As “Normal” as Any Minifig Could Be – Week 6 Story Critique

This week, I wanted to keep things playful and start circling back to my interest that “There is no normal.” What better way to find a playful way to look at a resonant topic than to have stop-motion Lego minifigures share their message while tickling the funny bone. This week, I chose The School of Life’s “No One is Normal.”

Critique

 Involvement:

The School of Life is actually a retail website with whimsical yet philosophical products that celebrate the human love for self-help. Their products range from books on “How to be Bored” to the “Emotional Baggage” tote and luggage tag. This video belongs to the Self curriculum which looks at the human condition. Because of their study of the human condition, the creators of this video are strongly involved with this topic as it has become a more prevalent topic in recent years as old definitions of normal lose relevance. Also the sheer amount of time it takes to create stop-motion animation represents a significant investment on the part of the creators.

Literacy Dimensions:

The primary literacy dimension in this video is the use of stop-motion animation to animate the minifigs. As you watch the video, the main figure moves, changes expressions and clothes, “interacts” with other minifigs, and  takes on the characteristics of a typically flawed person. What I found particularly well done were the smooth transitions between facial expressions and how hard it was to spot exactly when the change occurs.

Relevant Online Space:

This video, hosted on both the author’s site, schooloflife.com, and on YouTube. While I found it perfectly situated on the author’s site, because of some of the adult themes I would be carful about pointing young audiences to the video on YouTube.

Suggestions:

The only suggestion I would make would be to be careful when including mature themes (thoughts about incest, references to porn, etc.) presented by what are essentially children’s toys.  A younger audience may see the minifigs and assume that the content is suitable for all audiences when some parents may find it objectionable.

Overall, I really liked how this video pointed out that there are so many things which, if looked at in a vacuum of other people, may make each of us feel like we’re abnormal when they only really make us just like everyone else. The only normal people are inherently abnormal and we should stop making such a big deal about our quirks.

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I Still Can’t…

Horror CollageI call this image “Betrayal” and this is my nightmare.

When you hear the story, you might think the title is irrational and a little bitter, but this has handicapped my life.

When I was little, maybe two or three, my family went on a trip to Washington, D.C. and, like you do, we took in the sights including the Washington Monument. We climbed all the way to the top with me on my dad’s shoulders because I was tired.

Up at the top of the monument, there are windows that let  you look out at the city. The windows you see now are different than the ones than used to be there. The old windows were bigger and you could stand closer to them.

My dad wanted me to be able to see the view so he got as close as he could to the windows and leaned down so I could see out the windows. I remember being able to look down and then for some reason my dad stumbled.

All I could see was that long drop before me and even though I only really fell a few inches, somehow my brain recorded it as falling all that way.

My little toddler self lost it.

Nobody could calm me down. Not even my dad who has always been my BFF.

I don’t own a ladder, not even a stepladder. Get me more than a few inches off the grounds and I break out in a cold sweat.

I know I’m going to fall. That’s what you go when you’re up high.

I don’t blame my father for my fear of heights. He didn’t know what would happen and he didn’t know how deep it would dig down into my brain and lodge there.

I’ve tried to root it out. It gets a little better but then something I see will set it off again and I’m back to enjoying the panoramic view of a city from inside on the couch.

I know not to poke the beast too hard since I never know when it will rear up on me and attack me.

Geeking Out – Week 5 Reflections

I’ll admit it: I am geek and I geek out a lot about things that most people would have absolutely no interest in. I, and a few of my friends, are big fans of classic kung-fu movies. We’ll debate which series of movies are the best and, within each series of movies, which movies are the best and which fall flat. During one really long road trip, we devised an immensely complicated genetics program in which we would combine the DNA of Bruce Lee, the real Ip Man, Donnie Yen, Pai Mei, and Chuck Norris to create the kung-fu supreme being. It’s even written down somewhere. Also written down somewhere is our dream line up of alien and monster battles and who we think would win for each battle.

We didn’t know that what we were doing was building a community. If you asked us, we wouldn’t consider ourselves a community. We are just a group of friends who like to get together, watch movies and bicker about how it should have ended or what would be AWESOME in the next movie.

I really enjoyed reading about how Ricardo Pitts-Wiley found a new way to engage students with classic texts like Moby Dick. It was a great example of remixing a text how the student needs to hear it as opposed to how the teacher wants to present it. Herman Melville is a difficult author for many readers to access it, but Pitts-Wiley turned the text in a way that allowed his students to insert their lives into what they were reading.

I was definitely more comfortable relating to our readings this week; maybe because I was able to see more of myself and my own practices in the readings or maybe because I turned my focus back to a much more positive space. I was a little disappointed that the required reading annotations this week were much less active than previous weeks. I really wanted that discussion this week after getting jazzed up about how annotation can be a playful way to engage with what you are learning or reading. I guess I feel like the kid who ran out to the playground with a brand new ball and found no one to play with.

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This week has really reinforced that nothing we create or remix or annotate is created in a vacuum. As a class, we are interdependent on each other to create our blogs which we each need to we can complete our required annotations. We need each other within the annotations to have those community and affinity interactions to pry open our readings, experience and perspectives a little wider so learning can creep in.

And the Answer is…

It’s an interesting question – What is normal? Have you seen any normal people today? Who looks like a normal person? For my Week 5 story critique, I headed back to YouTube and asked the question: what is normal? In JulianJamesTV’s The Normality Project: What is ‘Normal’? the author took to the streets of London to try and answer these questions and find people who are normal.

After looking at and reading a lot of professional opinions, I wanted to take in a “man on the street” view of my interest topic to learn more about what people perceive as normal and just who qualifies for being normal. I also wanted to examine the more basic traits of the story being told, so I am revisiting the assessment traits defined by Jason Ohler including Sense of Audience, Media Application, and Media Grammar.

Sense of Audience:

The creators of this story clearly intended this video for an internet audience. The first-person interview style of the narrative doesn’t tell a “story” per se, but it does successfully capture to confusion and disparate opinions as to what defines “normal” in today’s society. The video very effectively demonstrates that the criteria for normality varies from person to person and that, even with a large crowd of people, it’s difficult to pick out someone who could be considered normal by any accepted definition. In my opinion, this is a great way of asking the question “If an average person can’t define what normal is, how do we know if it really exists?” The audience for this video is clearly looking for an answer to this question and while the video doesn’t necessarily answer it, it does provide food for thought about why we are asking the question in the first place.

Media Application:

For this type of discussion, capturing the instant and off-the-cuff responses of the interviewees was key. The interviewer doesn’t really give them time to think on the questions he asks like “Are you normal?” or “Have you seen any normal people today?” The staccato questioning only serves to heighten the confusion and ambiguity that each interviewee expresses about what constitutes a normal person. He intermixes these responses with longer and more philosophical responses which help to balance the different perspectives while reinforcing that the definition of normal varies from person to person.

Media Grammar:

Watching the video, it’s filmed in a very rough style. The cuts between interviews are rough and the entire video feels jumbled together and, in my opinion, makes the story more effective than it would have been if it had been carefully staged and edited. As it is, the story feels raw and uncertain which works with the questions being asked. The rawness and uncertainty mirrors the unfiltered and uncertain responses from the men and women being interviewed.  Also, using an interview narrative makes the viewer feel like they are the one conducting the interviews and pushing the camera close up on the faces of people answering the questions makes it feel like the viewer is in the middle of the discussion too.

 

I found this video very helpful for reinforcing the ideal that there is no such thing as a normal person. The creator does a good job pointing out the inconsistencies in society’s definition of normal. Here’s this large crowd of people that he’s randomly sampling and no two people can give the same definition of what should be considered normal.

Turning the Kaleidoscope – Week 5 Reading Response

Lots of fun readings this week. So many ways to play with text and meaning that I almost want to giggle with glee.

To counter some of the leftover negativity and frustration from last week, I chose a more upbeat article for my interest reading. In Eccentrics May Have Found Key to Happiness, Psychologist Says by Ann Japenga for the LA Times, I found a very different perspective than the doom and gloom of seeing eccentricity and “abnormality” as something needing to be medicated. Here, eccentrics are just people who have found their own unique path to happiness. Eccentrics and people outside of the norm are people to be learned from and should inspire others to loosen up and find new ways to interact with the world.

In Jenkins (2008) Afterword: Communities of Readers, Clusters of Practices, the idea of “loosening up” continues. As fan communities and Web 2.0 technologies have opened up new ways of accessing texts and media. For education and learning, it seems like this is still an evolutionary process teachers learn to play with how they can open up traditional learning styles to include how their students learn. It’s a learning process on both sides and teachers and students adjust their methods of interacting with media to bridge the digital divide. Teachers still need to find “acceptable” ways of leveraging social media and digital communities to engage their students while students need to approach the divide from the other side to embrace the idea that learning can happen anywhere and that they can engage in learning anywhere.

All of my readings tied in really well with Remi Holden’s article Playful Annotation in the Open: Part 3. By using Hypothesis to annotate online texts, readers can open up the text or content by engaging in “playful” annotations that incorporate questions, outside references, sarcasm, and conversations between the annotators. As the semester has progresses, I’ve both seen and participated in each of these ways of playing with the original text and it can be very effective. There have been sections of text that someone has commented on and changed the meaning.

That’s the fun of playing with kaleidoscopes. Each time you turn it you see something different and it’s always beautiful.

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Goodnight Sailor Moon

Goodnight-Sailor-Moon

In case you can’t tell, this is a mashup of the classic children’s book Goodnight  Moon and the anime Sailor Moon.

My father is a HUGE anime fan. Fullmetal Alchemist, Bleach, Rurouni Kenshin, Gurren Lagann, InuYasha, Fate/Zero – you name it, he’s watched it. That is the power of Netflix.

All this anime watching has also turned my dad into a big fan of Japanese pop music. I’ll pop by his house and the most random, bubble-gum Japanese lyrics will be streaming from his computer and he’ll be rocking out in his chair as he works on his great American Sci-fi/Fantasy novel that he’s been working on for the last few years.

One thing my father is not is a big social media participant. That being said, my dad chimed in on Facebook last week for the first time in more than a year and updated his status with:

“Call me weird if you want, but I like some Japanese pop music.”

The second I saw the post, I felt guilty. For all my talk about accepting my family’s quirks, I’ve been guilty of giving him a hard time about his anime-loving and Japanese pop-music obsession.

Pot guilty of calling kettle black.

What makes this worse is that my dad has never given me a hard time about my many weird obsessions namely Godzilla (and other kaiju) movies, kung-fu movies, crime documentaries, and refusal to use blue pens (except on legal documents) not to mention a pathological hatred of bananas, long toenails, hairy toes, and people who don’t return shopping carts to their proper location.

I guess it’s fair to say that I need to get a little better at practicing what I preach. His quirky pastimes are just as valid as mine and I should stop giving him a hard time about them.

Umm…? – Week 4 Reflections

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Yeah…that was me this week.

I really enjoyed my Daily Creates this week. They help me get the creative juices starting in the week and just have fun interacting with the rest of the class. My DS106 Assignment Bank Design creation brought back one of my favorite childhood memories and gave me the opportunity to share that memory and the single best piece of advice anyone has ever given me.

I needed that advice this week.

I really struggled with our required reading. I’m a very practical person when I’m learning something new, my first question is “How can I use this in what I do?” The learning that I create and deliver for my work is very practice-oriented either focusing on developing job-related skills including software, guest service, and leadership skills. I don’t see myself moving into the more academic side of learning anytime soon so it’s a case of having a lot of great information about how blogging can create communities and learning spaces, but not really having a way to apply that information to my own learning practices.

I also struggled with my interest-driven reading. I wanted to challenge myself and look at the “dark side” of being eccentric. It was hard to see traits that I see in myself and my family as being part of a diagnosis for a “disorder.” True, we may not be eccentric to the point of having the disorder, but it concerns me how subjective the criteria for being “different” or “outside of the norm” is. Yes, my father does sometimes like to mow his lawn wearing safari gear complete with the safari hat but how is that abnormal compared with the soccer mom who gets dressed up complete with hair and make-up just to take her child to practice on Saturday morning?

I guess normal and abnormal, like success and failure, is all relative.