a wonderful break!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Expanding the Definition of Religion

The OED defines religion as a state of life bound by religious vows; the condition of belonging to a religious order. Do you think this definition is accurate? We believe this definition is basically arbitrary since it uses religion in the definition twice. If this is not the definition what definition can you come up with? Must every religion fall under your definition? We feel that there are too many religions out there, and some may be secular that does not fall under the typical definition, so what do we do then? What criteria can be used to define a religion? In class we discussed possible religions in our culture today such as democracy, capitalism, and scientism. Do you believe these could be religions? If these are religions do sports and playing video games also count as religions? Finally, we discussed the possibility of a definition of religion that can always be changed and extrapolated. For example at one time the world was predominately polytheistic and monotheism could not have existed without polytheism. So at the time monotheism technically was not considered a legitimate religion because it did not fall under the definition of religion for that time. Christians were even called atheists. So meaning the definition varies over time depending on the era and ideologies bouncing around at the time. So concerning if science has become a religion, it is definitely not too absurd of an idea, you would simply have to expand your understanding and definition of what religion is to have it fit under the umbrella of religion.
Jamie and Wale  

Science As A Religion?

One of the biggest focuses of this class has been to define things that are simply hard to define. But how do we go about doing that? Is the Oxford English dictionary the supreme authority on words? Some would argue yes, because there must be an authority. Personally, however, I’ve never put much stock in “authority.” I also believe that it’s contrary to the English language to set anything in stone. If Shakespeare had played by the rules, his works wouldn’t have been half as brilliant, half as well remembered, or half as beautiful. The English language is constantly evolving, so setting it in stone is contrary to its very nature. The question we’re being asked to answer is asks, “What criteria are you using to define religion?” And that’s a question that should be answered; but also consider if the definition of religion is changing, or if it might have changed already.

You can only ask the question, “has science become a religion,” if you define what a religion is. In the 2:20 class, I (Luke) said that I thought that science was more of the “Holy Scripture” of atheism and/or agnosticism, which could be thought of as religions (the criteria used at that point was: an external practice of some sort, and holding some sort of metaphysical belief) So this is something else to think about, if science is not a religion, what role does it play in what you are defining as a religion?

Professor Berry brought up the possibly use of money or capitalism as potential “religions” in our society. Do any of you buy into that concept or do you think that our society has another ‘religion’ altogether?

--Chase and Luke

Monday, March 5, 2012

Marilynne Robinson on "Imagination and Community"

"In the stack of magazines, read and unread, that I can never bring myself to throw away, there are any number of articles suggesting that science, too, explores the apophatic—reality that eludes words—dark matter, dark energy, the unexpressed dimensions proposed by string theory, the imponderable strangeness described by quantum theory. These magazine essays might be titled “Learned Ignorance,” or “The Cloud of Unknowing,” or they might at least stand beside Plato’s and Plotinus’s demonstrations of the failures of language, which are, paradoxically, demonstrations of the extraordinary power of language to evoke a reality beyond its grasp, to evoke a sense of what cannot be said." 

This is one of the paragraphs from a beautiful article by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Marilynne Robinson. You can find it here if you'd like to read the entire thing...which I strongly recommend.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

UW Writing Conference

I attended a conference about Comics and Feminism. Both of the speakers had topics that ended up relating to one another quite a bit. The first speaker made a presentation on the way women are portrayed in video games and how it affects both sales and men's view towards women. I thought this topic was super interesting, and was enlightened by what she had to say. She stressed that for a final project topic you should pick something that you are interested in...which was a very good point.
The second speaker wrote about how the "She-Hulk" is exhibited in comics. I thought this was cool because I had never heard of She-Hulk. Both presentation had strong feminist tones.
I think the most important thing for me to remember when writing and picking my final project topic will be to choose something that I am interested in and something that has a lot of information available on it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Is It Human Error Or Computer Error?

Is It Human Error Or Computer Error?


A Space Odyssey is quite different from other movies I have ever seen. I almost regarded it as a documentary film instead of a science fiction movie at first. The sound of the movie is filled with music a lot. That is also why we feel different about it. The gorgeous scenes in the earth, in space, and inside the aircraft give me extremely real feelings that it may be a true history of human-beings. However, it turns out to be a story for that there is still a story line in this movie. Human-beings have to finish a Jupiter Mission. HAL 9000 computer, the sixth member of the Discovery Crew, is a intelligent computer and central nerves system of the ship. It was considered to be able to perfectly behave like a smart human without mistakes or emotions. However when I was watching it before the tragedy happened, I had some bad feeling about it. Not only because that the number Six and the red light from its eyes reminded me of the scary human-look Number Six in the movie Battlestar Galactica, but also the pungent music, or noise with the scenes.

It turns out to be that Hal, the computer later made the mistake and didn’t admit it was its faults. Its behavior became not adorable when it found the secret of Frank and David talked and then terminated four people’s life inside the spaceship after that. It went against what it argued before “The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information.” What do you think of this? Is computer foolproof and incapable of error? Do you think that the error is made by human brain or Hal, the machine intelligence? Do you believe machines could have genuine emotions? Do you think they should have?

UWP Student Writing Conference

The conference was really helpful especially because each presenter took us through their entire process. The first presenter wrote on a subject very unrelated to our class, yet really interesting. Her topic focussed on how the media can and does influence the public's opinion using connections between two wars. Since I am a journalism major I am really familiar with this topic. I find it really interesting that she chose the El Salvador Civil War and Iraq War to discuss the public's approval ratings for presidents. Additionally, it was really helpful when she explained that her argument changed at the last minute. I tend to have this problem a lot; therefore, now I know how to better handle it. She also explained how sometimes you cannot answer every question your topic draws. She was really focussed on method sources, which gave me some further insight on the concept of a method source.
The second presenter took Professor Berry's class last semester, so she offered so much insight. Her topic was the positives and negatives of the Catholic church's negation of contraception. I asked a lot of questions about interviewing because she had interviewed a lot of people and I know we have to as well for our final paper, so that was really helpful. Especially because she said just because someone says something does not mean it is always 100% accurate and that you should basically fact check. Also, she explained how her argument was not really for or against, but rather explaining the benefits and drawbacks. She also talked about using a lens, hers was humane vite. The most helpful piece of advice she offered was to keep an open mind when researching. This presentation really showed the appeal of writing about something controversial. I think I will definitely try to pick a topic that is controversial for my paper because papers on controversial issues always seem passionate. You could tell Jackie was really interested in her topic and she was really well informed. I would like to come out of the final paper knowing I learned something new.
The conference overall was great to get me thinking about what I may want to write about. I was especially glad I was able to hear the project of someone who took Professor Berry's class last semester.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Voyager at the Edge of the Solar System

I recently listened to Radiolab's most recent episode titled "Escape" in which Ann Druyan and the Radio Lab hosts discuss NASA's Voyager probe, which is poised at the edge of the solar system. This little probe has caught my imagination. Nothing made by humans has ever gone so far; nothing we have made has ever left our star system. We don't really know what is out there. We don't know what it will be like.


And the information Voyager keeps sending us continues to surprise us. The solar wind stills and we think it has crossed over, but it hasn't...though it might any minute. And, as I recently wrote to Tina it makes me feel all excited and worried about this little spaceship all at once. She replied, "I know! Fly little space ship!!!"

There is something of us reaching out beyond any place we have ever reached before. It is beautiful and terrifying all at once...perhaps as we ourselves are beautiful and terrifying all at once...and maybe even as the universe itself. I keep thinking about the old maps of the world, drawn by European hands, who stopped speculating beyond the known world and simply wrote "There be Dragons!" And I wonder what Voyager will find...and if we will know.

Voyager once sent back a parting look at earth when it had reached Neptune. The image is a pale blue dot caught in beams of solar light. It is stunning in its smallness.


We are that small speck in an endless field, sending out such a tiny ambassador into the universe. And all I can think of is "Fly little space ship!!!"