Archive for May, 2015

ACTIVATE is an “interactive exhibit of art and culture,” conceptualized and coordinated by the Chicago Loop Alliance. Each event re-imagines an ordinary alley in the Chicago Loop, transforming neglected spaces into destinations for unique cultural experiences.BrittniHessler

ACTIVATE’s opening night for the 2015 schedule, ACTIVATE: NIGHTBLOOM, was held Friday, May 15, 2015, from 5:00-11:00 in the Sullivan Center Alley. I arrived at 7:00pm to a streetscape packed with eager attendees. The evening was an extraordinary success, with a projected 1,500 total visitors throughout the night.

Using the tagline “Linger Longer in the Loop,” ACTIVATE programs ensure that many who work downtown don’t rush home after quitting time.

A festive atmosphere, fueled in part by $4 beer and wine, ensures an evening of energetic encounters with artists and art lovers alike.activate2

The initial night of the season was curated by Johalla Projects, and included art, video, audio design, and a photo booth, all enhancing the sense of creative immersion. The most compelling projects were truly interactive: wooden pyramids lit from within functioned like inspired campfires around which people congregated. In a video projection of elephants, the animals seemed to sway across the surrounding walls, amplifying the mood and music selected by the DJ.

Future ACTIVATE events for the 2015 season are scheduled for June 12, July 30, August 27, September 18, and October 23. Details about ACTIVATE, including location, are announced two weeks prior to each event. Sending an RSVP offers the added incentive of one free drink ticket, and a great night out downtown.

Each ACTIVATE occurs one night only, a compelling call to attend; I’ll be there.

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By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

I love great books. I love great movies. But, isn’t it strange that great books rarely get made into great movies?  Take a look at The Guardian’s list of the 100 greatest novels of all time. Forget for one second the ridiculous  pro-British slant of the list. Just look at some of these titles: Don Quixote, Brothers Karamazov, Song of Solomon. Many of the books on the list have never been made into movies.  For those on the list that have been made into a movie, the film version is often highly forgettable. I mean, come on….William Shatner playing Alyosha Karamazov?  Sacrilege!

Perhaps just as strange is the fact that books that make great movies often aren’t considered to be very good books. Have a glance at AFI’s list of the 100 greatest American movies. These films are often not based upon any great book.  Yeah, I know The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird fit the bill as great movie/great book. But, such works are overshadowed by the vast number of forgettable books that have been made into classic films. Think Peter Bletchley’s Jaws or Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump. Call me crazy, but I just don’t see Groom being mentioned in the same breath as Tolstoy. And, if that is not enough, glance through the list of Oscar winner/nominees for  ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’.  Most of the books adapted for films are not just ordinary, they are paradoxically mediocre.

Why is so? The most straightforward answer seems to be that great novels can rarely be captured in a 2 hour film. Add another hour, and you still can’t make a viable retelling of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Add 5 extra hours, and you still won’t capture Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  This point brings us to problem number 2. You obviously need more time to retell a great story, and there is a limit to how long an audience will willfully sit in a darkened theater.

But, I believe this paradox may be now be solved. Movie lovers, and book lovers lament no more!

TV has taken over where movies dare not, or cannot, tread.  The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, etc. In the last decade or two, all of these shows are as good as, if not better than, what has appeared on the big screenWith bigger budgets, better actors, original writers, groundbreaking directors, and more artistic freedom, television (and online streaming services) now can weave a complex, multilayer story over 10, 20, 30, or 100 hours.  Make each episode about 45 minutes, allow people to binge watch, and voila: The next big commercial, critical and artistic success!

les-miserables

Oh Please.

The format would be perfect for adapting great books. An example: Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. This novel is 1232 pages. It is exciting, romantic, historical, epic.  Now, I know many will say that this has already been made into a movie with the musical adaptation from a couple years ago.  But I am sorry; a two hour musical canNOT capture this story.  Andrew Lloyd Webber, via Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe does not do justice to Jean Valjean, Cosette or Marius.  Perhaps even more disappointing was Hollywood’s attempt 15 years ago to make a dramatic depiction of Hugo’s masterpiece. The film starring Liam Neeson, Claire Danes and Geoffrey Rush wasn’t horrible, but again, it wasn’t really Les Miserables. This winding tale will not be crammed into the parameters of a 180 minute movie.

But….

What about a Netflix season series? 10 episodes each season, 3 seasons, and 30 hours in total?  Computer graphics, violence, sex, depth of character, history? These are all things that could be put on the small screen, if some visionary would be so inclined. Can you imagine?

I can, and I love the idea.  Please, someone get on it.

While I wait, I guess I will just need to pick up Hugo’s novel again.

Go Forth, And?

Posted: May 15, 2015 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

My niece and goddaughter, Mary is graduating from Notre Dame this Sunday with a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry. Sadly, I can’t attend the ceremony because Notre Dame takes commencement as seriously as football. There are no extra tickets; there are no extra hotel rooms. It will be a spectacle, as it should be.

I was in college when my niece was born. I remember being delighted that my sister, Margo, and her husband, Mark, chose me to be Mary’s godmother.

I think I’ve done what I can to shape Mary’s life in a positive way, and I know she has done the same for me. In the twenty years since my college graduation (yup), I have experienced many, many things. I won’t bother to categorize them. Life experiences do not line up in neat rows, though advice can.

marys

Christmas gifts 2015, books (tradition) on life after college!

Because I love my niece, and I am immensely proud of her accomplishment, and that of so many other young college students who worked hard to achieve their educational goals, I shall enter into the tradition of passing on wisdom as part of the rites of the commencement season.

I have a fair amount of experience in these matters. I attend two college graduations each year in my capacity as a professor here at good ol’ RMU. It is always an incredibly special day for the graduates, and I am eager to hear (and critique) the commencement address because I like the genre (see my post from last year), and I believe in education, and rituals, and getting dressed up only to have to wait patiently for something to begin.

So, as my smart, sweet, spectacular niece graduates, and begins, in earnest, her long voyage through adulthood, I’d like to offer her advice, as an honest attempt to impart something valuable.

Your Professional Life

Work is at the core of everything. Tying your shoes is work. Doing so requires preparation, learning, effort, repetition, mastery, and it is a skill that we will lose in the end, each of us reduced to Velcro shoes and meandering down lonely halls. Sunny, I know. Be grateful for what you know and use it while you can.

The work we all do enriches our lives. Do work you can be proud of, and create a positive, productive relationship with both the work you want to do and you must do.

Whatever your profession, cultivate teamwork. Collaborate, cooperate. Get and be inspired. If a colleague (or two) irritates you, consider why. Is this person’s unpleasant behavior something you can avoid? If he is petty, his choices should remind you to act with generosity. If she is unreliable, take the cue to be trustworthy. All flaws are opportunities for growth.

As far as salary: ask for more. Counter the initial offer. Establish a sense of your worth and negotiate for a higher starting pay, as all percentage increases arise from this original number.passion

Your Passionate Life

Bring passion to your daily life in any way possible. Engaging in activities you adore, and doing these things with love is a tremendous gift..

Do things that make you keenly aware of the unassailable life within and around you, dance, shout, paint, hike, play.

Develop passionate connections with others. Be glad of heartbreak, for those who repress or suppress their feelings live not nearly so well.

Love with abandon.

Your Daily Life

Life can become suffused with seemingly mindless routines. Certain things need to be done. I offer you what I consider to be among the best of the conclusions I have come to in life. Every time you find yourself thinking that you “have to” do something, pause and contemplate this: you “get to” as well.

Consider, we all “have to” wash the dishes.

We also “get to” wash the dishes.

We are granted the opportunity to wash dishes through a remarkable array of good fortune. In order to wash dishes, we must have food, access to water, a home in which we can cook and eat, and, often, people we love to cook for. Herein lies the great mystery of day to day contentment; embrace the magnificence of the mundane moments.

Your Inner Life

Expend considerable effort developing your spirit, which is the combination of your unique, authentic self and the inner resources necessary to survive when faced when difficulties and thrive when offered opportunities.

The surest way to build your spirit is to be as honest with yourself as possible. Address your demons; catalog your fears. They exist, so get acquainted.

The only other thing you can do is feed your inner well in the ways that make the most sense to you—often through interaction with something bigger, more extraordinary than you are. Connecting with the world, through the infinite and infinitesimal wonders of nature or the joys of other people, seems to be the only effective means of alleviating the pain that accompanies living.

Your Own Life

Do not waiver in your sacred duty to yourself. Do what you will, make mistakes. Attempting to avoid making a mistake is just another mistake to make. Life will not last. Years take wing. Do what you can each day to enjoy your one and only life: savor it.

Above all else, make life something you are proud to call your own.

By Daniel Rubio, RMU Student. 

This morning, as I was waking up to go to my personal training session, I realized how important it is to work out, especially for me. A few years ago, I got to my heaviest at 340 pounds and couldn’t believe it. I was never self-conscious about my weight, but after two knee surgeries I decided I needed to make a conscious effort to lose weight; not for physical appearance, but for health unnamedreasons. One thing I have to say is I could not have made a better choice. Not only do I workout because it makes my happy, but I workout because I can. Initially, it’s easy to view exercise as a chore. Consider this instead: Exercise is a blessing. Not only do you have the knowledge and the means to exercise, but you’ve been given a body that is strong.

Eventually, I will most likely need a knee replacement, but I have found that strengthening my leg muscles makes my knee feel 100 times better. For me, it’s critical to get outside the house and engage in low impact activities such as walking, swimming, golfing, and kayaking. You might also bicycle on flat terrain, or use a stationary bike. Aside from the calorie-burning benefits of exercise, being outside and active helps elevate your mood.

Exercise is only part of an overall strategy to maintain a healthy weight. I consider it more of a part of a lifestyle change. For example, some people find posterdramatic results by skipping late night meals or eliminating refined sugars. Analyzing one’s eating habits can help understand how they contribute or undermine weight management goals. But, diets often fail. They do nothing to change long-term eating habits and they frequently contribute to a feeling of failure. Do not fall victim to this. Diets do not work, life changes do.

Weight loss can take some time, but with the right mindset of dedication, you can reach your goals. I have lost 100 lbs. I will continue to work, and by doing this, I will take pressure off my knee. I have found that setting small, realistic goals has proven to be a great success. Each week’s goals should lead into next week’s. One positive change leads to another.

By Cecilia Olvera, RMU Student.

Last year I had the opportunity to go to Puerto Rico. I have always heard great and exciting things about it, but to finally see it on my own was even more exciting. My family of five packed up and headed for our fun-filled week. We had our days occupied with excursions, driving around the island, and seeing the jungle.

1405552788030On the third day, we visited The Morro. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the enormous brick walls of this huge military structure on the other side of the island. The Morro is an old fort that was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan from 20140716_181905any enemies. We took a tour and the guides explained that it was built in 1539 as a tower, and in 1587 it was expanded into a military fort. I was astonished by the history and the battles that took place. I would have never imaged that a fort this size could be in the center of town.

As I walked around the outside, I knew instantly there was an attraction. I felt the walls and with that I could feel the history, the pain, and the worry that these walls held in them. The views from the top of the structure were breathtaking. They overlooked the ocean, where I could see small sail boats floating, and the beautiful city that lay on the other side. As I entered the dungeon, I could smell the dirt from the ground. I could hear the rain outside as it began and smell the scent of the rain on the brick and ground. We spent the whole morning and afternoon exploring the grounds and learning the history. I took in every moment of this maleficent place, not knowing if I would ever return.

After the trip, we returned to our everyday lives here in Justice, Illinois. I was able to have the day off before returning back to work and staring at a computer all day. My sister and I talked outside on our patio swing, feeling the cool breeze and hearing the shuffle of the leaves from the trees, which alerted us rain was coming. I reminisced about The Morro and the tourist that were there visiting, and with that I could image the cold bricks and the smell of the salt in the ocean air. I would get lost in my own mind thinking about how the days were back at that time, and as the summer rain began, the scent of the dew can always draw me back to The Morro.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

All in all, I loved my college years.  I wouldn’t say they were the best days of my life because I am pretty happy with where I am at right now. Still, they were pretty great.

For five years (yeah, that’s right, five years! So what?) during the mid to late 90’s, I attended Michigan State University.  Most non-Michiganders know MSU for their recent big-time sports success, but I wasn’t a student during the last two decades of our football and basketball highpoints.  I really didn’t care though. Just MSU Spartans defeat Boise State University 17-13 on Aug. 18, 2012.attending the games, no matter the weather, was great fun.  Tailgating with friends, and going crazy with 75,000 strangers with a common passion is always a rush.

Did I say ‘go crazy’? Well, not really. I wasn’t a huge partier. Don’t get me wrong, I did have fun when I wanted to have fun. But I was more conservative than many of my classmates. The parties were okay. But, what I really loved was the notion that I had the opportunity to party. And not just party. I had the opportunity to do what I wanted with my life.  It was this freedom that I loved. This crazy, wonderful, beautiful freedom. From my first day at MSU, to my last, I cherished it. One of my fondest memories of my college years actually took place during my first week at MSU. Why? Nothing shocking.  A couple good friends of mine from my hometown stayed out all-night.  There was no reason to do this. We weren’t drinking. I think we ordered a pizza at 2 college-photo_15926.AM, simply because we could order a pizza at 2 AM! Most vividly and warmly, I remember sitting out in an open field near my dorm at 4 in the morning discussing….well….all the quasi-philosophic stuff 18 year old college freshmen discuss during their first week away from home. It was great.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one who had this freedom, and many of my co-Spartans took advantage in much more, shall we say, boisterous ways.  As I got older, I became more serious. I decided I really wanted to dedicate myself to my studies. I wanted to go to graduate school, and I realized grades would be important. So, I truly began to love school; not just the freedom and the fun. I found I preferred the library over parties. I enjoyed the classroom more than the dorm-room.  I wanted to read books, not just beer labels. Yeah, I was a pretentious little ass, but I really don’t feel much embarrassment about it.  Being 21 is the time to be a pretentious little ass.

Over those five years of my life, I look back with satisfaction and fulfillment….but, there is one thing….just one thing I wish I had done. No, I don’t wish I had pledged to a frat; or had tried more drugs; or had taken part in more riots (don’t ask; I will save this for another blog). My one regret is I wish I had studied abroad. I wish I had taken classes in Europe, seminars in Asia, colloquiums in the Middle East.

Study abroad would have been wonderful.  Everyone I have ever known who took part in study-abroad have raved about their experiences.  After working at a University for 13 years, I have seen students go overseas and come StudyAbroad-things-to-considerback new, more intriguing people.  Why did I not do this? It is the same old story of all regrets. I thought I would have all the time in the world, and now I realize I was a foolish, pretentious 21 year old for thinking so.  Now, I have two kids, lots of bills to pay, and seemingly little free time.  Alas, I missed my chance….

But wait! I’m not going to feel sorry for myself.  As the lads from Monty Python said, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.  I’m not going to let this regret eat away at me. I need to recapture some of that college freedom! I need to step up and do this! If I regret not going 20 years ago, imagine how I will feel in another 20 years?

The big 4-0 is right around the corner.  Time to make that decade the best years of my life!  The era of Stelzer Jocks/Jocks Stelzer travels are about to begin! Let’s do this!