March 2010 Archives

Bibliographies Today

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The problems to be solved today extend far beyond the texts of Shakespeare. They appear in communication systems of all varieties, including the Internet, where digitizated texts are detached from their moorings in printed books, and e-mail messages leave trails that can easily evaporate. Those were the kids of problems that fascinated Don McKenzie...

Darnton 148

This chapter gave me entirely new insight into the world of bibliographies. It's not that I always hated writing bibliographies and works cited pages--it's just that I always thought they were a pain. And I never understood why we needed to include anything more than just the author and the title, until this class. This particular chapter's historical facts really surprised me concerning bibliographies. I wasn't aware that there were so many old editions of good ol' Billy Shakespeare's works. I guess I just take it for granted that we have the modern issues in print and online.

Online. Now there's a word to think about in terms of bibliographies. GoogleBooks has revolutionized the art of finding sources in a way different from article sites like EbscoHost, because it provides prospective readers with excerpts from various editions of books online. 

I feel like in order to really understand bibliographies, you have to write a lot of them. I know from personal experience that it wasn't until my later years in high school and my college experience that I began to avoid using internet websites altogether. They just don't provide the kind of reliable information that actual books do.

I'm kind of rambling here, but this chapter was a weird one for me, and I really didn't know what to blog about, so I'll close with a question, I guess. If we don't have access to the proper translation tools for Shakespeare's original writings, how do we know we're getting the right meanings out of his plays? Do we just idolize him so much that the true meaning no longer matters? I'm so confused!

Preservation Please

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The cultural loss cannot be estimated. Libraries usually began to strip their shelves of newspapers with issues dating from 1870 onward--that is, when the mass circulation dailies began to develop.

Darnton, 117

Call me crazy, but you'd think that the older the newspaper issue was, the more they'd want to keep it. I'd consider such an old issue of a newspaper to be priceless. I never imagined libraries would be willing to just toss it aside like that...

Darnton Ch. 8 really hits home for me on a couple of levels. First of all, as a future journalist (I hope), it really pains me to think of how much work goes into a daily paper just to watch people read the funnies and then toss the rest in the trash. I guess people would never really appreciate a newspaper unless they helped create one. I'll admit that I'm a bit of a horder. I still have back issues of my high school paper from my copy editor days in my room--aside from keeping them for clips, I keep them around because I don't want those issues to die completely.

I can see why the libraries might want to microfilm their old newspapers, but there's something that's just lost when you can't hold a newspaper in your hands. I dunno, call me crazy, but I've never been a huge fan of news websites, mostly because I'd rather read a physical paper than an article online. I'm even willing to admit that when the Pens won the stanley cup, I laminated a few pages of the Post-Gazette with articles and graphics about the Pens, because the lamination'll keep the paper from browning.

And to destroy/throw away a book? My gosh, I can't even fathom such an act. Okay, so maybe I'm a bit of a packrat, but when I was reading this chapter, I immediately thought of Fahrenheit 451. I know the book burning is under a different circumstance, but as far as I'm concerned, destroying a book is destroying a book, regardless of the intentions behind it. It's really hard for me to imagine libraries actually committing such heinous acts, but I guess it's time for me to wake up and see the real world...

Lost in Translation

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In any case, the person who finds this diary will have one certain advantage over me: with a written language it is always possible to reconstruct a dictionary and a grammar, isolate sentences, transcribe them or paraphrase them in another language, whereas I am trying to read in the succession of things presented to me every day the world's intentions toward me, and I grope my way, knowing that there can exist no dictionary that will translate into words the burden of obscure allusions that lurks in these things.

Calvino 61

Ah, so yet again, Calvino's fictional characters blend neatly with our curriculum. Although I like where he's going with this statement concerning his readers, I'm not sure that I completely agree with him.

Is it really always possible to reconstruct a dictionary? What about paraphrasing into another language? I could understand the dictionary, only because the whole point of the dictionary is to catalog what words mean. Something tells me he should've thought to include the thesaurus as well in this argument, because he wouldn't have access to one of those either, and in many cases, the first word you come across to fit your meaning isn't the most appropriate word. Thank goodness for Microsoft Word's "synonyms" feature. The author of this particular book within Calvino's book would've greatly appreciated a synonyms feature while constructing his diary.

Okay, now on to what I really have a hard time agreeing on. I don't think it's always possible to paraphrase into another language. Take hieroglyphics as a perfect example. The ancient Egyptian writings were simply symbols until the Rosetta Stone was discovered, as we talked about in class. Without that aid, I'm not sure we ever would've fully understood  hieroglyphics, because many of the symbols are so basic that it's hard to connect them with objects. I don't know, I'm just not completely sold on what this particular ficticious author is claiming in the book. I'm sure it's possible, but in order to translate a language into another language, you first need to be able to comprehend both languages enough to paraphrase into the second language from the first. The author admits on the same page as the quote above that by the time foreign eyes fall on his pages, many of his phrases might be outdated or ambiguous. He even assumes that his language will evolve. If that's the case, what will be the result in someone's attempts to translate? Will the translation even have the same meaning as the original? This makes me think back to really early in the semester, when we read two different translations of The Illiad. We seemed to agree as a class for the most part, that the literal translation and the poetic one kept mostly the same meaning, but some of it still changed. I guess it's inevitable, isn't it?

Weak sentences ruin everything

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How you manage the emphasis in that stress position helps establish the voice readers hear in your prose, because if you end a sentence on light words that carry little meaning, your sentence will seem to end weakly.

--Williams 70

I really like this point. This is at least the third or fourth time Williams has stressed the importance of puting old information at the beginning of the sentence with new information at the end, but when he finally explained the importance of stressing words and phrases, it all kind of clicked for me. It really makes me wonder how many of my sentences I end weakly, because I never pay attention to stuff like that. I'm pretty good about starting my sentences off with short transitions, but I think I need to start paying more attention to how I end my sentences.
I think a lot of this goes back to what I've said in previous blogs about revision. If I take a little extra time with a paper to revise what I've already written, I'll see a lot more of the results expected from Williams book. It just takes a little more determination and patience to get the job done.

commas, commas and coaches

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AP Styleguide Tip #1:

This rule is supported in the punctuation chapter of the AP Styleguide, under the commas section...In journalism writing--specifically newspaper writing--the use of a comma before "and/or" in a list is prohibited, with only a few exceptions. The reason for omitting the comma is to help with fluency. Because journalism sentences are often short and to the point, the comma can sometimes lead to confusion.

Example:

The girl had red hair, green eyes, and pale skin. Incorrect

The boy enjoyed dirtbiking, snowboarding and surfing. Correct

Exception: Use the comma before "and" a complex series.

Don't forget your shoes, pants, and shirt and tie. Correct

Exception: Use the comma when dividing up a series of complex phrases.

Always consider how you write the sentence, why you wrote the sentence, and what your main objective is. Correct


AP Styleguide Tip #2:

Capitalization for coaching staff. I'm including this tip, because during the last issue of the Setonian's production, we had a debate on when "head coach" should be capitalized. It turns out I was wrong, so I'd like to share the correct way with the class, because if we hadn't caught my mistake, a lot of the stuff I copy edited would've been incorrectly modified.
For the rule, see Sports Guidelines under "coach."

The title, even "head coach" should be lowercase when it isn't a formal title. But, you do capitalize "coach" when it replaces the name as a term of address.

Example:

The Steelers won the Super Bowl under the direction of head coach Mike Tomlin. Correct

" Practice was rough, because Coach pushed us every day. Without his leadership, we never would've made it this far." Correct



Throw the Book out the Window, I dare you.

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At such an early point in Calvino's book, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I can confidently say that I like his writing style. There aren't many authors who can pull off addressing the audience quite like he does. Having said that, I don't always find myself agreeing with his statements. I get that he's exaggerating a lot, like when he says you'd want to throw the book out the window if it repeated a page, but I can't remember a single time when I've ever thought of throwing a book out the window, let alone in the trash. I'm a bit of a horder--that is, I don't like to give my stuff up, which explains why I'm not keen on using the library much. I like to keep my books around, even if I've already read them once. And, instead of throwing a book in the trash, I'd be more inclined to donate it to Goodwill, or resell it on half.com. But this is kinda off topic, so let's get back to the book, shall we?

Wait a minute! Look at the page number. Damn! From page 32 you've gone back to page 17! What you thought was a stylistic subtlety on the author's part is simply a printers' mistake: they have inserted the same page twice.

--Calvino 25

The beginning of chapter 2 made me think back to a couple of things:

First: I thought about our recent discussion concerning erratas in printed documents. I guess it's a bit of a sore spot for me, since I couldn't even find the word on the page when I was asked to explain it's meaning. Anyways, I feel like the erratas mentioned in Writing Material were miniscule compared to this type of errata. Who prints the same page twice? While I've been fortunate enough to never come across such an atrocity, I can say that even the slightest typo--such as writing "the the" drives me up a wall. I'm not saying I'd take Calvino's suggestion and throw the book out the window, but I would definitely be making a trip back to the bookstore to complain.

Second: Before Calvino revealed that the reason the text looked so familiar was because of the reprinted page, I found myself thinking back to 9th grade, when my Honors English class had to read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I'm going to be honest right now and admit that I didn't read the whole thing. One of the things Dickens was famous for in that book (aside from the best opening and closing lines ever--in my opinion) was the fact that he repeated the same details over and over again, which made for a very monotonous reading experience. I get that he was paid per word back then, so it only made sense to write an incredible abundance of words, but seriously? I'm pretty sure Dickens could've shortened that book to about half its size and it still would've been successful. Sometimes I wish I had the time to reread it (well, read it for real this time), but I don't as of right now...

Back to Calvino. As I said earlier, I haven't developed much of an opinion concerning his book, but I like his writing style. And, I like the fact that he's making me think and reflect so early on in the book. I hope this continues.

Calvino's non-introduction

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Props to Calvino for introducing his book in "chapter 1, and then starting the actual book 7 pages later....I was freaking out when I started reading, because I thought my book was missing it's introduction... "Oh woes me, what can I do?" So, in response to my minor catastrophe, I used the first few pages of chapter 1 as what I would call an introduction. It seems to me this part of the book is leading up to the actual book anyway, because it was....

You're the sort of person who, on principle, no longer expects anything of anything. There are plenty, younger than you or less young, who live in the expectation of extraordinary experiences: from books, from people, from journeys, from events, from what tomorrow has in store. But not you. You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worse. This is the conclusion you have reached, in your personal life and also in general matters, even international affairs.

--Calvino 4

I like the way he thinks. At times, I can definitely agree with Calvino here. It's not that I don't have high expectations for anything--it's just that I've learned to hold higher expectations for myself than for others. People are people. Nobody's perfect, and if you set your sights too high, they're bound to let you down. But where does this leave books?
I'm not sure I see eye-to-eye with Calvino on this one. Well, actually, I'm not sure how I see this one at all. On the one hand, I've always felt that books open so many doors for me. From the opening sentences of this book, I felt a strange pull from the description he provided about where you should read a book. Sometimes I really do need to be left alone to concentrate, but other times, I can get completely lost in a book, even in a crowded and noisy room.
At the same time, I do hold high expectations for books. I know they always say you can't judge a book by its cover,  but boy do I do that a lot...It's really a shame to admit that some of my favorite books were chosen based on the image and even texture of the book's cover. The Time Traveler's Wife is an excellent example of this. I loved the cover, and as a result, the book was phenomenal as well. I'm not saying this is always the case, but I hold some pretty high expectations for my books' covers as well as the content within them. If a book doesn't grab my interest within the first chapter or so, I'll lose interest pretty quickly, which is unfortunate, because I know I've missed out on some great books as a result.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this entry anymore. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, while I do agree with Calvino that my standards have dropped, I still have some optimism left. I try really hard not to become a complete pessimistic person.

The Printing Press' Effect on Money

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The whole time I spent reading Eisenstein's "Some Features of Print Culture," the same thought repeatedly ran through my head: "I don't think we realize just how much we take the printing press for granted." Our creative presentations last Tuesday definitely helped the entire class to better understand and appreciate modern technology, but Eisenstein takes things to a whole new level in her article.

The difference between the older repeatable image which was stamped on coins and the newer by-product of print is suggested by one of the more celebrated episodes in the rench Revolution. The individual features of emperors and kings were not suficiently detailed when stmaped on coins for their faces to be recognized when they traveled incognito. But a portrate engraved on paper money enabled an alert Frenchman to recognize and halt Louis XVI at Varennes.

--Eisenstein, pg 130 in Writing Material

It never even occurred to me before this assigned text that printing presses were also responsible for our modernized money system of paper bills. A dollar bill, regardless of its value, speaks a lot about our history and culture. It preserves a little bit more knowledge than we'd expect. Apart from reminding every day citizens of some of our more prominent presidents and patriotic leaders (Ben Franklin, for instance), the money also traces itself back to its origins. While this feature might not seem important to the average person, just how many of us have come across one of those dollar bills with the stamp across it saying "track this bill" or something along those lines?
More importantly, the printing press created a lot of problems for different societies over the years as well because of their ability to print additional bills at will. Counterfeit money is still an issue as well, but inflation might just be a bigger one, if you ask me. I may not remember much from my Economics and World History classes back in high school, but I do remember that the German (I think) government crumbled after WWI, because they couldn't afford to pay back their reparations. As a result, the powers that were decided to just print more bills, creating hyperinflation, which forced the already troubled Germany into bankruptcy. Instead of helping society, the new money decreased the value so drastically that no one could afford to live (this might be a bit of a stretch, but you get my point.)
I'm in no way saying that I don't think the printing press has created a better world for us, but I just thought a pleasant reminder that not all technology is always helpful would be nice. We always talk about how writing improves communcation--and the printing press does as well, but I definitely think it's important to see things from both sides of the coin (hehehe).

EL 200 Writing Exercise!!

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Original classwork:

In writing, as in all other forms of expression, patience and determination leads to success.

Patience and determination lead to success in writing.

However, I don't have patience and I sometimes lack enough determination.

For me, procrastination is key.

But I think I'll write about that later.

Now, let's discuss something else.

Maybe what exactly we are learning here.

Nobody knows anymore.

Coherent version:

 

Patience and determination lead to successful writing. Unfortunately, many writers lack both determination and patience, which leads to procrastination. As a result, they trail off topic and the discussion no longer matches the topic at hand. The writer begins to question what they're trying to prove, and by the end of the paper, the reader no longer understands the point of the literature.

 

Reflection:

I had a tough time creating a coherent paragraph, because my original topic changed from what others added to my original sentence. As a result, in order to create coherence, I had to rewrite most of the sentences so they would lead into each other. I'm not even sure if I was successful. I'm very frustrated.

 

EL 200

 

Williams Ch. 5--Enlightenment!

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Our sense of "flow" calls not for the sentence with the active verb, but for the one with the passive.
--Williams, CH 5 pg. 51

I've always struggled with this. When I try to use as much active voice as possible, I watch as my clarity and coherence melt away. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who fights this battle. I get that we just need to find a happy medium, but that's really hard to come by when you have so many rules slammed in your face at the same time. From past experience, it really helps me if I write a paper, walk away for a day and then return to it to mark it up myself. If I stare at a paper for two long, it all makes perfect sense to me so I forget that I might have clarity issues when my readers find their way to my paper. 

Williams mentioned again in this chapter the importance of starting sentences with familiar information before introducing information at the end of the sentence. As the weeks progress, I continue to struggle with this thought. Although it makes perfectly logical sense, my writing style prevents me from being successful. I still don't feel comfortable changing my writing style even though I know it's for the better--mostly because I feel like if I change, I won't sound like me anymore. Does that make any sense?



The Technological Catch-22

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Ten years ago, math teachers worried that if students were allowed to use calculators, they wouldn't learn their arithmetic tables. Regardless of the value parents and teachers still place on knowing math facts, calculators are now indispensable in math class. When we began to use computers in university writing classes, instructors didn't tell students about the spell-check programs on their word processors fearing the students would forget how to spell.

--Dennis Baron, pg. 50 in Writing Material

I hate to admit it, but I know plenty of people who didn't *forget* how to spell; rather they never properly learned. I have a friend who's one of the most avid readers I've ever met, but if you gave her a spelling test, I'm fairly positive she'd get less than 50 percent of the words right. I'm not sure if word processors are completely to blame for this phenomenon, but it appears that they aren't making matters any better for students. 

I see the direct correlation between math and calculators, and english and word processors. As math becomes more difficult, we rely more and more on our calculators for even the most basic of equations, and as a result, when we go back to the basics, we lose points for the basic addition problems rather than the trig. (or at least I did).

It's really a catch-22 when you think about it. We need to learn and use new technology, because it's not going anywhere, and the more we fall behind with the times, the harder it will be to catch up. Like we discussed in class, a great example might be an elderly person's inability to learn how to use a computer with the same proficiency of today's teenagers. But, as we continue to rely on technology, some of our basic knowledge begins to drift away. I for one am guilty of not using my spell checker before I hand in papers, not because I don't know where the button is, but because I'm so used to the squiggly lines under misspelled words and grammar mistakes, that I never hit the spell check button...lazy me.

I guess the bottom line to this whole entry is that we need to find a happy medium with technology. Hopefully, physical writing will not be replaced by electronic typing--although with some new technology, we can also write on an electronic pad and have our writing show up on the computer screen. Regardless, it's incredible to look at how far we've come since the ancients created writing in the first place.

One step forward, two steps back

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I'm having a really hard time with this chapter. More than the others, this one makes me feel like my style of writing is completely wrong. Like Williams said in one of his earlier chapters, the more we read complicated and unclear writing, the more likely we are to write in the same fashion. My style of writing often involves phrases similar to "governmental intervention," because I've always thought this practice strengthened your sentences and provided another piece of description to the writing. Imagine my dismay when I read that it actually makes the writing unclear. I'm beginning to feel like everything I learned in high school (English) was a lie, and that really saddens me, because I've always prided myself in having an excellent English background.

To most of us, one feels stiff, but we may be ambiguous because it can refer just to the writer, to the writer and others but not the reader, to the reader and writer but not others, or to everyoe. And if you are not directly naming your reader, you is usually inappropriate.

--Williams, pg 44

I've always had a hard time using "one" because I feel like it's almost too formal for most of my writing. However, I usually can't avoid using some word (usually "we") in my writing occasionally. The passage in the book following the one above offered some great tips--and one that I had a hard time grasping. Did I misread his suggestion, or did he actually say that we should use "I" in order to clarify our sentences? I don't think I'd be able to do that in a formal paper if I tried, because I'm just programmed to avoid it. This is definitely one tip I plan to avoid. Sorry Williams.

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