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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

ASSIGNMENT - "Dionysus in Stony Mountain" discussion for Journalism

My fellow CreCommers and I went to see a play at the Rachel Browne Theatre called Dionysus in Stony Mountain.  The title of the play could have served as a warning for me about the complex language and concepts I was about to sit through, as I had never heard of the Greek god Dionysus.

Having seen the play now, I still don't really understand the title's connection.  The character James (Ross McMillan) gets a prison tattoo of Dionysus on his arm, and explains a bit about him to his psychiatrist, Heidi (Sarah Constible).  But this conversation was a bit over my head, as was much of the first half of the play.

The first half takes place in Stony Mountain, during a session between James and Heidi, after James has stopped taking his lithium, and started memorizing quotes from the German philosopher Nietzsche.  James spends most of the session ranting about his new beliefs and views on the world, and often quoting at length from Nietzsche's writing.

The language is very heavy.  But I think that even though I didn't understand much of it, that didn't take away from my experience of the story.  I don't think James is meant to be completely understood by your average person meeting him for the first time.

The second half was easier to digest.  Constible still played Heidi, though no longer a psychiatrist, and McMillan switched characters to play Heidi's uncle, checking up on her at her mother's request.

Heidi's uncle brought a lot more comedy to the play.  He's a jaded businessman who enjoys taking jabs at Heidi and her new life.  He also speaks much simpler than James did in the first half.

I haven't been to many plays, but I think the acting in Dionysus in Stony Mountain was incredible.  Each half was around 55 minutes long, and the shear fact that these two actors could remember that many lines is commendable to me.  The fact that they could deliver that many lines emotionally and convincingly is nothing short of amazing.

I felt like McMillan did an outstanding job switching roles.  Had I not been told earlier, I may not have known it was still him in the second half.

But the play did drag a bit.  The first half was a long time to pay as much attention as I felt the dialogue needed me to.  The second half should have been easier, but I felt my mind was already pretty exhausted from the first half.

Overall it was a good experience.  It was very interesting to see how much a script can do with just two people talking.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

ASSIGNMENT - "Journey for Justice" discussion for Journalism

In class we read the true-crime book Journey for Justice: How 'Project Angel' Cracked the Candace Derksen Case.

Cover of Journey for Justice.
It was written by Mike McIntyre, and it details the events of Candace Derksen's disappearance, death, and the eventual trial of her killer, Mark Grant.

The book feels like it has two sections with two different styles of writing.  The first section deals with the initial disappearance of Candace, and the search for her.  This section reads much like a regular novel.

As this was the first true-crime book I've ever read, I wasn't expecting this style at all.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I think the style works because it kept me interested in what would happen next, as it was told as a story.  It also made me feel a connection to the characters, as McIntyre used lots of dialogue, much of it from Wilma Derksen's (Candace's mother) own book, Have You Seen Candace?

The second section looks at the trial of Mark Grant.  I lost some of my interest reading this part because it was written the way I expected a true-crime book to be written: lots of facts, legal jargon, newspaper articles, and psychiatric reports.  While some of these things were interesting, a lot of it was over my head or repetitive.

The main thing this section loses out on, is the connection to the characters I felt in the first part of the book.

I think that journalists can learn the importance of emotional content from this book.  While getting the facts straight is the top priority of a journalist, it is only the skeleton of a story.  I believe that all stories can be improved by the thoughts and feelings of the people involved in the story.  This is why I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second.

I saw a documentary called Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, which also deals with a murder case.  When I compare these two works, it strengthens my thoughts on emotional value.  Dear Zachary shows the struggle of a murdered man's parents to gain custody of his daughter from the woman they believe murdered him.

Seeing how they feel and think is what makes the film so interesting.  They also give factual information, but it doesn't bog down the story like the end of Journey for Justice.  Although, I did feel that Journey for Justice felt like much more of a journalism piece than Dear Zachary, as the director of Dear Zachary was a friend of the deceased and very involved in the story.

After reading Journey for Justice, Mike McIntyre and Wilma Derksen came to Red River to speak to us.  It was interesting to hear how the book came to be, but I would have liked to hear more of what Wilma had to say, as McIntyre did most of the talking.  I was amazed reading the book and listening to Wilma speak, at how loving and forgiving she is.  It's hard for me to understand how she doesn't, and never did, let anger towards Grant overwhelm her.

Overall, the book was a very interesting read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys true-crime books, or those who haven't read one.  It was nice to see that good story telling can thrive in these kinds of books.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Zombie Muhammad

I have come across an interesting news story while surfing the World Wide Web.

Apparently during a Hallowe'en parade in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, a man named Ernest Perce V decided to dress up as a zombified Muhammad.  He was joined by a zombified Pope, both part of the Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania.

Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim man, was at the parade with his family, and allegedly choked Perce.

"He grabbed me, choked me from the back, and spun me around to try to get my sign off that was wrapped around my neck," Perce told ABC 27.  The sign said: Muhammed of Islam.

When the case went to court, Judge Mark Martin dismissed the charges against Elbayomy, saying there wasn't enough evidence.  He also gave Perce a piece of his mind with this speech:

"Having had the benefit of having spent over two and a half years in predominantly Muslim countries I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam.  In fact I have a copy of the Koran here and I challenge you sir to show me where it say in the Koran that Mohammad arose and walked among the dead.  I think you misinterpreted things.  Before you start mocking someone else's religion you may want to find out a little bit more about it.  It makes you look like a doofus.  In many Arabic speaking countries something like this is definitely against the law there.  In their society in fact it can be punishable by death and it frequently is in their society."

After the incident, Perce said he had received over 470 threats.

"People have said they would kill me, rip my eyes out, run me over, shoot me and then laugh at me, since I have blasphemed Muhammad.  They say I will be found and hung in front of my family."

The judge has also received threats based on his ruling, causing him to be relocated for safety reasons.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ZR: Zombie Relations

Public Relations, Advertising... what ever you want to call this, it's just a great idea.  Props to fellow CreCommer Matt TenBruggencate for bringing it to my attention.

This video was shot in a movie theater at Sandton City to promote the second season of The Walking Dead, and by the wild applause at the end, I'd say it did it's job.

The zombie actor was just lucky nobody in the audience decided to be a hero.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Well, it's Valentine's Day again.  What better way to melt the heart of your significant other than a zombie themed day of romance?

Want to play a game where you are Cupid fighting off an invasion of zombie kids?  Try Zombie Kids Valentines Day.

And here are some V-Day cards you can use to get your loved one in the mood:

Thursday, February 09, 2012


I was recently pointed to another real disease that has some bizarre similarities to zombies.  During her scholarly studies, my friend Nikki Basset stumbled upon kuru, and passed the disease to me... figuratively.

Kuru is a rare disease that affects the nervous system, it's also a fun word to say.

The case that kuru is known for is very interesting.  It's very similar to a zombie outbreak, only backwards.  While we're used to the spread of zombies caused by dead humans eating living brains, this case involves living humans eating dead brains.

Back in the day, the Fore Tribe of Papua New Guinea would eat the bodies of the dead (including the brain) as part of the funeral process.  I know, it sounds like a completely safe practise, but it turns out human brain tissue can contain an infectious protein which causes kuru.

Supposedly the funeral ritual stopped around 1960, but cases of kuru still popped up years later because of the long incubation period of the disease, which can last anywhere from 5 to 20 years.

The disease is kind of like mad cow for humans.  Once a person has kuru, they will go through 3 stages.

In the first stage, the person will have a hard time balancing and slurred speech.  The second stage makes it extremely hard to walk, and causes severe muscle tremors.  In the final stage, the infected will have no muscle coordination, they won't be able to speak, and they won't be at all responsive to their surroundings.

But unlike a zombie, the strangest effect of kuru is that it causes the infected to laugh uncontrollably.

Album cover for House Cannibal by Kuru.

Friday, January 27, 2012


brains... braaaaaiiiiiiiins... BRAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNSSSSSSSS!