Do you believe in fate? I like to think I don’t, and yet I always find myself looking for how the pieces of reality fit together to make a big picture that is more than the sum of its parts. I only recently became aware of one such coincidence. On September 24, 1991, two momentous albums, Nevermind by Nirvana and Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers were released to applause so tumultuous it resounds today, 30 years later.
Ok, people. This is probably not going to be the most exciting post you’ve ever read, but if you teach at an institute of higher learning – especially in Germany – this post on our experiences with Grammarly Premium for the past year at Leuphana University Lüneburg may interest you warts, oops, I mean statistics and all.
Let’s start at the beginning for any of you who haven’t been bombarded with Grammarly ads. Grammarly Premium is a one-of-a-kind app for writers that uses artificial intelligence to scan a writer’s work in real time. It not only finds spelling errors, plagiarism, and over 400 types of grammar mistakes, it also offers suggestions on how to improve your writing style. It allows users to set the audience (reader’s level of expertise on the topic), register (formal or informal), tone, type of writing (academic, business, creative, technical, or personal), and genre (review, letter, fiction, etc.). None of Grammarly’s competitors has such sophisticated settings, which is one of the reasons we – after seriously reviewing the top five competitors, including ProWritingAid – decided to try it out with our students at Leuphana. Read more
September 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of the most horrendous terrorist attack on American soil. In a series of four coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center’s north and south towers, the west side of the Pentagon, and United Airlines flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, PA, almost 3,000 people lost their lives.
11’09”01: September 11 provides one of the first cinematic responses to the attacks as well as to terrorism around the world. In films lasting exactly 11 minutes, 9 seconds, and 1 frame, 11 acclaimed filmmakers from 11 different countries and cultures provide us with not only deeply touching, but also provocative and disturbing moments.
It’s not easy to make a biopic that pleases the critics. And, to some extent, Harriet, directed by Kasi Lemmons, falls into that category. Harriet weaves together facts about Harriet Tubman’s life into a compelling story, but some critics are not so enthusiastic about the film’s aesthetic qualities. In Harriet, there are no truly unusual composition of shots or camerawork the likes of 12 Years a Slave, and the physical horrors of slavery receive almost no screen time, leading some to wonder if audiences are sophisticated enough to fill in the gaps. The audience sees, for example, the scars of brutal beatings without any supporting dialogue. Thankfully, Lemmons resists the temptation to take an overly didactic or ‘preachy’ approach. Any aspects of slavery – and there are several – that the film does not cover can be dealt with as film preparation. It is unrealistic to believe that one film can show all there is to show about slavery. It’s not the focus of the film anyway. This is in, the words of its director, a “freedom film.”
Both of these so-called limitations that I’ve just mentioned, however, make the film accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. They further make Harriet, rated PG-13, an excellent film to explore with EFL students in upper-secondary schools, especially since teachers are deeply concerned about the impact of media violence on young people. Let’s face it, some scenes in 12 Years a Slave, rated R, may overwhelm or traumatize teenagers. Before outlining further reasons for using the film in the (German) EFL classroom and providing some original teaching materials for this action-packed film, let’s preview the trailer and get a taste of the experience:
As the world knows, Donald Trump’s 2016 election to the presidency had healthy assistance from Russian bots that, in spite of their non-human circumstance, knew a great deal about unverified corruption of Hillary Clinton and were generously eager to share that information with certain receptive segments of the American public. During that time, there were verified attempts to hack into 21 states, but we never found out if they were successful as the Trump administration declared the budget wouldn’t allow for an investigation. Some highly suspicious Americans (we call them Democrats) worried aloud that the 2020 election might also be rigged. Fortunately, Trump knew how to tell. During the campaign, when Joe Biden was leading in the polls, he stated that if Biden were announced the winner, we would know the election was rigged. Well, Biden was announced the winner, so there you have it, clear proof of fraud.
And if you’re wondering what this image has to do with the election recounts, then…
Granted, Babylon Berlin has at its disposition all the means necessary to become a true blockbuster. But it isn’t every day the viewer gets to experience just how phenomenally a big budget can be spent on a TV series – without compromises between bombastic montages and cinematography for lovers, between fast-paced story development and credibly complex characters, that is.
For Babylon Berlin, produced in Germany by German production companies, the commitment to an unflinching and unreserved depiction of a nation on the verge of fascism pays off. As a bit of an inside tip, the show’s spectacular efforts are appreciated far beyond its country of origin, as demonstrated by almost exclusively glowing U.S. reviews.