DavidWilbanks: November 2009 Archives

Dickens and Clemens

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EL237

The most difficult part of reading this, was overcoming the automatic image of Scrooge as a duck with a Scottish accent (once again Disney has taken it's toll on classic literature).

The narration, with the obvious exceptions of the narrator participating in the story, and speaking with a Misouri accent, reminded me a bit of the narration in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (or I've just spent enough time reading/researching/analyzing that novel that everything reminds me of it).

The narrator's often directly addresses the reader, (such as defying him to introduce him to someone with a merrier laugh than Scrooge's nephew [who I think of as either Huey, Dewey or Louis]) In some cases the narrator (like Huck in the scene at the circus), offers a judgement on the scene which is clearly innacurate, and obvious to the reader. When the narrator talks about how Topper's conduct in Blindman's Bluff, is so terrible that the sister spent a long time admonishing him for it behind the curtains, most readers (though perhaps just the one's with dirty minds) had a pretty good idea that very little admonishing was going on.

Subtle funny bits like this, and others offered by the narrator really helped to make this more entertaining than other simple tales of morality. Honestly, I may have to give A Tale of Two Cities another shot. Back in 8th grade when I read it, I didn't enjoy it much, but now I think I may.

Go Right Ahead and Decline.......I've Got My Reasons

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EL237

While for nostalgic reasons, I greatly value English Deparments in general. I'm also quite content with the decline in English majors overall. This is purely bred of self-interest though, as I'd prefer that everyone intent on writing science fiction switches their major to business. The less competition the better. (I'm sorta assuming that people lacking my English education have little chance of out-writing me). Since so few writers are actually successful enough that they don't require some sort of auxillary income, having less writers running about certainly increases my chances of accomplishing this (as does living in a third-world country where the cost of living is next to nothing).

That said, I really think the decline seems to be turning around, at least a bit. The shift away from humanities has led to a sort of backlash. This is likely the result of employers' frequent complaint that todays graduates have poor communication skills. In the last few years, at more than one of the Institutions I've attended, a much greater emphasis has been placed on composition for all students. The year I started at University of Idaho, they'd just added two required freshman classes to the curriculum, that offered a sort of interdisciplinary study of different cultural aspects or issues within society, (I took one on gender, which was deceptively and seductively intitled "Sex and Culture," and another on time). They each involved a fair amount of writing, and a study of literature and history related to it. While these classes were probably an utter waste of time for English majors (though I was a journalism major at the time), and annoyed me to no end; they do represent an attempt to return to the "liberal arts education" (that was the catch-phrase around U of I at the time). Just a few years before they had added the rhetoric requirement to the curriculum, which required a course in philosophy, persuasive writing (which I took) or some other related subject. This was all on top of the two basic composition classes, and a public speaking class.

At Seton Hill University, there are many required courses intended to ensure that students recieve a liberal arts education. Though I was able to get out of some of these (some how a couple semesters of Literatue of Western Civilization counted for Western Culture and Traditions) they take Seminar in Thinking and Writing VERY, VERY seriously. In fact, the equivalent courses from other Universitys wont even count for it (Believe me I tried...I even tried to trade in a speech class, a pair of comp classes and persuasive writing for those 3 credits, this is all despite having spent two years in almost exclusively writing classes that varied from fiction, to journalism to composition). As much as it annoyed me, this really shows a dedication to the teaching of English.

In terms of literature, I tend to disagree with Chace's assesment that English departments need to pick out a special bunch of books to stick on the top-shelf up in the ivory-tower. I think classes like ours, where the focus is on HOW to analyze literature, rather than which books are REALLY, REALLY important to read are far more important. When Chace mentioned a speech, wherein a colleague said the tank had run dry, it seems that the major cause of that IS the basic theory that good literature has to have been written before 1950, and that there is some special set of books that makes up this group. If one is limiting themselves to trying to reach break-throughs in the analysis of MacBeth and The Great Gatsby, there is a distinct possibility that the tank is truly empty. Just as scientists have already figured out how electricity works, and economists have determined the relationship of supply and demand, there is comes a time when there is little work left to be done. The suggestion that there aren't continually new frontiers within literature, is really kind of offensive to anyone writing a novel. As long as people keep writing, there will always be more to explore (as we have in this class). While obviously familiarity with the classics is extremely necessary to the study of literature, it should not be limited in this respect. Here at Seton Hill, in at least some of my classes, we have done this. Obviously, we read mostly new works in this class, but others have followed suite as well. Though in American Lit 1800-1915, we refrained from reading anything past, well, 1915, in European Lit we read novels ranging from Ancient Rome, to Icelandic Sagas, up to recent Nobel Prize winners, less than a decade old. In American Lit 1915-Present, we got to select a contemporary novel, out of the choices the publication dates ranged from the 1960s-1970s. This combination of studying the classics, mixed with a healthy dose of present works, seems to be the right direction for English departments to take. While the study of classics is necessary, the connection to the present may prevent the dismissial of the study of literature as a dead-end, like the study of Greek and Roman classics.      

Roberts Got It Wrong: Vowel Sounds and the English Language

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EL237

Okay, it's late, and honestly, I was just going to read the chapter (13 in Roberts), and blog about it later. However, one thing in it annoyed me enough that I really gotta blog right now (Expect the bags under my eyes to be a shade darker than usual tomorrow in class).

The explaination of the schwa sound is highly problematic, the words he uses as examples, actually make two different sounds. While "about," "nation" and "circus" do use the schwa sound, which is the same sound as in "the," it sounds like "uh." as in "UH-bout" (UH-boot (for any Canadians out there), "na[sh]-UH-n," and "circ-UH-s."  "Rapid" uses a short i sound, like in "this" or "is" or "pitiful." No one says "rap-UH-d." unless one is using the word "rapper" as a past-tense verb. "Stages" is a bit trickier, as it can be used both as a plural noun, and a verb, which shifts the stress. As a noun, the stress is on the first sylable, which makes the "e" come out sounding a bit more like a short "i" sound: "sta[j]-I-[z]," definately not "sta[j]-UH-[z]. When used as a verb, the stress is on the second sylable, which slightly alters the sound, so that it comes out a bit more like the short "e" like in "forget" or "hell" or "bet," making it "sta[j]-E-[z]" and NOT "sta[j]-UH-[z]." 

I'm a bit picky, because I may spend a fair amount of my life teaching English as a Second Language, and phonology is a big part of teaching pronounciation. However, you don't have to have taken a ridiculously easy online TEFL certification course to know that unless you use the pronounciation of Lenny from Of Mice and Men, ("And George, I'll get tuh feed thuh rabbuhts."), these words simply do not use the schwa sound.

In all honesty, I don't profess to know all the rules that one might use to explain the sounds used in different situations within the English language, and I really doubt that such a rule book exists, as anyone attempting to write one likely commited suicide before its completion. The best bet as far as sorting out the vowel sounds would probably be to discard Roman characters altogethor and switch to some sensible alphabet, like Thai. They have 16 vowels, but at least each of them only makes one sound (each also has a long version that just indicates that you hold it longer, but we don't need that). We can forget about inculding their 44 consonants, and tone rules though, as that bit gets kinda complex. 

The End

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EL237

I used to be bothered by ambiguous endings in novels and stories, up until I started writing them. Now it would be hypocritical for me to be too disappointed about it. Anytime a writer decides to end a story with questions, typically, the author feels that the answers to these questions are unimportant. In this case, whether J. dies or goes on to break the record, is immaterial. Whitehead wants us to focus on what happened during the story, rather than what Pamela and J. decided to name their babies, assuming J. didn't die. If either conclusion was given, it would alter the focus in (presumably) a way that Whitehead didn't want to alter it.

As far as giving a newpaper article on the shooting, to wrap the story up, it would have been interesting to include one, but avoid giving any facts beyond what we already know at that point. "Two unidentified men were shot, sources indicate they were journalists visiting Talcott for the John Henry Days Celebration." They could even go further and drop subtle, conflicting hints, suggesting each of the journalists. Then again, this would draw more attention to the unanswered, leaving less focus on the parts of the story that are told.   

Oral tradition and the Internet...and a random funny bit.

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EL237

Irony first: I really enjoyed the bit on 282, which deals with Alphonse Miggs at the fair. Very bottom of the page, (extending on to the next), a woman selling paint-by-numbers paintings done in some wierd colors, is described as a bit crazy. The narrator implies this by suggesting that a second in her mind would be too much. Ironic, given that Alphonse is by this point definately the guy who is about to shoot the place up (or attempt to). Interesting, but not part of my main point.

The scene with the crackhead (Tony), got me thinkin about oral history, and our current lack of it. Thinking back, the John Henry song/legend is unique in that it really seems to me to be the last well known, oral legend/song. There are songs that have maintained for years, and are even more widely known, though they either lack a story, tell a fictional story, or simply tell one that most are unaware of. "Happy Birthday" is (according to some book), the most widely sung song in the world, but it's not really oral tradition, as it lacks a story. "The Star-Spangled Banner" is nationally known, but based on the number of people who are unaware of the war of 1812, it is likely that few really know what it's about. Nursery rhymes (which are slowly being replaced by the theme songs from cartoons) either have no basis in reality (What mouse? What clock? Is Hickory-Dickory  a field of medicine? if so when does one consult a Hickory-Dickory Doc?), or aren't connected to whatever basis they once had. (Most children don't associate "Ring Around the Rosie" with the bubonic plague). In terms of legend and song, there seems to be nothing widespread that is passed around orally. While there are stories that everyone knows, and songs that everyone knows, it tends to be because we all saw them, read them, or heard them when their author created them. 

Whereas people could once talk about John Henry as a figure that everyone was aware of, we now have only Homer Simpson, Spock, Gilligan, Luke Skywalker, Superman, Huckleberry Finn (and Hound as well), Optimus Prime and the list goes on. We can regocnize these characters, in a similar way (as they tend to be universal, dependant one one's year of birth). What seperates these characters, is that they're all fictional, and have a specific "official source," while I CAN make up new stories about them, one can point to the original source, and say, No, Homer is NOT a Jedi, Luke Skywalker isn't a fat alcoholic, and Optimus Prime turns into a truck rather than a gorilla (except in that short-lived Beast Wars series which was stupid). One can always add to the stories, but the already published is incontrovertable. There WERE plenty of Star Wars novels written after the Trilogy, but regardless of the author's talents, the original trilogy remained the standard. (The only real exception to this is that Sci-Fi tends to allow time travel, in which case history can be altered, creating alternate universes, where, for example, Vulcan is destroyed, and Kirk's dad is killed on the day of his birth...and there are two Spocks)

The other source of stories we have is non-fiction. Because these stories are true (in theory), and we have a staggeringly large mass media network, we tend to get the facts, (though the telling may slightly vary). If John Henry's competition took place today, we all could have simply turned to page F10 (D8 on a slow day, A1 in Talcott and Hinton), and read the one paragraph Associated Press article on it, and probably go watch the youtube video of it. Thus, to anyone altering the story, one could simply say "Dude, go watch the video again...I'll send you the link."

This mention of youtube brings us to my theory of the new oral tradition. Because so many of our stories have the obvious problem of having an "original," we've sort of lost oral history as a medium. However, we've lately been coming up with all sorts of new media, which in a way can replace it. Ever since my very first e-mail account (Homicidal_maniac@lycos.com, don't ask) I'd frequently get obnoxious forwards, containing stories that were likely fictional or vaguely true, yet embelished to ridiculous porportions, typically illustrating the sort of peril I'd be in if I failed to forward it to 10 friends. This sort of began a new tradition, as the fonts/word choice, etc. tended to suggest that people had altered or added to these stories. Now, this is easily expanded. With blogs and video blogs, stories tend to spread, yet retain the advantage of being alterable.

For Example, you've probably scene the "Dramatic Chimpmunk" video (posted 2 years ago) I just checked adn they've got a James Bond version, a Darth Vader Version, and several others ,many of which appear on a 2.5 minute "Best of Dramatic Chipmunk" video. This is a whole lot of variation for a 5 second clip. (17 million views on just one version of the original is a whole lot a views too)

While videos can be altered to depict a new story, simply changing the caption can significantly alter the story (much in the same way one can take the idea "John Henry dies after beating a machine in a competition" has formed thousands of different stories). Plus, blogs lacking fact checkers can quickly desseminate urban myths, etc. which can then be picked up by other forums, and blogs, and altered. While one could technically trace any given story back through the time-stamps on blogs and forum posts, it would be as staggering a task as seeking out the "real" John Henry story.

Then again the only real problem with this comparison is that the massive quality of mass media makes it so that there are millions of stories, most of which fade before there get to be many variations. Also, because the online population is staggeringly vast, what stories you get is highly dependant on your online (and real life) network of friends/aquaintances.

Anyway, it looks like, these days anyway, oral tradition is essentially supplanted by the internet.....(the comparison to John Henry Days ought to be so obvious that it needn't be mentioned) This makes the John Henry story special as it seems to be the final entry on the blog of true, pure oral tradition....ANYONE can tell a good story when they got a video clip of it on their phone. Just as the last people who witnessed John Henry died off years ago, eventually, the last people who witnessed the telling/singing of it (rather than reading it, studying it as a historical/cultural chunk of Americana/or worse watching the disney version).  

Views

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EL237

I really like the shift is word-choice given to each section, depending on the character it focuses upon. I've started to notice changes in word choice apparent during the sections dealing with the various different characters. While the narration is still obviously third person limited throughout, the tone in each is subtly altered, which seems to help personify the character. In J.'s portions the narrator tends to give a well read (through allusions to other literary works/authors, ranging from Hunter S. Thompson to William Shakespeare), as well as cynical and sarcastic. The tone seems more distraut, verging on total apathy, for Miggs, (except when it talks about stamps) and depressed, yet confused, and somewhat distressed for Pamela. While these changes are subtle, they help to make the characters come alive, and further diferentiate them.

This break typically is done by chapter, though in one interesting occasion, it breaks in the middle of the chapter, shifting from Pamela to J. (186) I beleive this is the only place where the prose is split by an entire line of space, rather than a simple indentation to begin the next paragraph. It is especially interesting as it shifts during a conversation between the tow of them where each is sizing the other up.    

Redundancy

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EL237

Alright, this chapter of Roberts, was a bit painful, despite talking about an important topic.  It covered research and documentation, which is very important. Beyond this, it is an area that many students struggle with. The reason I know this, is that I work in the Writing Center, helping students who struggle with this, and other areas of writing (though this is probably the most common thing we help with). I also recently did a presentation on "Incorporating Sources," for Write Aid, which was just a few weeks ago. Beyond this, I've got two different research papers in the works at the moment. SO, at this stage, I'm just kind of burned out on documentation.

Impressive Imagery

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EL237

While I didn't think the plot of this story was all that entertaining, the imagery in it is, as mentioned in the title of this blog, impressive. From the very beginning, Mansfield is flinging about similes, personification and just lots of adjectives. This is especially important to the story, as it takes place in a single scene, and this scene is fundamental in the plot of the story. Mrs. Brill is an observer, who feels that the world is a play for her, so it is obviously very important for Mansfield to paint a vivid picture for the reader.

The Words were Pictures, Visual like Hieroglyphics

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EL237

So, yeah, Metaphores compare unlike things, by simply saying they are them. i.e. Words are pictures (this is a short, unimpressive example)

 

Similes do the same, but use like or as i.e. "Words are visual, like hieroglyphics"

While these are two very fundamental bits of knowledge, which any highschool graduate knows, Roberts goes a bit farther by talking about how to write about them. In highschool it was enough to be able to identify them. Roberts suggests actually explaining what the effect of the imagery is. This is kind of a useful chapter, as it repeats the old, low level stuff,  but then shows the next step. (Jumping from synthesis to evaluation (the final step) on Bloom's Taxonomy) 

 

Butchering Allusions in Famous Poems

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EL237

As I look at two versions of this poem, published in both an anthology and a textbook, and consider how many millions of people have read it, and how many thousands of places it's published...it's a little frustrating. (At least he's not collecting royalties). This isn't to say that it's a bad poem. The figurative language is quite good, but Cortez didn't discover the Pacific. Unless there is some clever joke that I'm missing, it's just a mistake that shouldn't be in a poem.

The reason this makes me bitter is that NO ONE would ever publish a poem of mine if I said that I felt like Chewbacca when he blew up the Death Star. (Though it would potentially have more to do with the Star Wars reference than the INCORRECT Star Wars reference). While I try very hard not to be critical of older literature, because they were writing in a very different time, (when there was aparently less competition) but I'm really bothered by innacurate information. 

Alliteration, Repetition and Snappy Lines

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EL237

This is just a whole lot of alliteration, which is a bit easy when you recycle words; "grieving at grievances" and "fore-bemoaned moans." Beyond that, I picked up one more example of Shakespeare being everywhere. I hadn't realized that Marcel Proust borrowed the title of his famous work, Remembrance of Things Past from this sonnet.

Setting

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EL237

Chapter 6 of Roberts' book deals with setting. I guess for me this is a bit redundant. However, the suggestion that there are 3 basic types of settings: "Private homes, Public buildings and various possessions," "outdoor places" and "cultural and historical circumstances." First off, the list seems to contain several different things for each entry. While the first is man-made stuff, the second is natural and the last is temporal or cultural, this seems to leave a lot out. or at least have such vague meanings that one might as well just stick with "when and where the story takes place." 

While typically Roberts' general rules usually clarify literary elements, I think that this particular list convolutes things. If he needed a list physical, temporal and cultural would have made sense, and been a bit clearer.

As far as the given catagories go, there are some that can simply aren't listed. Technically, hell in Milton's Paradise Lost, isn't necessarily nature nor man-made. The world of Edwin Abbot's Flatland doesn't really fit into any of those catagories.  

.....That's just the sort of week It's been. For anyone who hasn't been studying the John Henry legend, and reading John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead for the last week or so, that's what the title was adapted from. Anyway, as John Henry defeated a steam drill, and then died, I'm really starting to relate to him. I'm taking 24 credits this semester, and it's coming to that special part of the year where all the really big things are due (2 Research papers, Senior Seminar portfolio, grad school application, a handful of poems, a few short reflection papers, undoubtedly some reading, and most likely several things I've forgotten about are due next week). So while I'm still optimistic that I'll win this "competition," at this stage I'm not ruling out the potential for a very dramatic death upon my victory. (I'm thinking brain aneurism or just fatigue....or my brain might melt into a little puddle of goo and drip out my ear, though I'm not sure what the medical term for that is).

Anyway, all frustrated complaints aside, this is my third portfolio for the class, Writing About Literature, . The first one explained the class, so skip to the next paragraph if you've read it. Anyway, the class is pretty much about, as the title suggests, writing about literature. For this reason, the entries that will be referenced here are a blend of responses to text-book chapters, and responses to various works of literature, including an editorial, a textual novel, a graphic novel, poetry, and a few stories. The collection of literature has been entertaining for the most part, and especially varied, as there is no set genre, form, time period or any other governing factor for the collection, all that matters is that its literature, and can be analyzed, and thus written about.

This portfolio is designed simply to showcase the work I've done since the last one. To begin with, I'd like to present a few blogs that I feel are reasonably well written, in terms of addressing the literature, and providing insight about the material. One of the several entries for John Henry Days, by Colson Whitehead, is especially good (and really long). It goes into the entire idea of oral history, and compares it to youtube, and other internet forms of storytelling. (it even discusses the "Dramatic Chipmunk"). Sailing From Romanticism to Realism, is a rather in-depth blog about a rather short poem, entitled "Cargoes" by Masefield. I found a clever interpretation that is nothing like that given in Roberts' text. Editorial: Stimulating Incumbency was a bit different as it discusses an editorial (you can tell from the title) rather than a piece of "literature." This was just a fun one for me to write, as I sort of miss being a journalism major (who prefered to write opinion pieces) at times. I liked Crazy Room Colors which deals with Poe's "Masque of the Red Death," which was fun, because rather than arguing for a certain meaning, I argue for the lack of one.

 The reason we blog, rather than write lots of little essays, is that they offer a chance for discussion. Blogs are an online conversation, rather than a work of writing. These next few are blogs of mine that show some interaction and discussion with my peers. Framed Comic Frames and Arbeit Macht Frei both dealt with Maus by Art Spiegleman. The first deals with the narrative form (and provided part of the idea for my research paper) the other dealt with the end of the story. Editorial: Stimulating Incumbency which I mentioned, got some chatter and Definately a Student, which discusses "Theme For English B" by Langston Hughes got a couple comments. Wow, so THAT'S what irony is....I NEVER knew that, about Roberts' chapter on irony got some spam from laser hair removal Manhattan. (With the years adding up quickly, and the hairspray and dye taking its toll, I'm currently more concerned with keeping my hair, than removing it)

 

With any communication, it is necessary for it to go both ways. Thus, it would be remiss of me to not mention other people's blogs that I participated in discussions on. In Diana Griffin's blog, entitled "You Can't Always Get What You Want," I completed the lyric, and then commented...it was about Maus by Speigelman. In Josie Rush's blog "You Can Judge an Editorial By Its Title" I joined in a rather lengthy discussion that slightly strayed from the subject of editorial writing, to the subject matter of the editorial...though I think I brought it back on topic toward the end. In Jessie Khrelik's blog about Hughes' poem, "What is True?", I joined in a large discussion of the poem, and an interpretation completely different than what I blogged about.    

 To increase the chances for communication, it is important that my blogs are done early enough that others get a chance to comment on them. Sailing From Romanticism to Realism, Arbeit Macht Frei, and Definately a Student, which I already mentioned, were all done a day before they were due. As was, Freelancin', Social Interaction and Air-quotes Gone Wrong,  which discusses the first part of John Henry Days....and to be honest, as I explained in the intro, this steam drill of a course load is just beating me down, and I've really been slipping up on the blogs. Once I cut any sort of social life, recreation, household chores, and sleep out of my life, but needed more time, blogs were the next remaining step. It looks like things lighten up soon though, so hopefully I'll do better for the rest of the semester.    

We were asked to pick a favorite blog, and it need not even be related to this class. I selected Tom Sawyer's Degradation of Jim?, which is about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Samuel Clemens, which we read in American Lit.. It's not particularily long, but it's one of the few blogs that isn't in another portfolio. I like it because I use (and possibly coin the term) Don Quixotian. It's also a bit witty, and gave me the idea that I'm using for my research paper in that class.  

To sum everything up, here is a list, in order of every blog required for the class since the last portfolio :

Framed Comic Frames ------on Art Speigelman's Maus

Arbeit Macht Frei -------on Art Speigelman's Maus

Sailing From Romanticism to Realism ------ on James Masefield's "Cargoes" and Roberts chapter 8 

Crazy Room Colors------on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death"

Setting --------on Roberts chapter 6

Editorial: Stimulating Incumbency --------on George Will's "Stimulating Incumbency"

Alliteration, Repetition and Snappy Lines--------on William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 30"

Butchering Allusions in Famous Poems---------on John Keats' "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer"

The Words were Pictures, Visual like Hieroglyphics-------on Roberts chapter 9

Impressive Imagery--------- on Katherine Mansfield's "Mrs Brill"

Redundancy-----------on Roberts chapter 18

Definately a Student-------on Langston Hughes' "Theme for English B"

Wow, so THAT'S what irony is....I NEVER knew that-------on Roberts chapter 11 (not the type of bankruptcy declaration, just the eleventh chapter of his book)

Freelancin', Social Interaction and Air-quotes Gone Wrong-------on Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days

Views-------on Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days

Oral tradition and the Internet...and a random funny bit.-------on Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days

The End-------on Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days  

 

 

Freelancin', Social Interaction and Air-quotes Gone Wrong

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EL237

To be honest, I don't even know where to begin, talking about John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead, except to say that I'm going to order his other book. I really like the stuff about the freelancers, as it made a bit nostalgic. In two ways, first, off I can only imagine how mucn nicer it must have been in many ways to freelance before the internet. Based on my own search for freelance work (mainly from around 04-06, when I was a journalism major), the whole dynamic seemed to be significantly different. (Perhaps the other difference is that I wrote primarily for crappy little publications that would accept work from virtually anyone). Anyway, it seemed like most places called for specific coverage of events or topics, rather than having writers just attend events, and then send stories off to whoever would publish them. Alternatively, for the less timely stuff they just took open submissions and either published you or didn't. Again this can mostly be attributed to my lack of a degree, but I think in part it probably has to do with the internet. It seems like for a similar story now, it would be a whole lot easier to just find some freelancers in Charleston whose plane tickets you don't have to pay for. Obviously, this is different for regular reporters for the major news outlets, but for freelance, it would seem to make more sense.

Anyway, that said, I really think he nailed the attitude of a jaded freelancer. Just the whole idea of "excreting" twelve hundred words, pretty much sums it up. I remember a two day Forest Service conference that I reported on for the American Receation Coalition in Boise, Idaho, (I lived about 4 hours away) which was mind-numbingly boring, and despite my youthful enthusiasm for the occupation, "excreting" was pretty much how I'd describe the process through which I wrote the article. It's even more apt to describe virtually ALL of the online content I ever did. Anyway, I guess this story just reminded me of that experience.

On to the writing aspect of it:

The way in which Whitehead perfectly articulates social interactions is just insanely skillful. The extended metaphors he uses to describe minor events works out splendidly. The scene on the plane was awesome, the way in which he was able to accurately relate all the thoughts and feelings throughout a subtle, silent, yet supremely realistic social interaction was completely brilliant. The level of detail, coupled with clever imagery and sardonic humor just really makes it a joy to read.

Plus, any story that involves a man losing his eye during an air-quoting accident is just ridiculously funny.   

    

Wow, so THAT'S what irony is....I NEVER knew that

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EL237

That was by far the most enlightening chapter I ever read. Apparently, writers often mean the OPPOSITE of what their words actually say. Beyond that in some cases they even go so far as to vastly exagerate their sentiments toward something they actually feel the opposite way about. I had never even HEARD the word hyperbole before reading this. Suddenly Samuel Clemens, O. Henry, Alexander Pope, Geoffrey Chaucer, Dave Barry and South Park all make sense to me.

(If that actually happened I would literally, have about 3.7 solid years of laughter to catch up on)

Anyway, despite my obvious, and extremely intimate familiarity with the subject of irony, this is not a useless chapter. (It just so happens that the lobe in my brain that is meant to take care of time-management and punctuality, has mutated and become a second wit-lobe)

However, in all fairness, if more people were aware of irony, and had a far better grasp of its use and meaning,  I would have about 1.2% more free time, as I wouldn't have to explain so many jokes....or those random outlandish, yet ironic phrases that tend slip out of my mouth.

SO, to sum up: If you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to determine whether to laugh at what I just said, or seriously respond.....go get yourself a copy of Writing About Literature by Edgar V. Roberts, and read chapter 11.

 

Definately a Student

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EL237

I really liked "Theme For English B," by Langston Hughes, in part for its simplicity, and in part for the very real level of thought occuring in it. It really captures the student-like mind set. The first part offers the basic details, hometown, where you live, where you go and went to school, age, race, hobbies, a bit like a facebook profile. Then it really switches gears and goes into greater depth, trying to describe much more abstractly, the speaker's role in the world, and where they fit.  

I guess I can really relate to the idea that, (or that's the idea that stands out most for me in the poem), because that's kind of how I recall the age of 22. The answer to the "Who am I?" tended to be a clump of facts and details, the majority of which could apply to anyone. Who really hates to "eat, sleep, drink, and be in love." Despite this, we tend to, at that age, be trying to figure out our relationship to the rest of the world, and determining where we fit in terms of society.

Obviously, a big part of the poem that I really didn't discuss is race, and the reason I left that until the end is because despite the racial emphasis of the content, the basic tone is very universal. While I'm not black, (and a whole lot of people who enjoy Langston Hughes' poetry aren't), I can still relate to the very idea of being young and coming to terms with the world, and determining how you relate to it. Then again, if I were an African-American in 1959, my race would be a massive part of how I relate to society.