Coursera update

Had to make a tough decision this week, Week 4 of the 10-week course on volcanic eruption material science.  Was I just not working hard enough when the discussion got over my head, or was it just too technical?  This was important, because as mentioned, I’ve seen this course as a challenge.

I decided that it was too technical (I got lost in the discussion of various moduli during, I think, an overall description of Maxwell bodies) for the background level required.  When you think about it, Coursera might not be the ideal choice for such a topic.  Anyway, I listened to the lectures, as far as I could, twice, giving myself plenty of time to relax and let it all sink in.  On the second go-round, I still got lost and and so unenrolled.

There is another earth science course that will be starting on Coursera soon – The Dynamic Earth.  It looks like fun and the signature track option, where you have to pay a nominal amount, is a good idea to ensure a higher completion rate.  One even gets to explore local geological features, and I’ve got a doozy right in my own town — Cohoes Falls and its gorge.

Cohoes falls, June 2009

Cohoes falls and the hydroelectric plant, June 2009. Geologists believe the falls and gorge were carved, not by the Mohawk River that currently flows there, but by a much larger river during the end of the last ice age. (Image source Wikipedia)

The thing is, I have already learned most of this and done that more thoroughly, with the teacher present in the field, during my undergraduate studies in the 1980s.

So, I’m going to the movies instead, starting in October.  It’s not entirely frivolous, because I’ll have to watch Erroll Flynn as Robin Hood when I most definitely prefer Douglas Fairbanks in that role.

More seriously, we will watch two silent films that I haven’t heard of before, which may translate into the Saturday Silents series.  Also, as a writer getting started, I like the course emphasis on storytelling.

Thanks to a long exposure to the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, I have some insight into using words to create visual images in the reader’s minds. His chapter in the Lord of the Rings on the Battle of the Pelennor Fields comes to mind (it was nothing like the movie), and many little gems like this, where Merry visits the mountain hideout of the Rohirrim and is overwhelmed by the scenery:

He loved mountains, or he had loved the thought of them marching on the edge of stories brought from far away; but now he was borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-earth. He longed to shut out the immensity in a quiet room by a fire.

JRRT didn’t think very highly of drama and sold the movie rights to his works quickly – to the great grief of those who would like to see the works translated into film as they should be.

Be that as it may, I think there is potential to learn a lot of storytelling generally from this course on “The Language of Hollywood:  Storytelling, Sound and Color.”
Perhaps you will enjoy it, or some other Coursera offering, too.  Check it out!

Categories: Random thoughts, Writing

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