Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Blog

Here is the link to my new class blog for 2008-2009!

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Apologies all-- some end of term difficulties kept me from having the time to post properly or to finish up the film as of yet (I usually have it ready for the beginning of the next term in any case and will email it around when it is ready). I hope everyone is happyand well! I really enjoyed this semester, though I do need to change some things about the course and may have to return to handing in papers rather than using just Bb6 as that proved problematic in some cases.

Have a good summer!

Dr. J

Monday, May 19, 2008

Just for Fun

I write all kinds of things, so I thought I would follow Usman's lead and share a poem. This one is a "prose poem" (no real line breaks) about writing. The illustration is from my friend Sara (


The old man they called The Hand wrote on everything: every single thing that could take a mark of red ink, black ink, paints and dyes of all hues, blueberry juice, manure, semen, urine, shit, a spittle soaked finger, the scratching of rocks, worn arrowheads, large sticks, uncut fingernails, hoes and rakes, or discarded sewing needles, to name a very few. Mosaic letters of colored rocks traced across the grass. Thatch roofs were rewoven during the night: a “d”, an “a”, a “w”, and “n” all facing the East. The roofs leaked letters on the rooms below.

The Hand wrote philosophy and poetry—classical, modern, and impromptu. He scrabbled aphorisms, curses, dire predictions, proper names of people and places historical, mythological, and fantastical. He wrote shopping lists on front doors and committee agendas on windows: “Meeting at 8:30am, light breakfast will be served. 10:00am: team building time.” He wrote “Suddenly there’s bears!” down the mid-wife’s stairs. Small children learned to read from the windows and walls. Our village lost its name below the surface of it all.

The old man wrote on cobbled chimneys, outhouses inside and out, rocks, stones, pebbles, pots, pans, small unattended children, and animals too slow or dull witted to avoid his grasping hands. He loved to write curse words on captured migrating birds.

It goes without saying he tattooed his own skin: every inch he could reach with the complete text of Dr. Zhivago. Or so he says. I have never read it. The blank spot on his back he labeled “winter.”

He sometimes wrote on paper and occasionally with pens. He folded these neatly into swans and dragons and flowers and then ate them, usually.

In time, he tattooed our bodies as well: head to toe with our names, important events, undying loves, former undying loves, and downright dead ones. He gave us spells to ward away gout, eczemas, boils, and the common cold.

Hide and seek is not a game our children play—it is our daily life as graffiti bodies wander through painted rooms out into our painted streets.

He wrote himself into our lives for uncounted years until he died. We found his cold lettered body by smell, leaning patiently against the lettered well.

His lettered bones lie there still.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


This week's events revolved around war and veterans and the depiction, or media portrayal, of war and veterans in a feature length film (Platoon), video (Digital Stories), academic articles and discussions. For this week's blog, I would like you to think about the production (to see war as "making something"), commodification (to see war as a product "for sale"), and historitization (to see war as "pivotal history" or "epiphany") of war. You may use any other films, TV shows, books, or other texts you are familiar with to how "war" is depicted and created in media and for what reasons.

Responding actively to ths blog entry and responding to your classmates' blog will help you with the Final In-class Essay next week!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Hi folks! This week we have a multi-task blog. As I will be unable to meet with you at the NYPL-Performing Arts Branch, I am going to have you form your own “research teams” to go to the library and check it out. You may go to the library on your own schedule, though I am giving you Wednesday as we will not meet as a class on that day. I will be holding extra office hours, however, for those needing one-on-one help. Here is what you should do:

1) Form a group.
2) Find the address and hours of the library and plan your route/travel time.
3) Set up a time and place to meet with your group (There is a big fountain on Lincoln Center which might be a good place). I would suggest planning a solid hour and a 1/2. You DO NOT have to work as a group, nor report out as a group. I would, however, that no one work alone unless absolutely necessary (and approved by me). Having a group allows you to learn things about the place you might not have noticed otherwise.
4) Find the webpage for the Performing Arts library and cruise their collections (see what they have).
5) Make a list of “things to see” while there that interest you or “may” apply to your topic. Be prepared to ask questions! (Suggestions: They have a fantastic collection of DVDs on the first floor and an equally impressive collection of “movie books” on the 2nd floor). Leave some time for just wandering about and checking out what they have.
6) Keep notes of “things of interest” for the class (not just your personal project) to share in your blog.
7) Report out your experience to your blog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Coffee Grinder

Our coffee grinder went kibbutz this week so we decided not to replace it with an electric/plastic one at all. I like fresh ground coffee, so I started cruising eBay for a hand-operated, no plastic version and we are also trying to buy used items. I figured we could pop for the $20 or so that a new electric one would cost and, if we liked it, we could get another for spices (Ximena and I cook almost every day from scratch and prefer to use whole spices). So, I found one that looked “antique” and was “used” but they claimed it still worked great. It looked kinda cool and cost about $20 with shipping and handling. We got it yesterday and it works! It was dirty and had to be cleaned, but that only took a little bit. The crank squeeks a tiny bit, so we will have to put a drop of oil on it, but we had coffee this morning after I cranked it up and ground some coffee beans. The downside? It takes about 2 minutes of cranking to get enough coffee for our ½ pot we drink. But, the grinder goes with our old-fashioned stove-top metal coffee pot, so I’m not complaining.


This week's blog is "open." You may post, rant, discuss anything you like (as long as it is not offensive to classmates, of course).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


So, I was at the grocery store last night and spotted a buch of huge loofah's hanging from a rack. We had been thinking of replacing most of the plastic in the kitchen (and in our daily eating habits--you know, like switching from plastic containers to ceramic and glass) so I nabbed one as they were pretty cheap ($2). I get home, cut baseball sized piece off and start waching dishes with this thing. In case you didn't know, the loofah is a plant. I did not have high hopes that a plant was going to be very useful in washing my dishes especially since I use these high-tech scrubber sponges (blue ones for glasses and yellow ones for everything else) but it really really worked! Who would have guessed? Now if I can find some way to know which one to use for glasses and which one to use for other stuff I am good to go!

NOTE: The glass thing: Ximena has a very strong sense of smell so we have to have a sponge just for glasses otherwise she says things like "Why does my coffee smell like fish again?"

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


For the next two weeks' blogs you should report on the following:
1) What did you leanr at the libraries? And, "boredom" is a personal problem that college students keep to themselves. Learn to act interested like I do. Eventually, you will discover that you ARE interested.
2) What are you doing to save the planet now? Even little things can make a difference. I will be posting some more things that I am trying to do as well.
And that is it! I expect to see quite a bit of chatter on these two weeks (you may post responses in any order). Weeks SIX and SEVEN will be graded together after Spring Break.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Another Photo

Here is another photo from the AMNH that I liked.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Let's save the planet . . . one bottle of water at a time. That's right! This week you get to start doing your little bit to keep us all (literally) above water and neck deep in trash. For the next few weeks' blogs, we will be researching to find information on how we can "go green" in at least some part of our lives. For this first blog in the series, find out what is possible (be sure to document your sources) and what you and your family can do to help save the people who live on this planet and not pass on mounds of troubles to our children and our children’s children. Be sure to explain why certain options are viable for you and your family and others are not.

To start your research, you may want to begin either at Dr. X's blog (a link is listed on my blog to the right) or at the LaGuardia Common Reading Page (a link is on the library page) or simply search "green living" and related terms in Google or Altavista, or Yahoo.

For example: I decided a year ago to try and follow Prof. Lucca in having a "paperless" classroom and have saved a LOT of paper--more than I ever would have thought of. Much more! However, there are also problems with the paperless class as we all use computers and computers use energy, so this is really the lesser of two evils. In my own personal life, I have changed a lot of things including the following:

My wife and I recycle almost everything.

I bought a glass bottle of water and use it to refill (plastic is bad for you and the environment and should be avoided).

I switched off of disposable razors and now use a more traditional one.

I use shaving soap in a cup instead of shaving cream in a can.

I now make my own beer and re-use bottles. How many teachers have you had who are also brewers? No, I do not have a still to make whisky as that would be illegal.

My wife and I now subscribe to magazines we want rather than picking them up at the news-stand (which are evil on paper waste!)

We get most of our news on the internet rather than through newspapers.

I am looking for a small travel coffee mug so I don't have to use Styrofoam or paper coffee cups.

We switched all out lights to those weird florescent ones (Our electric bill really dropped!)

I am paperless on most bills (I get them via email) and pay most bills electronically.

We try to reduce water waste whenever we can. For example, if we boil vegetables we save the water and, when it cools, use it to water plants. We have LOTS of plants. Oxygen in good, right?

We are working on a no-plastic kitchen. This will take several years, but soon I will be bringing my lunches to school in re-used glass jars. It seems a bit silly, but who watches me eat? You guys don't even know where my office is, right?

We just switched from using "antibacterial" soap for our dishes to regular dish soap. That antibacterial stuff is apparently both useless and lethal for the environment (and it works its way back into the drinking water. YUK!

That's it for now! Get started . . . .

(Ooooo. Maybe I can get one of these! Who wouldn't want a bamboo spork?)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth?

Check out what is happening in Antarctica. Will NYC be the new Venice?


This week we will be working with An Inconvenient Truth and our trip to the American Museum of Natural History to research a bit further on global warming. This week's blog has three parts:

1) Report-out on the infomation you found at the museum and your overall experience there.
2) Make connections between what you saw at the museum and the film An Inconvenient Truth. Which did you find more believeable, the film or the Museum. Why?
3) Make connections (or observations) between the film, the museum, our readings so far, and the theme of the cluster: Truth, Lies, and Videotape. It might help to think of the museum as type of "media."
In addition to the listed questions, you, alone, or with your group, should spend some time exploring the AMNH and considering how this museum (and museums in general) are not really nature, but media. I would like to see in your blog some commentary on how nature is transformed into media. What are the processes by which humans “denaturalize” nature and then “renaturalize” it for consumption. HINT: Use your dictionary to look up “de-,” “re-,” “naturalize,” or “nature,” and “-ize” as necessary.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back safe!

Hi All--

After a weekend conference without internet (hard to believe but true), I think I'm ready for the week. Your blog for Week 4 will be over our trip to the American Museum of Natural History on Wed. I'll post the details for the blog assignment Tuesday morning as usual, though they will not make sense until we visit the museum. See you in class!

Dr. J

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


OK folks, for BLOG THREE you will be responding to our readings on Gnosticism and comparing the basic tenants of Gnosticism to Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" to The Matrix. I want to see more thinking and less summarizing. We have all read the material (or should have), we have all seen the film, we all know what happens (more or less). I am more interested now in seeing YOU making connections and putting you ideas into written form. If you are having trouble with the concepts in the readings (gnosticism is not easy by any stretch of the imagination) that is fine. Don't panic. Blog about what you are confused about (being actively confused is a thinking activity).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Writing and Time

So, here it is almost the end of the week and I have writing tasks piling up which is very stressful. Here are the tasks I currently have and where they are (in order):

1) Article for magazines on GPS surveying in Iraq: I have 20 pages to read and need to draft the article ASAP. However, this is a paying job so I need to get on it.

2) Article for magazines on archeology in Egypt: a phone interview is set up for Friday afternoon. Otherwise, I know little about this one. Again, paid work.

3) My co-author and I need to finish the Harry Potter chapter for the book Reading Harry Potter II. It is due after Spring break. I have ordered the books we need to my shelf in the NYPL-Humanities. Academic articles do not pay.

4) The journal article Alien Ware is in a long rough draft (again with my co-author), but I need more research for it—probably at the NYPL Performing Arts branch. The due date it loose on this one. I hope this goes into Science Fiction Studies or Science Fiction Television and Film.

5) My solo book on Virtual Culture is on hold until summer, though it is in a long, ugly draft. Ugh. Maybe I can finish it this year. Maybe not. I want this one done so I can get on with either the gaming book or the SF Film one.

So, I don’t exactly feel better after making that list, but it seems a bit more manageable. Kind of.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


It just occured to me that I use a lot of abbreviations. A habit from online teaching. Here are some of them:

EOC End of Class
Bb6 Blackboard6
PPT PowerPoint
LOL Laughs Out Loud (this one is an "emote" for you techno-peasants)
ROFLMAO (Figure this one out on your own), LOL


Please read "The Allegory of the Cave" on Wikipedia. What, in your own words, is an allegory? What is the allegory all about? What connections can you make with The Matrix? And, yes, there is a lot of material on the web about this. If you use ideas from a source, be sure to tell us where it came from and post the link. Do not cut and paste off someone elses' blog or website onto your blog.


So, the last couple of days have been hectic. It takes a few weeks for students (and myself) to get used to the quick pace of the media cluster. Now that we have to start the ePortfolio sooner in the semester that gives us three complictaed tasks to master in a few days--blogging, Blackboard, and ePortfolio. For next semester I need a PowerPoint that explains what the three are for, what the differences are between them, why we are doing them at all and etc. The good thing is, of course, that my students always end up being pretty tech-savy by the end of the semester as we also learn PowerPoint and (as time allows) Movie Maker as well.

This weekend I will finish out the schedule for the rest of the semester so I can "hand it out" (that is, post to Bb6) next week.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Don't Panic!

To all my blogging students: Don't Panic! You do not have to have all the class links on your blog this week. You can use my links to get to some of your classmates to read and respond to their blogs. If you are NOT on my list to the right, be sure to post your blog address in WEEK ONE in Blackboard. I will not evaluate the first week's blog until later in WEEK TWO.

Happy blogging and keep up the good work!

Now, about the LOST episode last night. What the heck was up with that? My current theory is that the island houses a singularity (essentially a collapsed black hole) which makes time bend around it and is slowly collapsing a part of the universe around itself (the island). Anyone else watch LOST?

WEEK TWO BLOG (for those who want to get an early start): Please read "The Allegory of the Cave" on Wikipedia. What, in your own words, is an allegory? What is the allegory all about? What connections can you make with The Matrix? And, yes, there is a lot of material on the web about this. If you use ideas from a source, be sure to tell us where it came from and post the link. Do not cut and paste off someone elses' blog or website onto your blog.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Welcome to my class blog! This semester the theme is Truth, Lies, and Videotape and my class will be focusing on the theme of "Living in the Matrix." We are not going to watch all the Matrix films because the Reloaded and Revolutions are just too much . . . seriously.

Those of you in my class need to complete the following: 1) set up a blog here on blogspot (start at; 2) add a link on your blog to my blog; 3) give me your blog address with your name; 4) add links to all classmates' blogs.

Starting today, I will be posting weekly discussion questions to get you started on your blogging adventure. You must post every week (I evaluate the blogs every Monday) and respond to classmates. This week, of course, the blog is about the Matrix film. I would like you to write a review of the film (about 500 words) analyzing interesting ideas you see. Feel free to use our readings, but be sure you indicate in your blog which ideas come from the readings.

Good luck and happy blogging!