Red River Innovation Lab for the Humanities

In college, one of the most rewarding accomplishments as a student is acquiring the ability to conduct and exhibit our own works. Doing so means that we are in some way progressing intellectually and broadening both our skill sets and minds by practicing what we learn.  Admittedly, though, it’s hard to do this alone. Guidance, even the slightest thereof, can help individuals in dramatic ways. For this reason, Texas A&M – Texarkana is proud to present a new way for students, faculty, and staff members to collaborate, innovate, and communicate ideas and research agenda’s that will contribute to a better understanding of the humanities The Red River Innovation Lab for the Humanities!

The innovation lab intends on taking a student lead approach to education and scholarship by utilizing not only services and teachings of value to students, but also allowing them to produce their own research and experiments. The lab wants to offer Texas A&M – Texarkana school members a place of encouragement in which they can gather resources cooperatively and produce research-based developments that aid in the progression of their own understandings of the humanities. From the beginning, we want to emphasize student involvement and construct the lab in a way that benefits the wants and needs of student academics.

The Red River Innovation Lab, though not officially open, will be located in room 120 in the STEM building. We’ve just begun receiving our equipment to get up and running! Prior to our grand opening, Director Drew Morton will be hosting our first meeting on November 28th, from 12:15 to 1 pm, in the lab. The meeting is of a participatory nature meant as an opportunity for you to disclose what sort of projects and materials you’re interested in the innovation lab to offer. Dr. Morton will also provide further insight regarding what we will be able to provide for you! It’s an opportunity for voices to be heard. Finally, you get to tell everyone what you want to learn and gain experience in within the field of humanities. Some examples of possible discussion topics may be podcasts, broadcasting, PLACE work, and whatever else you bring to the table. A link to the Innovation Lab’s Facebook page is included below where you can let us know if you are interested in attending. If you plan on joining us, please RSVP by November 26! There will be a light lunch and refreshments offered, so feel free to come by and check out your school’s new research facilities! We hope to see you there.

https://www.facebook.com/RRILH/

Stepping Up: Arkansas High Theater

Allison Hall

Arkansas High, of all things, is probably least known for its theater program, but I have a feeling that that is about to change. In 2014, a new instructor was introduced and he couldn’t be doing a better job. Since the arrival of Mr. Hamilton, set design, casting, cast and crew chemistry and much more has blossomed. The most recent production, performed four times from April 21 to April 24 by both a white cast and a red cast, blew my mind having one of the most energetic casts I have seen in a while. I attended the white cast performance only, yet it is clear to see that there is a lot of new and eager talent moving up the theatrical ladder at Arkansas High.

Harvey, an original 1941 piece, was performed amazingly by the white cast. Upon entering the student union at Arkansas high, the audience was swept away by melodic notes of what is assumed to be songs of the era. The atmosphere was great. Sitting in eagerness, the audience is greeted by a very vivid and optically pleasing set as the curtains open at seven. Differently than typical shows, the music didn’t stop. It continued and followed a light footed maid around the set. The really cool thing about the set was the fact that it was double sided and rotate friendly. The curtains never closed. While scenes changed music played and the audience got to experience the creation of a new area, which, to me, added to the elegance of the show. Everything ran so smoothly and gracefully. Even the characters seem completely natural.

Speaking of characterization, the cast was phenomenal, particularly James Hodges playing as Elwood P. Dowd and Semaj Harris who played Judge Omar Gaffney. Hodges did exceptionally well in creating this quirky, smooth, and lovable Elwood that made the audience chuckle and aw at his innocence. Elwood came across as this pure child-like man and the audience fell in love. It really worked in contributing to the idea of the imaginary bunny (sort of an imaginary friend that a kid would have) and the thought of Dowd actually being mentally unstable (kind of a coping mechanism for whatever the issue may be). Spoiler alert, in the end Elwood is fine, but Hodges’ use of swift arm gestures and naturalized interaction with a rabbit that’s obviously not there kept the audience guessing. It felt magical. Mr. Harris was a different story. The audience had love for him, but for completely different reasons. His over the top stereotypical judge persona and use of a typically authoritative klutz accent sent the audience over the edge. It was funny. And I don’t mean funny like I just heard a joke about the economy and chuckled. I mean funny like I just saw another flying lawnmower video pared with random music and laughed until I cried. His timing is impeccable. This added so much to the comedic vibe he put off. He paused at just the right moments to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Venturing from these two, the entire cast was really incredible.

In the end, Harvey was fun and family-friendly and actually entertaining. I’m still in awe. I can’t wait to see the next show in the fall. I urge that you do the same!

Kael vs. Kubrick: “A Clockwork Orange”

Allison Hall

“Is there anything sadder — and ultimately more repellent — than a clean-minded pornographer?” In addressing Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Pauline Kael, as quoted above, regards Kubrick and his film as unimpressive and unnecessary eroticism. In rebuttal, I argue that the elegance of violence in the film works toward overall horror,  the sexualization within society does little for dehumanizing the “straight” citizens in opposition to Alex, and, in compliance, Kubrick does employ strategic, questionable methods in pushing the audience to view Alex as the ultimate good guy, or at least victim, within the film.

Kael claims that the movie is classified as “clean-minded pornography” with the intent to arouse audiences because of Kubrick’s “pedantically calculated scenes”, however, this strategy does just the opposite. The rape scenes are riddled with savagery in that Alex doesn’t seem connected to anything he’s doing. He definitely seems to be getting pleasure, as demonstrated in the raping of Mrs. Alexander when Alex is dancing to his cover of Singing in the Rain and laughing all the while. So, yes, the experience is arousing for Alex, but does little for the average audience member. If anything, the unsettling detail accompanied by the fluid and vibrant motions hinting at Alex’s excitement during his intentional violent fits create disgust. Arguing that Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is pornography is debatable because whether or not the intent of these scenes are to arouse is unknown, but on either side of the argument, it seems unjust to claim that whatever it is remains clean-minded.

Kael argues that the innocence and whimsical nature of the violent acts, such as the pairing of classical music with brutality, remains as reasoning for it to be looked at as comical and light-hearted, but Alex is raping someone. This is observed in the first attempted raping of a young woman by another unrelated group. Pornography has the intent to arouse the audience and this scene just shouldn’t. This woman is suffering and very obviously feeling distressed, as seen in her cries for help. The elegant music and fluid choreography emphasize the innocence felt by the teens and therefore creates more of a sickening atmosphere than an arousing one. These children are toying with this innocent girl and exploiting her for their own enjoyment, not hers. No matter what way it’s looked at, it’s a crime and a discomforting one at that. The added classical music or other just furthers the idea that Alex likes this and sees nothing wrong with what he is doing. He likes rape. And the fact that such innocence in Alex’s mind is mimicked in his actions, his “schoolboy” like and accepted behavior, elongates the intended repellents from Alex’s actions and, more so, the society that has created him.

In Kael’s review, she suggests that “the trick of making the attacked less human than their attackers, so you feel no sympathy for them…” is a thing. This doesn’t actually seem to be Kubrick’s goal. As stated previously, Kubrick does well in disconnecting Alex and making the audience feel uncomfortable with the ease urged toward Alex’s endeavors. Each victim acts as a victim might. Nothing seems peculiar or off-putting. In fact, the Alexander home is very welcoming and warm and Mr. Alexander’s mental stability has flown out the window afterwards. Kael claims that “the “straight” people are far more twisted than Alex; they seem inhuman and incapable of suffering” because Kubrick’s over-sexualized community adds even more “deformity” to the plot. The problem remains that it is unclear in the film just how long society has been this way. These elderly citizens could have been born into this. It’s normal for them. Take the scene with the fit cat lady for example. Her house is riddled with sexual vulgarity, but still when answering the door to Alex remains fearful and skeptical. She isn’t violent. One could argue on the contrary using the battle scene between her and Alex as an example, but that’s just self-defense. What attacked person wouldn’t try to save themselves? Alex broke in to a house with locked doors and high windows. She is also older, accounting for her dominant attitude. While it may be a plausible argument to say that the sexual respects add twist to the concept, what isn’t clear is why this makes the adults and other characters less human. It only pushes the concept of a crippled societal structure by pushing the question of why these sexual exploitations are acceptable in such a society. The adults aren’t acting in any way vulgar or crass. As a matter of fact they seem frail and confused, as shown through Alex’s father upon Alex’s return home. Not trusting a flawed society seems to be the ultimate message for the film.

In the end, there is no hiding the fact that Kubrick is pushing Alex to be the abused protagonist. Because of what Kubrick has portrayed society to be, sexual and crime run, the audience is very capable of pinning everything on the man. Kael says that “Kubrick has removed many of the obstacles to our identifying with Alex” in comparison with Burgess’s novel. Apparently, Alex’s habits are cleaned up in the film and throughout he is given opportunities to play the innocent bystander. For example, after leaving the government facility and returning home, he finds himself to be actually homeless and ultimately alone. The audience, at this point, feels bad for poor little Alex and the rest is history. From the start, glimpses at the disorganized and faulty world around Alex and the aggressive nature of what is arguably all teenagers leads the audience to believe that Alex is a product of society to begin with. In the end, after he is “cured all right”, the audience sees that what Alex is now is a product of what the authorities have yet again made him and not only through the conditioning, but also through bribes and hush profits. Kubrick’s argument isn’t that man should accept what man has made, but rather man should blame authorities for what man has made.

In conclusion, while I disagree that detail takes away from the dramatization of the violence and the modern citizen within the film is dehumanized, I believe Kael is right in saying that Kubrick pushes a little too hard in wanting the audience to see eye to eye with Alex and accept what he is.

Work Cited

Kael, Pauline. “Stanley Strangelove.” Visual-Memory. The New Yorker Magazine. January 1972. Web. 4 April 2016

Danger: Chemical Agriculture!

Allison Hall

A problem facing modern society remains the use of chemicals in agriculture. While they provide some benefits, the negative aspects far outweigh the positive. Chemically modified agriculture poses a threat to humanity by contaminating livestock, poisoning plant life and contributing to the international phenomenon of global warming.

Modernly, farmers and livestock owners use growth hormones and other chemicals to rapidly grow animals to disperse the meat in bulk and quickly. These methods are used not only to help the animal to grow but also to bump up the speed to which they grow to profit both farmers and corporations. These chemicals pose not only a threat to the animals but also possibly to the people ingesting it. If the thought of humans ingesting excess growth hormone does not terrify you, then the idea that factories use substances such as ammonia to sterilize meats should. The real points are the idea that these animals do not get the proper treatment and care that they deserve and the ingestion of this meat could result in dangers. Most chickens raised for their meat lack the ability to walk or see by the time they are slaughtered for profit. These steroids have the capabilities of working on humans the way that it works on any other mammal. It is impossible to tell whether the hormones in the meats eaten are natural or not. According to Renu Ghandi and Suzanne M. Snedeker, authors of “Consumer Concerns about Hormones in Food”, “… it is not possible to differentiate between the hormones produced naturally by the animal and those used to treat the animal. This makes it “difficult to determine exactly how much of the hormone used for treatment remains in the meat or the milk.” This obviously raises questions, such as whether these added hormones are contributing to ailments such as cancers or obesity.

In relation to the contamination to meats, plants are suffering as well. Genetic engineering, pesticides and weed killers are being used to kill insects and weeds and enhance plant growth; however, it is being done in excess and at times not even hitting the intended target. Instead, it partakes in run-off which adds to the contamination of both water outlets and, yet again, animals. These chemicals travel from the plants to other location via rain and normal hydration methods. Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring says, “… chemicals sprayed on crop lands or forests or gardens lie long in soil, entering into living organisms, passing from one to another in a chain of poisoning and death.” Not only does this harm animals, but it harms animals that, once again, humans consume. This is not the only draw back to chemicals in farming. As far as chemically modifying plants, it would have the same effect as modifying animals. These growth hormones and chemicals are present in food consumed by man. The effects may not be drastic immediately, but a slow build up is sure to be a problem.

It is no secret that the earth’s atmosphere has been altered in ways that could be both artificial as well as naturally produced. In fact, Carson wrote “The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous lethal materials.”  These chemical contaminating, pesticides in particular, contribute to global warming. They increase the carbon levels in the atmosphere which plays a hand in the rising heat levels. Carbon creates this sort of blanket that traps in heat. With no escape the rays from the sun bounce around in the earth’s atmosphere and cause rising heat levels. Yes, other things have become a problem in this regard, but in trying to fix the issue, chemical agriculture should be looked at.

In conclusion, using chemicals in our agriculture lessens the health accountability for both our animals and plants while also playing part in the demotion of atmospheric stability. It may, at this point, not be a possibility to completely outlaw the use of chemicals, but alternatives could be found and in the mean time the use of these chemicals can be lessened.

Batman vs. Superman: A Fight for Contentment

Allison Hall

 

            When you heard announcements for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, did you think ‘finally! This is the epic battle to the death that I’ve been waiting for!’? You wouldn’t be much different than other superhero movie goers. The problem is that’s not the movie. There is build up including minor squabble between the heroes but ultimately it’s a lot of Superman with a little bit of Batman who seems to be there to satisfy the title. It remains more true to the actual story line of the heroes than what it is built up to be. In the end, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is off putting due to confusing concepts and cinematography; however, it all seems drawn together by extraordinary talent.

The premise of the film is hyped to be a fight between Batman and Superman, however, the movie is more about Metropolis’ problems regarding Superman. This is probably due to the fact that the film is a sequel to Superman: Man of Steel. Regardless of whether it holds true to basic concepts of these characters, the movie should be able to stand alone. I don’t feel that it does. Batman is thrown into the film as a sort of public bystander with a narrow mentality. In hind sight, he seems to be a whiny, hyperactive brat. There’s no probable or obvious reasoning to the uninformed viewer behind the bat’s aggression. The film jumps from story line to story line and it’s hard to keep track of everything. Somewhere among what’s already been listed, the Lex Luthor story is brought in, Metropolis vs. Superman is touched on, and to further that the Justice League is alluded to. Aside from the movie being over packed, it is also very confusing in letting the audience know where they’re at in time. At some point you jump from what you’re seeing, to two months, to over a year and none of this is clear. Everything seems to be happening within a matter of days. It seems like a big mess of a prematurely popularized movie.

Another oddity is the use of the camera and scene jumps. The cuts do little for insinuating where you’ll be taken next. With the scenes so sparse and separated from the main story line it’s hard to understand and process what’s going on and relevant as well as what has actually happened and what remains to be false reality. There’s a lot of camera panning that adds on to length, dragging the movie out. Some of the camera shots seem unnecessary, such as the panning around buildings, and make the movie seem longer than it is or needs to be. It is typical for these shots to appear in superhero films, but so little seems to happen as far as action goes for prolonged periods of time, so these shots are just agonizing. At certain points it’s boring. There’s action, however, it doesn’t make up for the lengthy scenes. When you go to see a superhero movie, especially versus, you want constant head to head battle and a fast paced story line. That’s not what you get here. There is a lot of Superman feeling sorry for himself, creating a droll mood, and glimpses at an angsty Batman.

A big complaint remains to be the films acting and talent. Ben Affleck has received the most ridicule, but in reality he’s done his job. He plays Batman as a darker entity, which is nice, as apposed to the typical socially awkward Bruce Wayne. Affleck made a personal choice in characterization and I loved it. The rest of the movie is out of the ordinary, why shouldn’t the characters be? Another great talent was Jesse Eisenberg who plays Lex Luthor. In my familiarity, he plays comedic roles and here he’s portraying a deeper identity. He’s jumpy and energetic, not unlike his other roles, yet really portrays Luther as a character slowly descending into madness. Out of all things in the film, his characterization is one of the few things actually understood to be escalating.

This movie is less than satisfying when thinking of it in a new comer’s way. People unfamiliar with Superman or Batman wouldn’t have any trouble getting lost in the chaos. For the expert, this movie may be suitable, but for the average movie-only superhero fan, it is less than enjoyable.

 

Seeing No-bunny

Allison Hall

Have you ever wanted to be involved with a seemingly insane man and his imaginary bunny? Well has Arkansas High got the show for you! Coming this spring, a carefree and charming, family friendly comedy about a high society man and his 6 foot tall mystical companion named Harvey hits the stage of Texarkana’s own Arkansas High School. More specifically, Harvey (1941), written by Mary Chase, is the second show of the year for Mr. Wyatt Hamilton, Arkansas High’s theater director, and his students. This show is centered around a Mr. Elwood P. Dowd, played by James Hodges and Victor Vargas, and focuses on a central message of wholesome friendship, or, as Mr. Hamilton puts it, “love your friends for who they are and all of their quirks”.

For this 2015-2016 school year, Mr. Hamilton has chosen to run with a fall drama and spring comedy as opposed to Arkansas Highs prior fall play, spring musical due to lack of male interest of the musical form. Even the smallest of theatrical musicals require an abundance of strong, dedicated, and interested patrons. In addition, Hamilton has chosen to employ two full casts for a sum of four shows as opposed to the prior two. He believes that not only will this open up more opportunity for show attendees, but also for performers in being able to have 21 students involved in a 12 role script. The push for this show seems to be individual creativity and involvement, which will promote positivism and encouragement, a good note for the modern age teenager or anyone else for that matter.

Among things that are remaining the same are ticket prices, show times, location, and concession. Tickets with be on sale at the door for five dollars and concessions with be available, namely sodas, chips, and brownies, at varied prices. The play will take place in Arkansas High’s Student Union (a.k.a cafeteria) from April 21-24 with a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday showing at seven o’clock p.m. and one Sunday showing at two o’clock p.m. Harvey is expected to run approximately two hours, including a 10 minute intermission. It is also worth noting that the Arkansas High theater department plans on more fundraising for show support. If you have any questions or ideas for fundraising endeavors, you can contact Wyatt Hamilton at (870) 774-7641 or email him at Wyatt.Hamilton@tasd7.net.

All in all, Harvey will be a great experience for people of all ages and worth a viewing. You can’t beat five dollar entertainment. If nothing else you will get a good laugh, and who doesn’t need that from time to time?

 

A Stitch in Time

Allison Hall

Commonly, sewing is said to be boring, and too much work, but, in reality, it’s beneficial and easy. The machine tends to be the scary part, but in actuality a switch is flipped to turn on the machine and light, a pedal is pushed, and hands are kept away from the needle. It only takes slight guidance for fabric to stay on track under the needle. Things such as the  patterns for your project and the speed of the needle and/or machine work on a level scale meaning that if something seems too difficult there are typically alternatives to that process.

The sequence can be lengthy, but fun if you make it your own. It usually starts with cutting a pattern, which can be store bought or self-made, cutting the patterns from the fabric, and then lining the fabric edges up so as to know what to sew together. When it comes to the act, the only major technical things in relation to the machine are the needle position, stitch width, stitch length and seam length (seam meaning the stitch combining your fabric). All of these are located on the machine and are spelled out fairly simply. For needle position, stitch width, and stitch length it’s only a matter of choosing what suits you or what is listed on the pattern’s “how to” chart. You would then move the dial to the corresponding number, letter, or symbol, depending on the machine’s details. When it comes to seam length, the machine is marked with measurements to indicate how much fabric should be from the edge to the seam and most of the time that would be entirely up to you. One of the greatest things about sewing is that a lot of it remains up to you.

Aside from the machine, there is also hand sewing, which, admittedly, I don’t know all too much about, but I do know from experience that it is just as much fun and easy. Typically with hand sewing it will take much longer and there are a lot of things you cannot do with it that you could do with a machine like fixing certain holes or sewing anything bigger, such as a purse or a shirt. However, both are fine ways of art and relaxation.

If the incredible ease of sewing is not convincing enough, consider the benefits. Creating garments for oneself tends to be cheaper than purchasing them in the end, and everyone likes to save money. That’s part of the reason that it’s for everyone rather than specific groups. Another reason remains that there’s nothing particularly feminine about clothing or the making thereof. Everyone wears them and sewing would not be here if it were not for men. In fact the first patent for a sewing machine was made by a man, Thomas Saint, in 1790. Relative to gender roles and self-expression, it is also valuable that so many things can be made by means of sewing. Creation ranges from underwear to full outfits as well as everyday items like pillows, wallets, or teddy bears. Patterns for all sorts of things are rather easy to find. There are tons of free pattern designs all over the internet. Pinterest is a very good website for finding unique patterns. It shows a wide variety of sites where patterns are available. There are certain patterns that you will not be able to find free online, but the different options ensure that there are always possibilities of finding an alternative.

The possibilities of individuality and self-accomplishment are endless. You have the ability to design anything and eventually, once acquainted enough with the skill, you may even be able to create your own patterns to follow. Along with that, or maybe even before, you could use specialized machines that allow for even bigger accomplishments. There are some that do astounding things just short of sewing for you and are highly technical, calling for great detail meant for the expert seamstress, seamster, or tailor; however, there are also machines or even handheld equipment that make it fun, like buttonhole accessories, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Some machines even act as easy to use embroidery machines (embroidery meaning that it has the capabilities of stitching designs onto the project). In most cases these machines are only technical as far as having touchscreen capabilities, therefore, you would just put in what you wanted the machine to design onto your fabric and watch the magic happen. There are patches, buttons, trinkets, and so much more that can be added to whatever you want, therefore making it a successful product made by you to be proud of, which is truly the benefit of sewing.

It is something simply done that can produce vast amounts of self-gratification as well as prove to be useful in future endeavors. If your destiny does not call for needlecraft then it is at least one more thing you can say you have under your belt, or maybe even use as a lovely conversational piece. Who does not like to have a fun fact or at least a comment on something seemingly arbitrary?