A Review of the new Ghost is the Shell Movie

GhostInTheShellAs my loyal readers will know, I have had occasion to use this space to review movies. There was a great deal of discussion recently concerning the,  then, up-coming live adaptation of the classic manga, Ghost in the Shell, written and drawn by Masamune Shirow.  While the manga presents itself as lighthearted and moderately comedic, the anime, produced in 1995, is a gripping and dramatic adaptation of the story.  It is this anime that most fans point to as the definitive telling of the tale.  Much of the buzz around the ‘net consisted of concerned fans hoping that Hollywood might treat the original source material with respect and allow the compelling and fascinating story to play out on the big screen as the author intended it.  If you were one of those fans with concerns along those lines, then rest assured that your fears were well founded and fully realized within the first 45 seconds of the film.  The Ghost in the Shell live adaptation suffers from the very thing that makes up it’s subject matter:  it completely lacks any soul at all.

By way of plot review, the original story involves a young woman, Motoko Kusanagi, whose mind has been implanted into a cybernetic or cyborg body.  While every part of her is mechanical, her mind, soul, and spirit remain human.  She, according to various sources across the Internet, was injured in a plane crash and then, as her body failed, was placed into the cybernetic shell.  She volunteered for government service as a way to pay for the maintenance and upkeep on her cyborg body, again, according to the original anime but she also seems to be motivated by the needs of society.  It seems that sacrificing self to benefit the collective is a theme that appears quite regularly in Japanese literature.  At any rate, she is employed by Section 9, a division of the Government Intelligence Community tasked with protecting the public from various threats.  As well as possessing formidable physical and tactical skills, the Major, as she is called, is expert in all things technical and digital.  She is a master hacker/programmer, and as such, often gets called in when cases involve technological details.

The story occurs at some time in the near future when mankind has perfected the ability to combine electronics, mechanics, and the human body.  Nearly everyone in the story is enhanced to some degree, with the notable exception of the recently recruited former policeman Togusa.  The team is assigned to track down and capture a ghost hacker, someone who can hack into a human mind via the network connections in the cybernetic bodies, and control the actions and thoughts of those so compromised.  In order to prevent spoiling a fantastic story for those who have not had the pleasure, I will say no more about the plot, except that it is engaging and speaks eloquently to the question of what defines a person.  Sadly, the current live-action offering did not ever even wave at this question, much less speak to it.

As many fans feared, the screen-writers and directors of the live-action film pulled bits and pieces of plot from various points along the narrative of the original anime and mashed them together into a non-challenging, politically correct, and quite frankly boring mess of a story that was distinctly western in flavor.  All of the motivations from the original work that were specifically Asian in nature were completely skipped over, or so under-emphasized as to be invisible.  In fact, the Major’s name was not used until the last 10 minutes of the film.  She was given a western name and no reference to her being Asian was ever made, barring the creation of a contrived mother who never appeared in the original story, and was, once again, a specifically western idea.

The original anime is considered to be, among other things, an action/adventure story.  The plot is fast moving and barrels from once action scene to the next with the speed of a packet traveling through the net.  The live-action film lacked a great deal of its name-sake, action.  Aside from a few set-pieces taken from the original film and stitched together in no particular order, the movie consisted of a great deal of dialog.  I felt stifled in exposition.  Video is a VISUAL medium.  Don’t tell the story, SHOW IT.

Don’t get me wrong, I have adored Scarlett Johansson since I saw her in The Island  with Ewan MacGregor.  She is the only person I can see as the Avenger’s Black Widow and she is, in general, a very talented actor.  However, the Major is, according to the original anime and especially the original manga, supposed to have the appearance of a much younger woman, and later, a young girl, as her cybernetic body is damaged and must be replaced.  I think the casting director might have taken that into consideration when filling the role of the major.  Also, in my opinion, the character of Batau was poorly handled.  He is shown in the beginning with normal eyes and does not acquire his signature enhancements until much later in the film.  This is not in keeping with the original material.

All in all I felt disappointment as I walked out of the theater.  I had high hopes for this movie and those hopes were dashed on the jagged rocks of Hollywood’s desperate need to make sure that everything produced by a major studio fits the long establish, and boring, mold.  Sadly they lived down to my expectations.

Useful Skills in Canvas

Canvas_vertical_colorDuring this edition of Technology in Education I will demonstrate the easiest method (that I know of anyhow) to integrate video into Canvas pages.  This technique will work with YouTube, Microsoft SharePoint, or any other video hosting service that allows embedding via the iframe tag.  Once again we will be using the HTML editor.First we need to select the video we wish to embed into the page we are editing.  On YouTube, videos that are available for embedding, as most are, will have a link to create the embed code for you.  You will merely need to copy this code and paste it into the html already in your page.  If we wish to include this video from OnRamps, for example, we first need to find it on YouTube…chrome_2017-03-10_17-22-58

Once we have located our video we need to find the “Share” link located directly under the title…

chrome_2017-03-10_17-26-10As you can see, the “Share” link is marked with a curved arrow and the word “Share”.

 

 

 

 

Clicking that link will reveal the sharing options we can make use of. The option we want to select is “Embed”.

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Selecting “Embed” will generate a snippet of html code containing our “iframe” that will allow us to embed the video into our page and have it play as though it were part of the page we are creating.  We need to copy the highlighted code and then paste it into the page we are editing using the HTML Editor.

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Once the code is pasted into our page’s html we can click the “Save” button and view the results of our work…

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Your students will be able to watch this video, assuming they have access to YouTube, without the distraction of the “Up Next” list along the right border of the page.  .

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They can access only the material that you want them to view.  Be aware that if the video is hosted on a secure server like Microsoft SharePoint, your students may have to provide a username and password to access the content.  If you look carefully at the code pasted in the example above you will notice that it says whitesboro.sharepoint.com rather than youtube.com as the source of the video.  This is because I am forced to download all videos originating from YouTube and re-host them on our SharePoint video server because students at my school do not have unlimited access to the YouTube site.  It does not matter what source you use, as long as their material is available via an “iframe”

If the material in this post has been of any help, please leave a like a comment, if nothing else, to let me know you are out there 🙂

 

Lights, Camera, Action…

One piece of software that can be a great benefit to students and educators alike is a free inclusion from Microsoft Windows.  The lowly Movie moviemakerMaker application. is a great addition to your educational arsenal.  Often denigrated by professional video creators, the Microsoft Movie Maker application is probably not a tool for the professional videographer.  It’s simple interface and shallow learning curve, however, make it ideal for students who have no video editing experience.  It allows the neophyte editor to have very acceptable results without spending the time necessary to learn something like Premiere Pro or Sony Vegas.

Movie maker allows students to create a video timeline and then create smooth transitions from scene to scene.  Titles are easy to add and it is possible to add primitive special effects via templates.  Video can be captured through a web cam and audio may be added and edited.  While this is not a perfect solution for a seasoned video editor, middle school and high school students alike will enjoy creating and presenting their work to an audience of their peers.

Schools that use Windows OS will have Movie Maker available and it does not require any specialized hardware.  Most schools have at least one video camera that is compatible through a USB interface or SD card.  Given these resources, students can have a ball learning to present information and ideas through the video medium.

ShareX: Screen Capture Made Amazing…

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In tonight’s edition of Teacher Technology Tools we look at screen capture applications.  Before we start, let me be clear that there are many many programs, web sites, and apps that will allow you to capture your screen image and save it as a series of still images or a video file.  There are simply too many to list and still give a reasonable amount of detail to each and so I am choosing my favorite and presenting it, along with WHY I like this one, to give understanding as to how this sort of application can aid you in presenting material to your students.

This application is called ShareX and it is a marvel for making things easy while providing all the features one could need.  The install process is simple and direct.  Go to the web site, download the file, run the installer,  capture your screen, share in literally hundreds of ways.  I have never seen a program that can connect to so many different networks and allow you to post to so many different venues.

Once the program is installed there are several parameters that need to be set.  One of the first and most important is “How do you plan to share your screen captures”?  ShareX will allow you to connect directly to Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, FTP servers, email, Pushbulllet, flicker, twitter, Imagur, Image Shak, Photobucket, Picasa, Amazon, Copybox, ownCloud, MEGA….There are just too many outlets to list.  You can also save to your local drive in every possible video format that your computer will handle.  In short, this is the Swiss Army knife of screen capture.  It has a built-in video and still image editor, as well as color pickers, and programmable hot key short cuts by the score.  While all of this performance would seem to require a lot of study, the opposite is true.  You can be up and running in no time.  The program is intuitive and has a very small memory footprint.  It is NOT a resource hog.

Why, you ask, do I need a screen capture program?  In our current education environment, the trend is to decentralize instruction and put more and more responsibility for learning into the hands of the student.  Standing before a classroom delivering lectures from on high will no longer fill the bill.  The move is toward flipped classrooms where the students receive instruction and gather information outside the classroom and then come to class for more direct and individual guidance with questions about the material they gathered the night before from the Internet or other interactive sources.  If you are not currently using video and producing multimedia content, you soon will be.  Relax, this won’t hurt a bit.  Tools like ShareX make it easy to get very professional looking results with only a little dial-up time for the instructor, and no budget outlay for the school.  Did I forget to mention that for all it’s features, ShareX is a free program.  I can recommend ShareX as a valuable tool to help create material for your students.  It is definitely worth your time to investigate.