On Integrity, Plagiarism, and Online Media

I've worked in arts education for over a decade year round teaching music and theater courses. I also spent the better part of three years hustling hard to get an English teacher position at the high school level. I'm still teaching music and theater, but my Bye Bye Birdie LARP adventure is suspended. The biggest lesson I try to teach any of my students is to act with integrity and compassion in everything they do.

English classes make that easy. If you plagiarize your paper--steal someone else's work directly, borrow ideas without attribution, or do the dreaded Ctrl-F and thesaurus combination, you fail and risk significant punishment. There is no gray area. You are expected to write and defend your own ideas. If you use someone else's work, you cite your source and make sure you get the last word in. Very rarely, you come across a student who does this and shows no remorse. They are the ones who wind up with major disciplinary records. 

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New York Comic Con 2015 from a First Timer

Even though I did not attend New York Comic Con this year, a close friend of mine had his first big convention experience. One of his friends bought tickets for Thursday and they met up to experience it together. What I know is the pair were discouraged by how many people were there. Thursday, which is usually a slower day where press can get all their photos and actually meet people, was so packed you couldn't stand at a table in Artists' Alley without being smashed into by other people.

I'm glad my friend had this experience, but I'm sad I wasn't there to guide him through the crowds and show him how to interact with the flow of traffic at a convention this large.

Even if you ignore the crowd factor, there were genuine problems. NYCC offered no lanyards when my friend got there. The guidebooks were nowhere to be found (again). The mobile app did not work right (again). And, in a strange twist, there was so little signage leading to the basement level that my friend didn't even think anything was happening in the main event, panel, and signing areas.

He did follow through on his promise and send me photos from the convention. A fresh set of eyes is always wonderful. He focused on a lot of things I wouldn't have, so we all get to see a different set of highlights than if I had done the photography myself again.

The 2015 MacArthur Fellows

The MacArthur Fellows, aka the recipients of the MacArthur Genius Grants, receive a no strings attached award of $625,000 spread out over the next five years. It is a tremendous honor limited to a select group of candidates from all walks of intellectual and creative pursuits. The award is designed to acknowledge people who have made extraordinary contributions in their field and have the potential to continue to innovate in the future. Previous honorees include Julie Taymor, Cormac McCarthy, and Adrienne Rich. The 2015 Fellows include a few very familiar faces from entertainment news in the past few weeks. Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (whose musical Hamilton is taking over the world) and journalist Ta-Neisha Coates (who was just tapped to write Marvel's Black Panther comic series) are probably the most well-known honorees this year.

Here are all the 2015 Fellows and the fields they're recognized for.

Patrick Awuah, education entrepreneur Kartik Chandran, environmental engineer at Columbia University Ta-Nehisi Coates, journalist, blogger, and memoirist Gary Cohen, environmental health advocate Matthew Desmond, sociologist at Harvard University William Dichtel, chemist at Cornell University Michelle Dorrance, tapdancer and choreographer Nicole Eisenman, painter LaToya Ruby Frazier, photographer and video artist Ben Lerner, writer Mimi Lien, set designer Lin-Manuel Miranda, playwright, composer, and performer Dimitri Nakassis, classicist at the University of Toronto John Novembre, computational biologist at the University of Chicago Christopher Ré, computer scientist Marina Rustow, historian at Princeton University[44] Juan Salgado, Chicago-based community leader Beth Stevens, neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School Lorenz Studer, stem-cell biologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Alex Truesdell, designer at the Adaptive Design Association Basil Twist, puppeteer Ellen Bryant Voigt, poet Heidi Williams, economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Peidong Yang, inorganic chemist

You can find out more about all 24 fellows at the MacArthur Foundation website.

Watch: The Zombie Bridge Puzzle

You know that old brain teaser about getting livestock across a river so a wolf doesn't eat them? You know, you can only carry so many of the critters at a time, but leaving a critter by itself guarantees death by wolf? I stumbled across a fun zombie-spin on this with different parameters care of Ted-Ed. You are an intern at a science lab on a mountain. Unfortunately, the scientist has created brain-hungry zombies. You and three other lab workers need to escape the zombies and cut off the exit bridge, but the bridge is old and so are some of the workers.

Watch this fun video and see if you can solve the puzzle. It took me a little bit, but I did get it before checking the answer.

Watch: Cats vs Zombies

Cats Vs Zombies I never thought I'd see a zombie short starring cats.

Cats have a long history of being used in horror films. It's because of the superstitions surrounding black cats and witches' familiars, combined with their stealth and aggression when confronted. It's a horror cliche for a cat to jump out of the darkened hallway as misdirection.

But cats starring in a zombie short? Cats being targetting and fighting against the zombie scourge? That's something special.

"Cats vs Zombies" is a horror short from Mr.TVCow on YouTube. A little kitten is trapped on top of a building, surrounded by hungry zombies. It's up to two grown cats to fight back and save their species from extinction. It's a horror comedy so cute you'll wanna squeeze it. Yes you will. Yes you will.

Via The Mary Sue.

3 Thoughts on RWBY

Yes, I do intend to have writing on Sketchy Details again. I needed to get into the flow of drawing every day. Now that I'm confident in that, I can shift some focus back to media criticism. RWBY is an original animated series from Rooster Teeth, an online comedy and gaming video creator with tons of original animation. This series, so far, has two volumes, released on Netflix as two two-hour animated films. Instead of a straight forward review of all the things I watch on streaming media, I'm going to break down my reaction into three ideas.

3 Thoughts on...RWBY


1: Children Will Love This Show

RWBY is like Harry Potter, only with young children and teenagers training to be tough warriors to fight against the Creatures of Grimm, ancient beings of unimaginable evil. The first character introduced in the series is Ruby. She fights with a gigantic scythe and so impresses the dean of the premiere fighting academy that she's skipped ahead two grades to accelerate her training. She's accepted as an equal by her new peers and even has her older sister excited to train by her side at the school. The common enemy is the Creatures of Grimm and the students all take that very seriously. It's a positive, empowering experience for Ruby and one that sends a strong message about self-worth and hard work.

2: Adults Will Love It, Too

RWBY is not a straight-forward children's show by any means. There are plenty of allusions and social commentary that will sail over the heads' of younger viewers. A big recurrent element of the series is the politics of energy, represented by magical dust called Dust. These elements enhance the world rather than distract from the story so everyone can get as much out of the series as they want.

3: That Animation

The quality of animation is exceptionally high considering this is a low-budget independent series. I had major flashbacks to the beautiful cel shading that dominated the best of the Dreamcast. It did take me a little while to warm up to the minimal shadows in the design, but that's merely personal preference.


Anime fans will find something to latch onto immediately with RWBY. It's reminiscent of series like Soul Eater and Sailor Moon without outright copying those ideas. The color coordination with characters and names is well done and the weaving of Grimm fairy tales into character back stories is clever. I say it's worth a try for anyone and everyone. If it doesn't catch you in the first 12 minutes (technically the first episode), then you can always switch over to something else.