“Old Skool” Video Game Design

Students will compare an old school video game to geometric transformations, and then design their own video game graphic using reflections, translations, and rotations.


The Incredible Hulk’s Origins: The Monster Within

The Gamma Bomb that launched a thousand comics


The brilliant scientist, Dr. Bruce Banner, was caught in the blast of a test Gamma Bomb, exposing him to seemingly deadly gamma radiation.  He began experiencing strange symptoms during times of stress – his mind and body would change and grow into a hulking beast of a man, full of rage and superhuman strength. “The Hulk” is a comic book superhero character from Marvel Comics.  He first appeared in the 1962 comic, The Incredible Hulk.

This character has stood the test of time and has remained incredibly popular, with comics continuing to feature him to this day, and big budget blockbusters, such as The Avengers, featuring him as well.  Though his origins pointed to his destructive nature, The Hulk’s abilities have been harnessed as a force of good.  Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character in the early 1960’s with influences from literature and current events.


Literary Monsters


Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Hulk lesson

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1818), and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde (1886) are influences of The Hulk.  In Frankenstein, a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, creates a grotesque yet sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment.  His creation becomes “the monster.” The monster has moments of self reflection, wondering why he has been given such a terrible fate: to be created, and then hunted down and tortured by society.  This theme is very much at play within the early Hulk comics.  He doesn’t understand why this had to happen to him, and why people won’t let him run off into isolation and be at peace. This aspect of The Hulk’s personality is at odds with his often incited desire to destroy.

This dichotomy leads to the other main literary influence.  Jekyll and Hyde is a novella that explores the rare mental condition often called “split personality,” known in psychiatry as dissociative identity disorder.  This refers to when more than one distinct personality exists within the same body.  Jekyll and Hyde is especially relevant to The Hulk, as it portrays one distinctly good personality, while the other is evil.  Dr. Henry Jekyll is at odds with his evil other personality, Edward Hyde.  Jekyll asserts that “man is not truly one, but truly two,” and he imagines the human soul as the battleground for an “angel” and a “fiend,” each struggling for mastery.


War, Mankind, and The Hulk


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There are influences from The Cold War in the Hulk comics. After World War II, in 1947, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated and existed for much of the rest of the 20th century. Many international incidents occurred that brought these nations’ to the brink of disaster including the Berlin Crisis (1961) and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).  The Hulk makes certain statements that point to his conception as an allegory for man’s ability to wage wars.

In issue #1, Bruce Banner is afraid he’ll keep changing into “that brutal, bestial, mockery of a human — that creature which fears nothing — which despises reason and worships power!”  In issue #102, the Hulk rages, “Me GO! Must kill…destroy! Must prove to world no one stronger!”  These statements allude to the darkest natures of humanity during times of war.

The upcoming Marvel movie Avengers: Age of Ultron explores similar themes about humanity’s warring nature, and ultimate hope for peace.  The Hulk will be a part of that story, ever relevant as his very existence is a representation of the same struggle.

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The Science of Why Elders React to (and Love) GTA V

Grand Theft Auto V is the fifth installment of a popular video game franchise, where players assume the roles of crooks and criminals, advancing their careers and performing illegal activities.  Some of the press surrounding the game has been quite critical, which is understandable given the subject matter, especially when you consider young impressionable minds playing it.  The React Channel filmmakers on YouTube saw an opportunity to explore the nature of play with GTA V, especially with a group of people who may have a strong aversion to this kind of entertainment.

When asked what their opinions were of this notoriously naughty video game, a selection of elderly individuals were quick to negatively judge it, saying they have heard of it and thought it was a bad influence and game overall.  When given the opportunity to play the game for a half an hour, some were curious and eager, while others didn’t have any interest at all.  While playing the game, there were observable, telltale signs that these elderly individuals were actually enjoying themselves! Whether they were actively aware of it or not, there was a noticeable motivation to play, to try out actions in the game (most very violent) and the end result was a recognition from most of them that this was essentially an amusing experience that they might want to try again.

Was this a case of people judging a book by its cover?  Is there a cognitive bias at play?  What were the psychological reasons these elderly individuals had a positive, fun experience playing GTA V?  The elderly generation didn’t grow up playing video games, so they don’t understand them as well as the younger generations.  This may result in negative or suspicious feelings about them.  The same thing happened with new technology that arrived in the 1940s – the television.  Some thought it would ruin kids’ brains if they just stared at a screen all day.  Also, the media loves to push huge generalizations about games and gamers, because it provides tangible reasons for unreasonable, violent behavior.  These superficial reasons to dislike video games in general can be considered a cognitive bias.

A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input.   An individual’s construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behaviour in the social world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.  That is why when asked what they think about these kinds of games, the responses are largely similarly negative without any firsthand experience.

Here are some observations from the video.  The players clearly had the drive to figure out how to get their character to perform the required actions.  Beyond the morally reprehensible behavior, actually functioning in the game the right way was a priority for the players.  Some people were so closed minded that they openly criticized it the whole time. Some of them stopped at stop signs and waited for lights to change even though there are no “real” rules at play in this universe.  Some are completely open to exploring and are excited to be in the environment – and even discover some secret gems about the game that traditional players might overlook.  Nearly all of them got excited to find the ammunition.  It would seem that materialism and freedom are alluring qualities to just about anyone.  There were some real surprises here, mainly the desire across the board to shoot innocent civilians in the game.  The players understood its just a game, but really wanted to shoot em up!

Many people view games as a safe form of release.  A safe way to experience stress, and to generally, just play.   Perhaps that comes from the stress hormones released during game play – cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline).  Playing the game creates a heightened sense of stress and this can actually be an enjoyable experience, especially for those who have never had that kind of “safe stress” experience before.   Why is it fun to play games?  Recent research has found that gaming can be an ideal platform for people to try on different hats and take on a characteristic they would like to have. Giving players the chance to adopt a new identity during the game and acting through that new identity – be it a different gender, hero, villain – can make them feel better about themselves and less negative.

What Grand Theft Auto games provide can be thought of as the essence of play.  What is play if it isn’t breaking reality’s boundaries, taking on a role, experiencing the feelings, emotions, problem solving with a different set of circumstances from our own usual day to day life?  Play in its purest form creates a sense of release through experimentation.  GTA can provide that.  For the elderly people who may not actively take the time to participate in these kinds of activities, it can be a real thrill.

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The Legendary Black Card Explained

It is important to note that no matter what color credit card you sign up for, in order to keep your finances and your credit rating out of the red, you must spend wisely.

If you know what a credit card is and you listen to rap, follow celebrity gossip, or have dreams of becoming massively wealthy one day, chances are you know what the Visa Black Card is. Even the mention of this exclusive card is enough to make you wonder just how rich you have to be to get your hands on one. After all, there’s all this hype about the card that contributes to its mystique. Read further to unpack just how exclusive the card really is. Is it really that hard to get? What real perks does it offer?


In order to fully understand the Black Card and the celebrity status it promotes, you should understand the basic fundamentals of credit cards. Credit is an equation and it has two sides — the lender and the borrower. Having the ability to borrow money when you need it gives you flexibility and peace of mind. Still, and all too often, individuals borrow more than what they actually need and fail to pay it off. If you understand that you are being charged money to actually use this credit, many people might think twice before pulling out their plastic. If you understand how credit works, use it only when you need it (to stand in for cash you already have in the bank) and avoid having too much debt, you can call yourself financially responsible.   Many young people don’t realize that responsible use of credit can actually help a person reach their goals.

Basic terms you should be familiar with: Creditors and Debt. Those who lend you money are called lenders or creditors; the money you owe is called debt.

Back in the 1980’s, in the era when Gordon Gekko famously said in the movie “Wall Street” that “greed is good,” rumors were that there was a credit card issued by American Express that was capable of purchasing anything anywhere. An urban legend, the card was nearly impossible to get and was all black. In other words, it had no credit limit. Just to give a reference point, most credit cards range between $500.00 and $4,500.00 depending on your credit rating to start. Some banks won’t issue a credit card to a potential borrower with poor or no credit, for fear they will not be able to pay back the debt.


Black Card members have an average of around $16.3 million in assets and a household income of $1.3 million. But just because you meet those criteria, you still are not guaranteed an invitation. Your credit rating and spending habits will also be carefully studied to see if you are the right candidate for the card.

Instead of letting fantasy live in the minds of would be big spenders, in 1999, American Express decided to bring that dream to life. They took the elements of a powerful credit card and made a card that reflected all these from the color to the exclusivity. They called it the Centurion Card, but it more popularly known as the Black Card. Other creditors followed suite and issued exclusive Black Cards bearing their insignia.

So where do these celebrity flaunted cards with infinite spending power come from? What are the Black Card’s features? Who gets these cards? The fact is that not everyone can get the Black Card. The card is issued out by invitation only. You not only have to be affluent to be invited, but you have to be extremely rich. You’re not just in the who’s who social circle, you have to be part of the social elite.

A quick figure to help you understand: Black Card members have an average of around $16.3 million in assets and a household income of $1.3 million. OK, but just because you meet those criteria, you still are not guaranteed an invitation. Your credit rating (how responsible you are with your money) and spending habits will also be carefully studied to see if you are the right candidate for the card.

Once you are vetted, one of these creditors MIGHT send you an invitation to own a card. You might jump at the chance, thinking that it is just like other credit cards that offer incentives like free membership and zero fees. But in realty, the Black Card will charge you with massive dues and in some cases an initiation fee for those who wish to sign on with the card (in the United States, the fee is $7,500). In many cases there’s also an annual fee of $2,500.

Since the vast majority of us will not actually handle one of these cards, it’s fun to imagine what exclusivity feels like. For starters, the card is black and made of anodized titanium. Your information and numbers are imprinted in carbon fibre. The hard texture of the card actually makes it “clink” when one places it on the counter.


The proliferation of the Black Card’s mention in pop culture, brings to the surface the power trip associated with such cards, namely the Visa Black Card. One of the big draws for the card it it’s concierge service.  Imagine going on a spur of the moment vacation in  a private jet, with drivers lined up to take you from the airport to a local hotspot for some early partying before whisking you, and any new friends, to a world class dining experience.  Nice, huh?

It’s a good thing to use credit wisely and to not spend beyond your means. An overlooked fact is that credit card companies want your business, because they make a profit when you borrow. Although purchasing something, anything, with a credit card is easy, it is a practice that can come back and bite you in the end. It is important to note that no matter what color credit card you sign up for, in order to keep your finances and your credit rating out of the red, you must spend wisely.

Haiku: The Original Tweet

During a day and age where tweets are limited to 140 characters, the haiku has been spreading messages in limited formats for ages.
The goal of this lesson is for students to look at their social media experiences in a poetic fashion. It is meant to help students learn how to write haiku poems while using social media tools.

Learning Outcomes:
1. Demonstrate a basic understanding of language compression and expressing complex ideas through simple words.
2. Demonstrate the ability to understand the context of a statement and transferring such thoughts into a poetic nature


The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.


The Theories Behind Time Travel

Great Scott! How many gigawatts does it take to write a story with time travel and parallel universes? It doesn’t take that much electricity, but it does take a lot of planning, researching and creativity.

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asminov, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut — they’ve all written famous science fiction books that focus on time travel. Wells’ Time Machine dates back to 1895, before Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and before the ideas behind black holes and wormholes existed.

Traveling in time to alter our destinies has been a pop culture fascination for a long time. Many superheroes have experienced time travel in different ways. Superman could go back in time by flying around the world quickly enough to reverse Earth’s rotation. Similarly, The Flash could travel fast enough to go back in time. Even the mutant, Wolverine, traveled back in time in X-Men: Days of Future Past to change the fate the world.

The plot lines involved in time travel and jumping through alternate realities are not easy to follow and are even more difficult to write. This lesson takes a look back in time at how some science-fiction stories have rules and a structure to the way time and alternate universes function within their fictional world and how you can create your own narrative structure to write your own tight story involving parallel universes and time travel.


10 Steps to Make Summer School Not Suck

Summer is here, but you still find yourself in school. Maybe you didn’t pass a class that is required for graduation. Or maybe you want to take a class because your schedule during the school year is full. Whatever the reason is for taking a summer school class, sitting in a classroom for two hours every day for a few weeks isn’t your idea of fun. However, it doesn’t have to be so bad. Here are ten steps to make summer school not suck.

1. Have a friend sign up

Having a friend sign up makes summer school more bearable. Your friend is going to be by your side and make things easier. You can also do homework and study for tests together.

2. Ask for breaks

During the normal school day, your classes don’t last much longer than 70-80 minutes. However, summer school classes tend to be longer — most last about two hours. If you’re having trouble sitting for that long, ask the teacher for at least one break. This gives you time to get up and move around, since it’s not good to be sitting down for so long.

3. Ask if the class can go outside

Summer is usually more laid back than during the school year so ask if the teacher will take you outside. What better way to learn Shakespeare or science or whatever the subject than outside under a tree.

4. Engage yourself in the learning

Doing homework and studying for tests is hard enough during the regular school year. Think about how hard it is during the summer. You spend two hours in class, but then have homework to do, a research paper to write, or a test to study for. Do the homework and study every night so you don’t get behind.

5. Be respectful to the teacher

Your summer school teacher may be someone you don’t know, who doesn’t want to be there any more than you do. After all, summer is a time for him or her to be away from school as well. But teachers sometimes work part-time jobs in the summer to help pay bills or to earn extra money. Respecting and getting along with the teacher goes a long way and makes class more fun.

6. Get your sleep

While summer is the time for you to stay up late watching movies or hanging out with friends, you still need your sleep. You can’t sleep in class, or you won’t do well. Going to bed at a decent time will help lead to your success.

7. Take care of yourself

If you got up late and hurried to class or didn’t feel like eating breakfast, ask if bringing a snack or, at least, a bottle of water is allowed. Eating and drinking helps us stay awake when we’re bored. If you get dehydrated, you get sleepy and have trouble paying attention in class.

8. Be on time

During the school year, you are expected to be on time. If you’re late, you get a tardy and too many tardies add up to you not earning your credit for summer school. You certainly don’t want to lose the credit if you have almost made it to the end of summer school.

9. Stay positive

No matter how bad summer school really is, remember to stay positive. Doing some of things suggested above will help with that. Ask your teacher and see what he will allow you to do.

10. Remember why you are there

No matter the reason as to why you are there in summer school, the important things to remember are to do well, respect the teacher and his rules, and earn your credit. You don’t want to waste your summer.

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Political Battle Rap: Breaking Down Obama’s Back to Back Diss Track

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If you don’t know Alphacat by now, get familiar. He’s been killing it on YouTube with his spot on impersonations of old POTUS Barry. But, just this month, he broke the internet with his best-produced and best-choreographed video yet: Back to Back. This video takes Drake’s original diss track and turns it into a response against Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the Commander-in-Chief.

This video hits on the core controversies of Donald Trump’s rise to prominence: his virulent anti-Mexican statements, his advocacy of family values while being questionable in his own personal life, and his opposition to mainstream conservatives.

This video makes a lot of claims about Donald Trump, as a man, as a candidate, and as a public figure. But it’s not always a good idea to trust the “interwebs” to be completely accurate about politics.

When it comes to politics, it’s always a good idea to fact-check it before supporting a candidate. Finding political facts can be hard because there is so much bias out there, especially on the internet. You would think News sites are a good first step, but even then, journalists and the channels they work for can become bias or even make mistakes and editors can insert their own views. Fact-checking organizations are better, but the best option is to go to the source: the politicians themselves.

Alphacat spit straight bars on this track, riddled with references that refer to many issues going on in recent heated campaign battles. Break down the lyrics in this diss track and see what political facts you can uncover.


Teen Usage: Instagram vs. Facebook

Is Instagram the most popular social media app among 12-17 year-old teens? Or is Facebook still on top? Statistics vary on how many teens use each platform. CBS News stated 76% of teens use the app compared to 45% on Facebook. A Pew Research report said only 52% of teens use Instagram versus the 71% who use Facebook.

The Pew Research shows wealthier teens, or those whose parents make over $75,000, use Instagram 23% more than those teens under $30,000 at 7%. Facebook is the preferred social media among the lower income teens at 49% versus 37% for upper income teens. Girls are on Instagram more than boys, 61% versus 44%.

Instagram is more popular than Facebook among wealthy teens

Instagram began as strictly a photo sharing app, but its popularity with teens has made the app more of a social network. Teens use hashtags along with their photos and videos to gain more followers. Because of Instagram, data usage has tripled among teens. As the app has become more popular, Instagram has begun to spread to younger children. One of Instagram’s rules is that a person must be thirteen to have a profile. However, children younger than thirteen are still creating profiles, showing that younger children are becoming drawn into the social media platform.

Hashtags help with SEO, or search engine optimization. Because many teens think it’s best to have more followers than those they are following, they seek to find new followers by showing off their photos to more people. The use of hashtags makes photos and videos available for everyone to see. The more hashtags posted alongside the photos and videos, the more likely it is that new people will see those photos. Having more followers seems to appeal to teens because it makes them look more popular among their peers.
So is Instagram or Facebook more popular among the 12-17-year old teens? Do teens really use hashtags to gain followers?  How do teens know which is the most popular social media among their age group? They can conduct their own survey and draw their own conclusions.