El Día de los… las Llamas?

Today I got to spend some time with friends at the festival for El Día de los Muertos on campus. It was actually by accident – I was just waiting for friends at the time.

First, I got a picture with a llama. This is normal. I think of it as the equivalent of taking a selfie with the lead singer of a band at a show. You just find the most popular being at the event, and take a picture with it. It’s sort of the unsaid rule of modern photography.

However, a Bolivian friend of mine informed me later that not one of the llamas there was Bolivian. He was genuinely disappointed, which was surprising. I have no idea what is so special about them, but now I feel Bolivian llamas are the best llamas all because of my friend.

They were actually all llamas with mixed nationalities. Some were half Bolivian, half Peruvian, and others were half Peruvian and half Chilean. Never had I ever been interested in the nationality of llamas, but all of a sudden I was wondering all about these mixed llamas. I simply don’t know much about llama breeding. My parents stopping having llamas by the time I started remembering childhood memories, so I never got a chance to be a part of the life of a llama. Oh well.

There were of course, other cool things going on. There was cultural dancing, face painting for El Día de los Muertos, and waxing roses. All of which were cool, but not particularly new to me. This could explain why the random ideas about llamas stuck out to me so much.

Violence

In today’s media there is an increase in violent images displayed for all to see. It’s no longer an uncommon thing to see pictures and videos of wars. Protests, violent attacks, murders, etc everything is now fair game to show. The media not only openly displays these images, but actively pursues them in order to provide the audience with undeniable truth of the actions taking place at home and around the globe. But how much is too much? These images of violence are now viewed on a regular basis. This causes a desensitization of the audience to the images they are viewing. The public is so used to seeing the images of violence that many feel no emotional connection to a picture of war, or injustice around the world. This desensitization causes us to loose touch with the very core, fundamental part of the consciousness- our humanity. Humanity can be defined as the quality of begin humane; kinds; benevolence. It is the part of our minds that connect our emotions to what we see occurring to other human beings. When this part becomes desensitized to what you see, there is a disconnect on an emotional level. Why isn’t this important part, the part that allows us to connect on a human level to other individuals, more closely guarded by today’s media?

Simple steps could be taken to improve the quality of images shown on news today. Many of these violent images are displayed in order to elicit an emotional response, but this is no longer achieved due to the shear amount of images seen on a daily basis. So we must ask ourselves, why is it necessary to continue displaying pictures that no longer accomplish the task we intended for them to do? I think the images are a way for the writers, and the audience, to be lazy. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is very true. But, in the case of guarding sensitivity of violent images, why don’t we focus on writing the stories in detail? The reader can stop reading if the material is too gruesome, but it’s difficult to un-see an image that we’ve already seen. In many ways the violent images have taken away from the art of crafting a vivid story by writing. Instead, we only focus on the images seen rather than the words of what actually occurred behind that image. It’s also very easy to draw an incorrect conclusion about the situation at hand when only given an image.

All in all, I don’t believe it is right for the mainstream media to continue showing mass amounts of violent images.

‘You Can Never Be Too Thin’

“The Implications Around ‘You Can Never Be Too Thin.”

How much advertising is too much?

Body image in the media has been a controversy for years and just how exactly do men and women perceive themselves from advertisements?

Research does show that “media does indeed contribute and that exposure to the thin ideal in mass media to body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal, and disordered eating among women”

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/media-body-image-and-eating-disorders

I believe media to be a contributing factor that exacerbates the “I hate my body” condition because there can be many other reasons for individuals to have a negative body image.  But I do not think that the media is a big contribution that can be prevented. There can be several other contributing factors as to why individuals have a negative body image and all of them could be potentially dangerous. Women and men are portrayed in the media with impossible figures and flawless bodies that make individuals feel as if they are never achieving their goal for perfection. The problem begins with advertisers Photoshopping pictures to make men and women look as if they have completely perfect bodies.

The American Medical Association explains that “advertisers commonly altering photographs to enhance the appearance of models’ bodies, and such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image—especially among impressionable children and adolescents.”

http://adage.com/article/media/ama-end-ads-unrealistic-body-images/228354/

Since advertisers are to blame for this issue in the media, The American Medical Association voted to support ad-industry policies discouraging altered, unrealistic body images in advertising.

I do not believe “You can never be too thin” is a good selling point for the project on body image because most may take that statement literally instead of to explain a lesson in the media. There must be changes made in the advertising industry to empower men and women and their body images much like Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign showing women outside the normal stereotypes. Dove starting this campaign in hopes to increase the self-esteem in women around the world that being happy with your own body is very important.

The issue of body image is not only for women it also applies to men in the media because society shows that men “should be strong , muscular, and show no emotion. They are told constantly to “Man Up” and to “Be a Man.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jessica-lovejoy/body-image-issues-are-not-just-for-women_b_5034285.html

There needs to be changes for how the media is controlled and how advertisers portray men and women across different media vehicles.

Boren Award Meeting

Today I attended a meeting talking about the Boren Scholarship at the Honors College. I’m not sure if I want to apply for the scholarship, because it mandates a year of service to the government after graduation. I plan on going to medical school after graduation, so I don’t know if this is a scholarship for me, but it sounds like a great opportunity for those interested in government service.

International Bazaar

Today I went to the International Bazaar with several other Global Engagement Fellows. A bunch of international student organizations were represented, and there was a lot going on. Tables were set up to sell different international items, and there were people doing henna as well as face painting. There were also several cultural performances throughout the day. It was a great time!

Me and Amanda wearing traditional Lebanese hats.

Social Informatics @ OU Spring 2015

I’m teaching a new course next semester at the University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies (OU SLIS), titled “Social Informatics.”  I had the great privilege of being able to support Professor Les Gasser as a Teaching Assistant for the past three years during my doctoral program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  I look forward to building upon the course that we offered at Illinois for our undergraduate and graduate students, here at OU.

In the video below, I introduce the topic of social informatics and talk about how theories and methods from this sub-field within Library and Information Science can help us understand — and gain more control over — our interactions with information and communication technology in our everyday lives. For more information about the course LIS 4970, please visit the description on our website at OU SLIS.

Darkstalkers Resurrection Review ~ The Halloween Fighting Game

Quick update on the site: I’ve been working on a review compilation of a complete series of videogames, so that’s the explanation as to why no review has been up for a while. (Playing through 5 games takes longer than 1, it turns out) That review will be up by next week and the reviews will return to a more steady stream of output. (1 article per week) That is all.

Halloween, much like the creepy men behind the bushes waiting for that one kid without their parents, is just around the corner. Literally, tomorrow. Which means it’s the time to visit haunted houses, carve up pumpkins, decorate your place in chintzy plastic gubbins, and of course, do exactly what parents have always told you not to do and accept candy from strangers! And if there were ever a game that captured that cheesy-yet-alluring seasonal flair, it’d be Darkstalkers. The HD revamp of the old, arcade classics comes in the form of Resurrection, which features the original Night Warriors title, as well as Darkstalkers 3 bundled in one place. These Capcom fighters were the sister series of the more popular, Street Fighter games, and contained similar ideals and controls, but had a vastly sillier tone. Focusing less on martial artists, Darkstalkers holds nothing back with its cast of characters. From the nunchaku-wielding Wolfman, John Talbain, to the Frankenstein’s monster, Victor, who can grab opponents with his butt cheeks and slam them around with his gluteous grip, the roster and setting oozes creative personality from every seam. Chances are good that you may have seen the more recognizable characters, Morrigan or Felicia, in Marvel vs Capcom or just on Deviantart…(so much deviantart)

but it should be noted that the lesser known characters are very well realized in terms of animation and creativity. This leads to the first problem with Darkstalkers – balance. Some fighters are just, plain-and-simple, leagues better than others at fighting. The mummy Anakaris, for example, is just way too slow and unwieldy and doesn’t have enough other qualities to stand a good chance amongst the relatively fast assortment like Lord Raptor (the rock-and-roll zombie) or even medium speed ones like Pyron (the living flame demon, who may be one of the coolest characters ever designed). On the plus side though, is the fact that if you’re playing this, you’re kind of limited in terms of mode of play. The online aspect of the game is actually really smooth if you can find an opponent. But that’s the key word, “if”. The fact that the game is a digital-only release, means that the audience for such a niche fighter is already small, made worse by the fact that the game’s been out for a while now. The best way to play it though, regardless, is going to be with another person actually in the room. It is immensely fun to dig into this game with a friend. You’ll be getting constantly surprised by  what the insane move set has to offer and will have more “that was so cool!” moments than most fighting games can offer newbie players. This is a fighting game that is instantly fun to play, regardless of skill level. Darkstalkers Resurrection Review ~ The Halloween Fighting Game

The single player offering is roughly what you would expect from older titles. Both games have their own ladder modes, complete with unique, often hilariously bad, endings for each character. The story is so hard to understand due to the lack of context provided to the player that one can’t help but burst out laughing at the fact that Felicia is a nun in one of her endings. But, i digress, the ladders are a good way of getting a feel for your character, and to test your ability against some of the most frustrating AI in existence. Blocking protects from almost all damage, and the computer opponents will be able to execute nano-second timing, before unleashing a combo on you in return. The cheapness can be dulled fortunately, by going to the difficulty setting and dropping it. Even on the lowest settings, though, opponents in Night Warriors can still give you a run for your money, if you’re trying to get the trophy/achievement for no-deaths in each game’s ladder modes. It’s not the worst example of super-cheap AI from an arcade fighter, but it’s definitely up there. Darkstalkers Resurrection Review ~ The Halloween Fighting Game

Speaking of uber-difficult trophies, the game has some of the worst, most obtuse achievements ever. Trophies are almost entirely comprised of Night Warriors’ Challenges mode. Which is basically where the fun of Darkstalkers gets turned into soul-crushing tedium before sapping your interest in trying to collect the trophies at all. Why? Because the challenges require the player to do a series of complex combos for each character. The frame-by-frame specificity that the game asks of you is laughably ridiculous, as most of the challenges will leave you feeling angry and confused as you attempt to perform inhuman inputs that the computer manages to make look easy. I personally enjoy when games provide challenges for the player, but these literally ruin the game. The fact that their only worth Bronzes (or 10g, for Xbox) makes them completely unrewarding torture. Stay away from these. If you’re a trophy hunter, give it a shot. But you’ll soon find yourself with the feeling that you’re really just wasting your time trying to complete the game’s asinine requests. Darkstalkers Resurrection Review ~ The Halloween Fighting Game

Darkstalkers Resurrection is a refreshing facelift for the older games. It’s a genuinely fun couple of  fighters that don’t take themselves too seriously and doesn’t mind being full of colorful oddities. It’s got its flaws, but the couch competition is where the player-versus-player shines. The online is relatively dormant, sadly, and the ladder mode isn’t the most engrossing thing ever, but that doesn’t make it a game not worth experiencing. Playing what is essentially the Monster Mash videogame, complete with the swamp monster, abominable snowman, and vampires galore, makes this one of the most creative, as well as stylish, fighting series Capcom has ever released. The gameplay is approachable, the animation is amazing, and the Vault is full of character art to ogle at. Handicapped by inactivity online and a truly awful bunch of trophies, Darkstalkers Resurrection’s pros still manage to outweigh its cons. The one other point of contention however, is the pricing. I actually snagged this title while it was on sale on PSN for half-off, but the game is normally priced at $15, which can be enough to make some of the more frugal among us lose interest immediately. However, if you can look past that somewhat high cost of entry, or if you just have 15 bucks burning a hole in your PS store wallet, then this title will not disappoint. Darkstalkers Resurrection is an imaginative take on those classic horror-movie staples, and a perfect game for Halloween (or whenever you and some friends want some goofy entertainment).

Obligatory Number at the End: 7/10

Is Seeing Believing?

September 11th, 2001. A date that will be forever remembered and strike fear into the minds of those who survived. This was a turning point in a lot of peoples’ lives for many reasons, but to most, it was to rudely suggest that we may not live in a safe world after all.  Up until this date of course there were acts of violence and reasons to believe that there were “bad” people in this world but 9/11 assured that these “bad” people existed and wanted revenge. Throughout my life span as a young adult, almost 20, I have grown up to believe that virtually any harm can be done by anyone at any time. Thinking about it now is actually mind-boggling. If someone wanted to bring a gun to school, it’s possible. If someone wanted to light up a movie theater, they could. If someone wanted to leave a bomb at America’s most famous marathon, piece of cake. If they wanted to crash an airplane into New York’s tallest skyscraper, it can be done. I would love to believe that us, “good” people can be protected from the bad but in this day and age, it’s virtually impossible.

When events like the ones stated above happen, it’s almost impossible and inhumane to ignore. People can’t fathom the acts of evil that have been committed because they’re that cruel. When people see the crimes that are committed, we go into a state of shock almost and slowly start to obsess over these acts because what kind of person(or people) could do what they did? The media gives these people the attention they thrive for, not on purpose, but because it would be inhumane to shove such dramatic events under the rug and pretend like it never happened. The media delivers us bad news on a regular basis because that’s what us, citizens, want to pay attention to. Not because we enjoy it, but because it captures our attention in ways that we never thought possible because the events that occur are that unbelievable.

Psychologically we are damaged. These events have destroyed us and the people around us. No one prepares us(not like they could if they tried) to see what we do on an almost regular basis in this world. We grow up as children believing that everyone has our best intentions and that our dads’ can save us from virtually anything. It becomes a lonely, sad place when you realize that no one can save us from bad things. We, as humans, have accepted that fear and have called it Life.