Picture Your Concept

What relies on words as much as symbols and colors, saves as a JPEG and can communicate complicated ideas quite simply to many learners at one time?

An infographic.

Is it a shortcut? Is it an over-generalization? Does it water down concepts? Perhaps. But as an addition to a lesson, it’s pretty fantastic.

As a Pinterest enthusiast I pin lots of infographics to my boards. Some are the steps for a lesson plan; some break down what foods enhance performance for various activities; some explain business strategies I normally would have a lot of trouble comprehending, and some even tell you how to get dressed in the morning. However, I didn’t realize I could make my own until a colleague relayed the these online design tools to me via a group email. Immediately, I google searched. Boom. I made an account. Boom. Next thing you know I was completely absorbed, trying to create all the potential I saw in it.

With an infographic you are both guiding the brain toward a concept while providing evidence like data based charts, illustrating ideas or examples, stimulating the mind with vivid or pretty colors and highlighting main points. Plus, they’re fun to make.

There are some incredible programs online that offer the tools to create infographics. My favorite is Piktochart, which has the option of a basic free program as well as an upgrade for purchase. Not only is the infographic a useful teaching/explaining/review tool but also when you have an account with a program like piktochart, you can save the image not only onto your flashdrive but also the infographic can be saved at the piktochart website and be opened at anytime, anywhere there is an internet connection (pretty convenient).

I can imagine controversy building around the idea of implementing a tool like this in the classroom (only because new things always have opponents, which also makes the new things that much more exciting, no?). I can see academics complaining that it oversimplifies, dilutes the benefits of reading about an idea to learn it. You may as well show them Sesame Street! I imagine someone blurting. I understand the concerns, but the truth is with an infographic, more learners can comprehend more complex ideas. The infographic can convey the concepts to students that struggle with learning in a linear, linguistic way. It plucks out the bones of the idea into a graphic design that could potentially reach out to students’ diverse comprehension tactics. It’s a tough task to read some article from 1954 on the negative effects of social segregation. An infographic can supplement as well as bring focus to the fuzzy dated language and references in the article. After the infographic, they can then go back to the reading for improved comprehension. The infographic can also function as a basic foundation to review when they need to apply or discuss the ideas in a paper.

Here’s one I made to do a review of Character Development. I had a lot of specific ideas I wanted to target but I had very little time. This allowed me to cover much more than if I had done a basic lecture. Plus, they can refer to it when they need to. What do you think of the infographic?

Perhaps an infographic is just what you and your students have been missing. Why you should try to use one in class.


The Unlikely Bookworm: A Review of Fragments

Words–Find out their meanings.  -Marilyn Monroe
The Unlikely Bookworm, Part II, A Book Review of Marilyn Monroe's Words, Fragments

This past Christmas, my mom, also a writer and a poet, gave me a book entitled Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe (ed. Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment 2012). As you, my gracious readers, most likely can tell, I’m a big fan of this icon. To receive a book containing her thoughts, her art, her-self was like being handed a treasure chest I had only seen in picture books. I’m a poet too, with an MFA in Poetry. I’d like to say I know a good poem when I see one (its my terminal/graduate degree after all!), but with poetry, it’s always to each his own. However, I’m going to go ahead and say, Marilyn Monroe is a damned and talented poet. Her words carry you to a special, sometimes dark corner of the mind, just as the Sylvia Plath does.

There’s an eerie quality to the book which compares to Kurt Cobain’s published journals. You are riveted, entranced, eager, awakened; at the same time, you feel guilty, disconnected, left out. After all, she did not share these thoughts and geniuses with you. You were, in fact, never her best friend. She never gave you permission to read this.I'm going to go ahead and say, Marilyn Monroe is a damned and talented poet. Her words carry you to a special, sometimes dark corner of the mind, just as the Sylvia Plath does.

I tell myself, and I really do believe this: There is an irony in the publication of her words. The irony is that while she was alive many attempted to control her mind, to project her as simple minded and as a sex object, yet Monroe, after life, proves herself to be more intellectual, complex and timeless than her colleagues ever were or could be. Throughout the book, she deems herself unworthy of being described as an intellectual, worthy of only self-suppressing and taking on the roles offered to her. However, throughout her life she strived to enrich her mind, her education, her language, but she did so privately. It was all stuffed into notebooks in her apartments. I think that if the great Marilyn Monroe knew (or perhaps knows) that we are reading her words, respecting them as art, as challenging literature, she would be even more pleased, proud and content than she ever was on a red carpet. These are her words, not a script’s, not Arthur Miller’s. Hers.

Facts that prove Marilyn Monroe was tough as nails. It's hard to make it to the top for everyone, especially for those with difficult childhoods. Marilyn Monroe survived her own childhood troubles and made it to the top.

Here, even with eyes closed, we see the poet, Marilyn Monroe.

Suggested Further Reading:

Do All Women Have an Eating Disorder? A Pink Curlers & Post Scripts Book Review

Hollywood’s Love Affairs With Rape Scenes

This past weekend, I saw two great films, and I witnessed two quick rape scenarios in a row. “I saw it in the movies” as they say. How can these incredible script writers, who managed to write such wonderful stories, be so off-point when it comes to rape?

How can talented, good writers be so off-point when it comes to rape?

Hollywood positions Jane Russell between the lines of sex and violence for us more than half a century ago.

First, I watched Lawless, which showed the onset of a rape. Of course, I was saddened, thinking of the many rape victims and survivors, my own past trauma, but also, mainly, I worried about the viewers that love Hollywood and have also never experienced being raped before. Is Hollywood’s illustrations of rape the only depiction of rape these viewers have been exposed to? Does Hollywood provide them with their definition of rape?

The next day we went to the movies to see Birdman, which was phenomenal. I could spend days analyzing themes, symbols, plot, character, camera angles, imagery etc. But…in the midst of my what-should-be-a-fun experience, another onrush of rape was played out. Two movies in a row. Think about it. Two movies. One weekend. Two movies in a row that made me think of rape.

Interestingly, what freaks me out most about the two scenes isn’t any visuals of gory sexual violence and suffering, but the opposite. Let me explain the two scenes briefly so you can get an idea. I’ll call them scene 1. (Lawless scene) and scene 2. (Birdman scene). I won’t give away any details on the movies’ storylines in case you plan to watch them (like I said, they’re actually pretty good).

In scene 1, the female character (played by Interstellar star, Jessica Chastain) finds herself in a saloon alone with two greasy cowboys. She is cornered in the saloon by their guns and intentions. One greaseball grabs her from behind, moans something about “Oh yeah,” while creeping his dirty hand into her blouse.  Viewers know she is raped from witnessing the setup and seeing the female character planning to leave town to “get away from guys like this.”

In scene 2, a female character finds herself trapped under white sheets on a Broadway stage with her co-star. He suggests that they literally “f#ck” instead of act like they are to give the audience a more “real” experience. For about half a second, it’s funny. You think, “what a joker.” However, his suggestions turn into insists. She declares, “no,” “stop it,” and “get off me.” It’s only when he is literally about to penetrate (maybe he has for all we know!) that she (played by the talented Naomi Watts) uses all her might, grunting, and with a big puff and flexed armed says, “get off me.”

I was scared. What I saw was a rape about to happen. A man in the theater next to me laughed. It was his laughter that scared me even more than the scene. Was he not aware that this was a threatening situation for the female character? Did he not realize that the line had been crossed? How many other people can’t see this line which is so obviously there?

Once the character in scene 2. is free from the stage and able to vent, she keeps saying, “he tried to f#ck me on stage!” over and over. Another female character responds, “That’s actually kind of hot.” I can tell you from experience that this person/character was not trying to f*ck her, he was trying to rape her. There’s a big difference– someone trying to have sex with another person may attempt to seduce, flirt, bargain etc. He/she may get what they’re hoping for or not. In rape or attempt at rape there’s no “hoping” for an outcome; the outcome is already determined by the perpetrator regardless of the other person’s will.

So, she wasn’t actually raped. What’s the big deal then? I mean she did push him off. It was hilarious. The guy is obviously a douche bag. Obviously. And what about the girl in the saloon? She seemed to recover well. She should just leave town,unless she wants to be raped again.  I envision so many viewers challenging me with these reactions. Fine. Ok, maybe it isn’t a big deal.

But it’s also not a big deal to change one word in a script, to refer to what happens in the films as “rape.” It’s one word. It’s accurate. It’s brings about even more tension in viewers (which is the purpose of a rape scene anyway right?). Call it out for what it is. Help men and women comprehend what “no,” “stop it,” and “get off me” means. I understand it’s a movie. I understand writers want to demonstrate horror or “douche bagness,” but as a writer myself, I also know that being too ideal, unrealistic and cliché are basic traits of bad writing. But these writers are not bad writers. They are talented and smart. However, why do they illustrate the highly dramatic scenes of rape so poorly with little to no dynamics?

The truth is women can’t just pack up their bags and leave town when someone rapes them. They have to keep living, going to work, supporting families, creating homes, careers, paying rent in the same town they were raped in, many times continuing to encounter their rapists regularly. It’s unrealistic that a woman’s plan is to regally and graciously leave town with her hair nicely done. She more likely would react by puking, getting wasted in her bed, shutting off her phone, pulling down the drapes, hating herself on so many levels, looking like shit, feeling dirty, wishing she was dead. The truth is women can’t just “go on with the show” as the female character so gracefully does in Birdman after literally being assaulted with an attempt at rape. The Rape Crisis Centre explains a victim’s behavior right after the trauma occurs, “Immediately after a rape, survivors often experience shock: they are likely to feel cold, faint, become mentally confused (disoriented), tremble, feel nauseous and sometimes vomit.”

The truth is rape or nearly getting raped is absolutely terrifying. It’s crippling. It’s like getting shot, but without the bullet hole to show for it and without a story people want to hear. You can recover from getting shot, but you need time, people’s patience and the right care. Even then, once you’re physically recovered, you have that scar in place. You probably have PTSD. You probably get startled every time someone walks into a room or turns a corner or pops open a bottle of champagne.

I love movies. I love these two movies, but they let viewers down by idealizing the outcomes of rape and portraying a fantastical  post-trauma-stability. I wish rape scenes were called what they are. I wish rape scenes were not used as dramatic effects or character development tools. I wish rape scenes could help us understand sexual strategies, illustrate what human rights are, what a violation of human rights does, what language like “get off me” means. I wish rape scenes could show us that rape isn’t just getting fucked.

Suggested further reading:

The Good Men Project’s When’s The Right Time To Stop Mid (Consensual) Sex? Any Time Your Partner Says “Stop” 

Poem Published!

Every single time I send out a poetry submission to a literary journal or magazine, I encounter a conflict of thoughts, “Why did I send that third poem?! It sucks!” or “Did I sound too cocky on my cover letter?” or “Did I not sound professional enough?” “Why did I even bother wasting time on this journal?! It’s way out of my league!”

Basically, it’s a mental show, and it can, has and probably will again drive me crazy. However, when I do get a poem accepted for publication it is like hitting a personal record during a race, and I think, “I did it!”

“Old Cutler Waterhole” by Nicole Hospital-Medina (aka productiveprofessor) is now up and ready to be read in Canyon Voices Literary Magazine. Simply look into the Poetry section. My poem is the third poem in the section. It is on page 59, surrounded by talented fellow writers’ works. I am deeply honored.

You can read the issue here, Canyon Voices Literary Magazine, Issue 10, Fall 2014.

Enjoy a preview of the issue below:

Check out new poem publication

What a great cover right?!

New poem published!

I’m in there; I swear! 😉 See my poem, Old Cutler Waterhole, in the POETRY section.

Click here to read poem (pg. 59) and entire issue. It’s a super pleasant online setup for reading. Even the turning of pages makes little paper sounds. It adds warmth to the read somehow.