October 2009 Archives

Duly Noted

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"There are many ways of taking notes, but the consensus is that the best method is to use note cards" (264).

I can vouch for this, actually.  It all goes back to the idea that the ease of writing is proportional to the effort in preparation.  My sophomore English teacher had us write out note cards this way for a research paper, and everyone was deeply annoyed.  It's time-consuming, and for most research papers, students just want to start writing and be done.  However, once I had the notecards complied, writing my paper took half the time I thought it would.  Yes, I probably added an hour or so to my time by taking in-depth notes, but the ease with which I could call upon my research was worth any added time.

In short, I would definitely recommend this technique, especially for the 10-page paper that is due soon. 

In her blog, Aja offers an alternative, but just as effective, method to the notecard technique.


Very Fictional Fiction

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**I don't want to go too deeply into this topic, since I'll be presenting on it on Monday.  Also, I'm writing this with a migraine, so please be understanding.

This probably says something about me as a human being, but the entire time Ms. Brill was happily commenting on people, I hated her.  As soon as her spirit was crushed by the "hero and heroine," I liked her a little more.  Though, I don't know that I liked the story more... Did this seem a little contrived to anyone else?

"'But why?  Because of that stupid old thing at the end there?' asked the boy.  'Why does she come here at all--who wants her?  Why doesn't she keep her silly old mug at home?'

'It's her fur-fur which is so funny,' giggled the girl.  'It's exactly like a fried whiting'" (351).

First, I dunno, some inside voices may have been prudent here.  Secondly, and relevantly, it's unlikely that in one conversation this couple could have touched upon each of the points of pride in Ms. Brill's life.  Yes, it made for a sad story, but a rather unrealistic one as well.



To see metaphorical language in further operation, let us take a commonly described condition-- happiness.  In everyday speech, we might use the sentence "She was happy," to state that a particular character was experiencing joy and excitiement.  This sentence is of course accurate, but it is not interesting.  A more vivid way of saying the same thing is to use an image of action, such as "She jumped for joy"  (Roberts 140).


Roberts has a point here.  I strongly suggest reading the paragraph on page 141 in which he summarizes Keats' poem and shows why telling vs showing does not work.  It's rather (unintentionally) comical, but it shines a light on what our writing looks like when we tell instead of show.  Metaphors and similes are a good way to get past that habit. (It's also important to read through one's writing looking specifically for examples of telling instead of showing, because that trap is easy to fall into, and is often unknowiningly sprung)

That being said, while I understand the value of giving a tried-and-true example of an image of action, or, as Roberts later does, a popular simile ("She felt as if she had won the lottery"), we should also remember to stay away from cliches and other tired phrases.  Sometimes things are said so much, there meaning gets worn away.  Saying that the rain mercilessly pounded the roof like a red-faced man in a bar-fight is more effective than falling back on "it was raining cats and dogs."  I don't think Roberts is advocating cliche usage here, but in our search for similes and metaphors, we shouldn't abandon originality.  In fact, it's the originality of these techniques that make them powerful.


The Self-Pity Sonnet

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"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought/ I summon up remembrance of things past." -(Shakespeare, 1-2)

Just because I thought it was vaguely amusing on page 141, when Roberts attempted to summarize a Keat's poem in a paragraph (and show why it wouldn't work that way), I'm going to break down Shakespeare's sonnet:

When I'm sitting around feeling sorry for myself because bad things sometimes happened to me, and I didn't always get what I wanted in life (and some of the people I liked are dead), I can just remember you (dear friend), and it's really not all bad.

There.  No one can de-beautify a sonnet quite like me.  That being said, I do think this is a sonnet that many people can relate to, because sometimes we all have the tendency to remember the tough breaks we've had, and why life isn't as great as it could be.  Yet, if we're lucky, we can also remember that we have a friend who cares about us, and that pushes out pessimism, and makes the present more pressing than the past. 

Shakespeare gets picked apart a lot, especially by the students of our generation who feel he has been stuffed down their throats for too long, and wonder what's so great about him anyway?  Well, this is an example.  He wrote about things hundreds of years ago that we can still read about with understanding today.  I'm not the hugest Shakespeare fan, either, but even I have to admit, the man could find what was important in life, and managed to peg down the enduring themes of literature.  OK, so these are sort of easy to figure out now: death, love, and sex.  However, part of the reason these are the returned-to themes of writing is because Shakespeare helped to form these staples.


Discovering Literature, Columbus-Style

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"Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken;

Or like stout Cortex when with eagle eyes

He star'd at the Pacific--and all his men

Look'd at each other with a wild surmise--

Silent, upon a peak in Darien." (Keats, 9-14)

I really enjoyed these lines.  I think everyone who loves literature, or really any kind of art, can relate to what the speaker is experiencing here.  Whenever I read a book and love it, I have this feeling that I've discovered the text.  It really makes no sense, obviously I'm not the first person to read it, but I imagine it is a feeling sort of akin to what Keats describes; discovering a new planet or an ocean (I've never done that either, but let's go with it).  There's the "this-book-was-here-the-whole-time-and-I've-never-read-it-until-now" feeling of awe going through my mind, followed by the urge to share the book with other people.  I think these are two chains of feeling that "some watcher of the skies" or "stout Cortex" may have felt when making their own discoveries. 

It's funny how the speaker says he'd heard all about how great Homer was before, but never fully appreciated him until he read them in Chapman's translation.  It reminded me of hearing about how great certain classical works are before I actually read them.  Those praises make the feeling of discovery even more insensible, since clearly others have stumbled upon the book before, but they also make the feeling more impervious: No matter how many people tell you a book is great, if you read it for yourself and end up loving it, you will still have that feeling of excitement. 


You Can Judge an Editorial by its Title

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Oklahoma vs Women is the title of an editorial in the New York Times that discusses a few abortion-related decisions the government has reached.  Right from the title, the reader can guess the author's stance on the issue (which isn't a bad thing.  It's an editorial, so opinions are expected).  To briefly summarize the article, in May, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a law that stated women wanting an abortion must fill out a ten-page questionaire, and that the details of her answers can be posted on a public website. 

The author calls this law "a real beaut" and dubs the questionaire "intrusive."  This law was temporarily blocked; a fact that the writer says is fortunate.  These small touches make the writer's opinion clear and his point persuasive without resorting to a didactic sort of editorial, or, worse, a page of name-calling and insults.  After outlining the basis of the would-be law, the writer point-blankly states,

"The law's purpose is political. Its real aim is to persuade doctors to stop performing abortions by placing new burdens on their practice, to intimidate and shame women, and to stigmatize a legal medical procedure that one in three women have at some point in their lives."

OK, so this is definitely the writer's opinion, but as I said, that's the point of an editorial.  And even though the writer has some strong feelings on the subject, they do not veer into attacking the people on "the other side." 

I didn't choose this article because of any position I have on abortion, but because I think the writer does a good job of controlling passion in an emotionally-charged issue.  This is a skill that earns respect for editorials and gets people to listen.  Remember when writing that if you're only preaching to the choir, you've really accomplished nothing.  Write in such a way that someone who disagrees with you will be inclined to at least listen.


"But Washington reporters use anonymous sources according to an unwritten but intricate

and broadly understood set of rules that usually -- if not always -- provides a structure

and discipline to the system. It's not an immaculate system, but at least all of the players

understand it. That system and its nuances, however, usually are not well understood

or practiced at regional and smaller newspapers." -(Haiman, 18)

First, let me say, that I really enjoy this book.  It's practical, answers questions that are bound to come up if one writes for any amount of time, and it explains *why* certain principles have been developed.  This is actually something I struggled with in my last article, and am still struggling with as I revise.  My last article was about some misconceptions people had about a certain cultural practice.  Two people really verbalized what everyone else was dancing around in their quotes, but I think these people also knew that they were not fully informed on the subject, and neither wanted to be named in the piece.  This was before I had read these chapters, and I didn't see the harm in having an anonymous source. 

However, as Haiman explains, if someone is quoted insulting another person, the insulted party has a right to know who is making such claims.  Also, if the story rests on an anynonmous quote, it tends to lose its sense of reliability.  An anynomous quote simply doesn't carry the same weight as a quote given by someone in the community, or, even better, a nationally recognized name.  These three guidelines that Haiman lists on page 19 may not be infallible, but they certainly leave journalists with more to go with than before.  Any time there is one set of rules that many can look to, there are fewer excuses for straying from the path.

Greta talks about some ways to make sure, when you get a quote *and* a name, you get the quote right.  You don't want people afraid to give you quotes, do you?



On Second Thought...

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I previously wrote an entry, A Bump in the Road, that questioned Spiegelman's choice to include a section in Maus that expressed concern about reader perception of Vladek.  My problem was that this section felt unnecessary and forced; it seemed awkward because it didn't fit the two narrative threads that the story was being told from (Vladek telling the story to Artie, and Vladkek actually living the story in the past).  However, I chose to gather information on Maus for my bibliography exercise, and found some articles that discussed tense in Maus.  After reading these, listening to class discussion, and reflecting further on the topic, I've changed my mind. 

I think the narrative perspective that shows Art's concerns with writing the story is very significant, as the graphic novel is Art's key to initiation into his family.  Though I haven't read the second book yet, I have heard enough about it to know that the consequences of publishing this book were not all positive for Spiegelman, and there are many ethical dilemmas surrounding the question of commercialism and the Holocaust.  Since the book is not only about the Holocaust, but also about the relationship between Artie and Vladek, and Artie's struggle to be accepted into his family, I feel that these sections I previously labeled as "awkward" and "unneccessary" actually tell a very important part of the story.


Setting the Mood

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One of the most intriguing things about Poe's work is that even when nothing horrible is happening, the reader always steps gingerly through the story, expecting for something horrible to happen.  Poe has an impressive way of instilling the same sense of paranoia into his readers that he is said to have felt throughout his lifetime.  One of the greatest tools he masterfully uses to do this is the setting.  Of course, in "The Masque of the Red Death", an exclusive, party, celebrating life is being described.  Granted, these people are celebrating life while half of the country is dying, but still, the point is the setting is not a seance or a virgin-sacrifice.  We're at a party.  So why the unsettled feeling?  Poe's opening sentence helps, that's for sure:

"The 'Red Death' had long devastated the country" (356).

And then Poe goes on to give a detailed description of the damage the diesease caused.  So right off the bat, Poe is setting the mood for his readers, and we're never quite out of the grasp of his first paragraph, even when we find out that Prince Prospero "was happy and dauntless and sagacious."  Still, Poe has painted the Red Death so skillfully in our minds that we can't even for a minute forget its presence.  When Prospero plans his party, the reader can easily be surprised at his flippancy, since the Red Death is still haunting the edge of the story. 

Poe's description of the rooms keep with the story's tone, even though he is describing the building in which a masked ball is being held.  His word-choice is very precise and extremely important.  Each word alludes to death, violence, or somehow produces a feeling of unease.  He first mentions "the duke's love of the bizarre."  When describing the rooms, such phrases as "sharp turn" (bringing to mind perhaps a violent twist, or a sudden change in life?), "tall and narrow" (like a coffin, maybe?), "closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries" ("shrouded" does a lot by itself here, but the fact the windows are shrouded in black adds to the feeling of death's presence), and "blood" (we can all get this one on our own).

This is one of the great things about Poe; he stays true to his tone through tireless diction. 



Fixing Our Mistakes Before They Happen

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"Giving a higher priority to tracking errors, finding out how they occurred and taking

steps to reduce and eliminate them begin with the top editor" (9).

I felt that our assigned reading was very informative and offered some new insights into the career of journalism.  This quote, however, was a little off the mark.  Now, maybe some people will see this entry as being overly picky, but I think it's a fundamental truth that was misconstrued in this quote.  Reducing and eliminating errors should start with the journalist.  Yes, obiviously the editor needs to make tracking errors a higher priority, but there are certain things that it's up to the reporter to get right.  For example, has anyone ever been misquoted?  I have, and so have many people I know.  My sister gave a speech at our high school graduation that included a line, "While we like to think the end is the most important part of the journey, but it's the journey that matters in the end."  The paper quoted her as saying, "The end is what matters in a journey."  Yeah, not quite the same effect, is it? 

Here there would have been no way for the editor to catch that this was a misquote, unless he/she had been sitting in and taking notes on the speeches.  The journalist needs to be attentive and painstaking with his/her articles.  Eliminating errors starts as soon as pencil hits paper, not as soon as the paper hits the editor's desk. 


"Just as physical setting influences characters, so do historical and cultural conditions and assumptions. O'Connor's 'First Confession' is written for an audience of readers who understand the role of the Catholic Church in twentieth-century Irish life" (Roberts 110).

This was especially comforting to read, as it pointed out how some literature is written for a specific audience.  Though others can, obviously, read the work, they may not experience the same level of appreciation for the message as the intended audience.  For example, how many of us were a bit baffled by "Cargoes"?  Mansfield was writing for an audience that would understand his references to Quinquereme, Nineveh, and Ophir, and who would have more of a grasp on Biblical references, so an allusion to cedarwood, appes, and peacocks would not send them to google (OK, so nothing could really send them to google short of a time-machine, but I think the point was made).  

Aja writes about this poem in her blog entry, and how the imagery didn't seem up to the task of compensating for this generation's ignorance of the allusions used.  I agreed with her in a comment, because, frankly, three of the six words from the first line shot right over my head.  However, this does not mean that "Cargoes" is an obsolete poem.  It may be limited in ways poems that talk about more general things are not, but it is not worthless in our time.  With a little research, the poem was accessible.  Dr. Jerz also comments on Aja's blog, and advises us to keep reading to add to our store of knowledge, so that we can appreciate even more literature.  It would be a shame if only poems that cited events from our current time could be read and understood.   


A Bump in the Road

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"It's something that worries me about the book I'm doing about him.  In some ways he's just like the racist caricature of the miserly old Jew" (Spiegelman 131).

OK, this is more of a call-out for opinion than anything else, because I cannot figure out how I feel about this section of the book.  Spiegelman is airing his concerns for the novel we're reading, within the pages of the novel itself. Should he really be doing that? Here were my initial issues with this choice:

1. The character of Vladek stands on his own, and Spiegelman's summarization of how Vladek will be perceived takes away validity of alternate views.

2. This was a tell vs. show moment.  Or, rather, a telling after showing moment. I think Speigelman did a good job of putting together a deep, diverse character in Vladek.  When he second-guesses himself in this instance, it's like he's beating us over the head with something, saying, "In case you couldn't tell by the 100 previous pages, my father likes money and is sometimes cranky."  It was unnecessary.

3. It came off as a cop-out to me. As though by saying, "this is what I'm afraid of" Spiegelman is trying to guarrantee the feared occurrence won't take place.  If there were other sides of Vladek's personality that Spiegelman wanted to show, he should've shown them too us.  If his father, indeed, has all the qualities of the stereotypical Jew, then I fail to see where the issue lies. 

-This was just one awkward section of an otherwise impressive story.  Though, I do not think it was harmful enough to ruin the story, I do think that Spiegelman needed to find another way to deal with his concerns.  I'm sure there are support groups for nervous novelists, anxious authors, and worried writers. 


"What happened?  We had to deliver them.  They thought it was to Theresienstadt they were going.  But they went ight away to Auschwitz, to the gas." (Spiegelman 87)

This quote was disturbing, surprising, disappointing, and honest. The above quote is an explanation of the events that occurred after the police told Vladek's family to either hand over the grandparents that lived with them or be arrested themselves.  I think Artie's question, "So, what happened?" really represents our expectations and feelings of the Holocaust.  We're used to reading stories of sacrifice, heroism, and selflessness (and in many ways this is also that kind of story), but here Spiegelman is completely truthful, saying, "No, my father and his family didn't risk death to save their grandparents.  However, my father survived."

It comes back to the quote at the begining of the graphic novel.  "Friends?  Your friends?  If you lock them together in a room with no food for a week...Then you could see what it is.  Friends!"  One theme that can resonate through Holocaust literature is what humans have left  when everything is stripped away, their home, their friends, their family, their dignity.  Some people may think that they would never turn over a member of their family or a friend in order to buy their own life, but I imagine Vladek and his family all thought the same thing.  I am definitely not criticizing, belittling, or demeaning the choices that were made, but it is something to think about: What do we have left when we have nothing left?

For another moving book about the Holocaust, I recommend Night by Elie Wiesel

Cody also talks about some of the techniques Spiegelman uses to truthfully portray the events of the Holocaust.


The Literary Technique You Didn't Know You Knew

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Did anyone else always try to make imagery more complicated than this:

"Imagery refers to words that trigger your imaginiation to recall and recombine symbols--memoreis or mental pictures of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, sensations of touch, and motions" (Roberts 129)

Roberts than goes on to give an example of the word lake.  This may bring up different images for different people (such is the risk of imagery, I suppose), but it still triggers the imagination.  Furthermore, Roberts gets a little less romantic with words like apple, hot dog, malted milk, and pizza.  All images?  Sure.  Then this seems kind of easy, doesn't it?

On the next page Roberts warns us that, "Images do more than elicit impressions."  So, in other words, the feared phrase, "It's not as easy as it looks" comes to mind.  (Incidentally, after demonstrating a forward flip, my judo instructor warned us that the move "was not as easy as it looked."  Lest you all be struck with the same kind of fear as I was at that moment, I would like to assure you that imagery is a useful and manageable tool, and you will most likely not land on your head and strain your shoulder while practicing it.) 

Though Roberts goes on to list different kinds of imagery, types that appeal to different senses, I think it's worthwhile to point out that author intent does not always match reader comprehension, especially with something as subjective as imagery.  Jess said in class that the reference to cinamon in "Cargoes" was not a gustatory image for her, rather it was an olfactory image.  In the long run, that's probably not going to make or break a paper, but one should be aware that one's reader will not always follow exaclty what was imagined.  This is one reason that interpretation varies so much.  Imagery is such an important tool, yet it is received in vastly different ways.  With the role this technique plays in writing, it's no wonder none of us knew what The Quick and the Dead was about.



Portfolio 2

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Coverage and Timeliness:

If You Can't Read Him, Read a Parody  - an entry about "Goodnight Desdemona."  The good, the bad...and, well, basically just the good here.

Violence, Blood, Feminism, and Other Words that Scare People - how "Goodnight Desdemona" defines feminism

Juxtaposition: Dancing Daffodils and Lustful Swans - a look at imagery and themes in Wordsworth and Yeats

It's Repetitive. And Redundant. - when a pro breaks the rules, is it OK? I thought in this case, some redundancy worked, my classmates disagreed.

Problem is Such a Strong Word...Let's Go with Exciting Logical Exercise. It'll Catch On. - a look at creating more than a thesis statement.

Afflicted with the Frost - an extra entry parodying a Frost poem and the frost-heavy readings of an English major 

"Your work is only as good as your concentra...Hey look--A cloud shaped like Snoopy!" - how Joy Williams makes stream-of-consciousness more than random sentences

Who Saw that Coming? We Did. - an entry that deals with the second third of "The Quick and the Dead" and the questions this section answered.  Though, in many cases, my classmates answered these questions first.

Walk the Line, Corvus, Walk the Line - what questions did Williams answer about Corvus's desire to walk a line between life and death? 

Writing a Review when the Book Puts No Step in Your Groove - an entry reviewing a book review, and detailing some problems I had writing my own review of a book I found to be mediocore. 


Depth- some entries I put extra effort into

If You Can't Read Him, Read a Parody- Why did Good Night Desdemona work so well? This entry explores some winning moments in this play, and why the author's techniques worked on my Shakespeare-resistant class. 

Violence, Blood, Feminism, and Other Words that Scare People - What feminism is, what it isn't, and how two extremes were portrayed in Good Night Desdemona.

 Juxtaposition: Dancing Daffodils and Lustful Swans - Here I look at Wordsworth's and Yeat's poetry, themes, and techniques.  I not only examine the possible meaning of the poems, but look at the effectiveness of the imagery in both.

Problem is Such a Strong Word...Let's Go with Exciting Logical Exercise. It'll Catch On. - This entry explores one of my biggest problems when writing a paper-- getting started.  I list some advice I was given that has helped me along the way.

"Your work is only as good as your concentra...Hey look--A cloud shaped like Snoopy!" - I talk about stream-of-consciousness, and how it ties into the theme of The Quick and the Dead. 

Who Saw that Coming? We Did. - This is a blog that starts out congratulating my classmates for their accurate predictions concerning The Quick and the Dead, and goes on to guess what else will be important, based on what we'd read so far. 

 Walk the Line, Corvus, Walk the Line - The main character we'd heard least about had finally been given a chance to be unraveled. Here's my interpretation of Corvus's dream and what it means for her character. 



Insert Witty Title Here- Karyssa Blair

-Karyssa and I talk about the difficulties of feminism, and the importance of character growth.  Though it continued for four comments, the conversation was indepth and thoughtful.

Now the snarfblatt dates back to prehistoric times... - Ashley Pascoe

-Here was a lengthy discussion about...ahem...disney princesses.  It was pertinent, though, I swear.

Not a New Problem -Gladys Mares

-The comment I left on this entry attempted to answer each question Gladys posted in her blog, and give detailed explainations and examples.

John Crimmins...Resurrected - Jessica Orlowski

-Jess's entry pointed out a very important connection in The Quick and the Dead; one which I completely missed, actually.  This conversation begins as a heartfelt thank-you from me to Jess for sharing this information, and ends up as a discussion about symbols and meaning.

Picking Daisies, Falling into Chasms- Melissa Schwenk

-A conversation about conversation.  What do Alice's and Nurse Daisy's comments reveal about their character?

It's Not Like Waking Up From a Dream- Melissa Schwenk

-Melissa, Jess, and I tried to puzzle out the meaning of the end of The Quick and the Dead.

What Lets You Do Bad Things? - Brooke Kuehn

-Amazing how two simple sentences can inspire three different opinions, but an excerpt from The Quick and the Dead did just that.

Symbolism Abounds- Karyssa Blair

-There's a reference to the three Fates that had us all searching for meaning.

Infuso-what? - Karyssa Blair

-Nurse Daisy says that thoughts are all infusorial.  Whatever that means, right?  Hardly.  We spent some time trying to figure out first, what the word meant, and then, what it meant in regards to a person's thoughts and the theme of The Quick and the Dead.


Discussion- my blogs that prompted some conversation and breakthroughs

If You Can't Read Him, Read a Parody

Juxtaposition: Dancing Daffodils and Lustful Swans

It's Repetitive. And Redundant.

"Your work is only as good as your concentra...Hey look--A cloud shaped like Snoopy!"

Who Saw that Coming? We Did

Walk the Line, Corvus, Walk the Line


Xenoblogging- contributions I made to keep the blog community interacting.

Violence, Blood, Feminism, and Other Words that Scare People

-I linked to Karyssa's blog as we covered the same topic.

For Shame? - Cody Naylor

-In my comment on Cody's blog, I direct him to a classmate's entry that will help him answer his questions.

It's Repetitive. And Redundant.

-I linked to an entry by Aja, since she talked about "rules" when writing.

Who Saw that Coming? We Did.

-To give an example of a classmate who correctly guessed what would come next in a novel, I linked to Karyssa's blog.

Writing a Review when the Book Puts No Step in Your Groove

-In Karyssa's blog, she included rules for writing a review and a link to a tutorial.  As my blog posed many questions about the art of book review writing, I linked to Karyssa's entry.

Empty Spaces, You're No Match for Me - Melissa Schwenk

-Melissa and Kayla both pointed out the absurdity of a certain practice Frost writes about.  I directed Melissa to Kayla's blog in my comment.



Afflicted with the Frost 

-This is an example of me having fun with my blog and still staying true to topic.




Janet Maslin reviews The Help in a two-sided, thoughtful assessment.  She calls the novel "problematic, but ultimately winning," and always gives support for her opinions.  When she says that the author, Kathryn Stocket "renders black maids' voices in thick, dated dialect," she gives an example from the book that will make the review's reader wince in understanding ("Law have mercy, I reckon I'm on do it.").  Maslin's review seems more reliable in its ability to list pros and cons of the work without ever being overly critical or gushingly praising.  Had the Maslin just torn apart Stocket's work, I would have been less likely to take the review seriously.  As Dr. Jerz said, it is very easy to climb on a pedestal and criticize.  Maslin doesn't do that, she is clear about what she perceives as the book's flaws, but is also quick to temper her review with commendation.

I wrote my own review on a book that I was, to borrow a term from The Simpsons, rather "meh" about.  The book was OK.  It was a quick read for me, but much of that was due to the predictability of the plot (up until the end, which threw me, I'll admit), and the simplicity of the characterization.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book; it was relaxing, not mentally taxing (oh, look at me with the internal rhyming), and tied up loose ends neatly.  Writing the review was difficult for me, because I felt like I lost sight of my purpose.  Was I trying to convince someone to read this book?  At first I thought that was the purpose of a review, but what about all the "bad" reviews out there?  Am I just summarizing the characters and events in the book?  Dr. Jerz gave us a clear answer of "no" to that.  So, I'm telling people what I thought of the book?  Well, after years of being immersed in the knowledge that "I liked it" or "I didn't like it" are not appropriate reactions, where does one start?  And if I didn't have any passionate connection or deep hatred for the book afterwards, would the person who read my review be left with similar feelings of "meh"?  That's certainly not a reaction I want anyone to have after reading something I've written.  Did anyone else have the same type of problems when writing their reviews?

In Karyssa's entry on the same subject, she provides links to tutorials about review-writing, and examines the reasons for certain techniques in reviews.  


Many People Say...No, Really, Many, Many People...

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"Finish strong. Don't just repeat your thesis -- bring the reader somewhere."

-I struggle so much with writing conclusions, because I have the tendency to repeat my thesis.  It's like I want the reader to see that all of my arguments have proven *exactly* what I'd promised they would prove.  However, after working on improving my conclusions, I've come to see the wastefulness of those kinds of conclusions.  Dr. Jerz gave me a different way to look at conclusions last week.  He said that conclusions are a destination, and a thesis is a starting point.  These two should be separate.  Why would the reader what to end up exactly where she started?

"Avoid vague references to "some people say" or "research shows." Name names. Interview sources yourself."

Dear God, yes.  I only recently realized how annoying such generalizations were the other day when I was trying to do some research for another paper.  I needed to find the source of several quotes, or attributed opinions, but instead of telling the reader *who* had said something in the first place, the writers insisted on saying, "Many critics feel..."  I ended up nearly screaming at the screen, "Who are these people and where can I find their criticisms?!?"  Anyway, "many people say" is not going to win many arguments.  How many is "many"?  Who are these "people"?  Does the reader really care if the people you're referring to are just Joe Nobodies off the street and your piece really requires a quote from an expert?  Taking the time to get a real quote, instead of basically textually shrugging away specifics, can be the difference in an article.


Part 2 of the Cycle. Kinda.

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The article that was updated within two days was the coverage about the boy who drowned in a septic tank.  This newer article gave more details about the investigation and the proceedings that will follow because of the death.  For example, whether or not the parents of the drowned boy will retain custody of their other children.  In my opinion, there wasn't much more to tell in this second article, except more details of the investigation.   

And the Cycle Continues. I Hope.

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The first article I selected deals with the drowning of a boy in a septic tank. I am banking on some follow-up on this article for several reasons.  The main reason that justifies every other assumption I'll list: The manner of the boy's death has not been determined.  Once this is discovered, the paper will most likely update its readers.  (Some other factors for the continuation of this story are the boys age, 4, the abnormality of the incident, and the fact that an 18-hour search for the boy preceded this story)


The second article I chose deals with a 12-year-old boy being charged with the homicide of his father's pregnant girlfriend.  It still has not been decided whether the boy will be charged as a minor or an adult.  The news in this particular article is that the hearing date has been set (Dec 10).  This fact is pretty much a giveaway that the story will continue.


The third article I chose covers a drug-bust in which 29 people were charged.  These arrests are the result of an 18-month-long investigation.  No trial has taken place yet, so, obviously, there will eventually be more news to cover.  Also, because of the enormity of these arrests, and the length of the investigation, more coverage would behoove the paper and the area.



Portfolio 2

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Here's the Wind-up...And the Pitch.... -an entry about selling your story, and whether or not "playing the game" is as bad as it sounds

When Redundancy Isn't a Crime - this entry explores redundancy in crime reporting.  Why is it there?  What purpose does it serve?

Tips for Crime Reporting -here I took a look at a few crime-reporting tips...Yeah, I know, great blog title.

When the Old is Made New - on-the-spot writing, and how it enables us to look at issues like global warming through new eyes

In Journalism, There's Nothing to Zing About - tragically, we rarely need words like tragically in a news article.  this entry tells you why. 

One of These Things is Not Like the Other: Why West Hawaii Today Should've Played This Game  - a comparison of several front pages.  What worked, what didn't.

And the Cycle Continues.  I Hope. - the begining of an activity in which I will follow several news stories.


Interaction (entries in which I linked to a peer's blog):

When the Old is Made New - Here I linked to both Jennifer's and Greta's blogs

One of These Things is Not Like the Other: Why West Hawaii Today Should've Played This Game - Here I linked to Angela's blog


Xenoblogging (comments that I left that were indepth and/or part of a thoughtful conversation):

Research, Research, Research -Derek Tickle

Giving Addresses, Protecting Names - Greta Carroll

Run quickly, but you can't hide -Derek Tickle

Abducted by Aliens -Angela Palumbo

More than one side - Jennifer Prex

Something different - Richelle Dodaro

I spy, with my little eye, a storytelling structure - Greta Carroll

Euphemism and Quotes - Wendy Scott

Eye Catcher -Jennifer Prex

I Like Me Some Color - Angela Palumbo



Here's the Wind-up...And the Pitch.... -this blog received no comments, but I think the ethical area it explored was interesting, nonetheless.

Walk the Line, Corvus, Walk the Line

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In every discussion I've had about this book, every blog I've read, people have been able to give a supported judgment on most characters.  Sure, we've always wanted to learn more, we've always had to qualify our comments with "but I haven't read the whole thing yet", and we've always had differing opinions, but there has always been something textual to support an opinion about each character...except Corvus. 

Yeah, we've got the raven/constellation thing down.  OK, we know she's in this odd emotional purgatory and doesn't really say much of anything that doesn't pertain to death.  And, yes, she seems oddly normal compared to the other characters in this circus of a book.  But we haven't really been inside her head since she burnt down her house.  We've warily explored the insanity that is Alice, we've dug through the superficiality that appeared to be Annabel, we've drifted through the deranged rendezvous of Carter, for crying out loud, we've even been with Emily as she searched for John Crimmins' missing member.  All the while wondering what's up with Corvus.

Finally in chapter 37, Williams clues us in.  Along with the shifting perspective that takes us into Corvus's dream is the shifting tense.  "Corvus is dreaming she's on the island where they'd lived one year" (245).  Now Corvus is actively present, as she hasn't been either in tense or in character for the entire novel. 

"This is the day she goes off with the mail lady on her rounds, a woman who looks every inch the man, with her khaki uniform, her black glasses, her black watch strap, her jeep.  To accompany her is an honor, that's the thinking; she goes everywhere, knows everyone" (246).

This is the description of the state that Corvus has been in this entire novel.  The mail lady could symbolize, not death precisely, but the force that escorts one to death.  "She's neither happy nor unhappy" (246) may show the indifference that this force shows, taking lives indiscriminately.  Later on in her dream, Corvus declines the drink offered to her by the mail lady.  This shows her reluctance to be comfortable where she's at, she doesn't want refreshment; she wants to become her grief (remember, she envied Tommy for this ability earlier in the book), not seek relief from it. 

I assume that the mail lady's mother symbolizes Life, since life comes before death, and this lady is the go-between.  When Corvus decides that the mother in the backroom has no meaning at all anymore, this conveys the idea that once we die, our lives cease to be significant.  When the mail lady wants to take a picture with Corvus, but must put the camera behind the line, "at just the right distance, [so] there won't be parts of us missing," and Corvus observes that the line is very faint, this symbolizes that the line between living and dying is not distinctive, which is why it was so easy for Corvus to wander from the territory of the living.  


Who Saw that Coming? We Did.

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First thing's first: kudos to the people in our class who answered some questions before Williams got the chance.

"'Corvus,' he said.  "Doesn't that mean raven?" (Williams 139)

Yeah, Ray, it sure does.  And I believe it was Karyssa who figured out this tidbit would be important.  I'm now fairly sure that this fact is significant enough for Williams to bluntly point it out for her not-so-ambitious readers (including myself; I would've never thought to look that up).

To everyone in the class who said that Alice was nine kinds of crazy, Ray agrees with you.

"...and the other one, who didn't even remember him, was just a madwoman." (139)

"It's breeding, maybe, Ray thought grimly, being brought up properly, and where were you brought up, Alice, he'd like to ask, in penitentiary daycare?" (142)

This last quote also supports what was mentioned in our discussion on Friday: The fact these three girls are motherless is significant, and will play a part in the life/death theme of the book.

Also, it seems that Annabel was correctly classified by the class so far.  When Corvus and Alice are discussing their encounter with Ray, and Corvus mentions death, Annabel thinks of her disgust for the dog-hair in the truck.

"I would have this vacuumed, she thought, in the most thorough way."  (148)

While Corvus is defining herself by her grief, Annabel, it seems, is trying to be above mourning, and coming off, ironically, as shallow. 

And yet, despite her seemingly superficial nature, Annabel was on the same page as everyone in the class who wondered where Social Services was in Williams' universe, and what were they going to do about Corvus.

"'Are you really going to stay around here forever, Corvus?  Won't Social Services get on your case or something?" (125)

Who knows, maybe that will end up being important after all.  I do think that, while she's inarguably strange, Alice is the one of the trio of girls who has shown actual loyalty to another person.  Here she interrupts Annabel's question to spare Corvus's feelings, earlier in the book she stayed with Corvus after her parents died, and she forced herself to go to the retirement home because it meant something to Corvus.  Annabel has expressed several times not only her desire to pretend this summer never happened once it ended, but how off-putting she finds both Alice and Corvus.  Corvus, meanwhile, is immersed in her own mourning, and while she may or may not appreciate the company she has in Alice and Annable, we haven't been as privy to her thoughts as we have to the thoughts of the other two, and her dialogue since the destruction of her house, has mainly consisted of comments about death.  This loyalty humanizes Alice, in a way not even her most outrageous quirk has managed to do



"'Want a pop?' she said.  Alice shook her head.  'Sure?' the woman said.  'It's mostly fruit juices.'

I want...a scar, Alice thought.  A scar that would send shivers up peoples' spines but would not elicit pity.  She didn't want that kind of scar" (Willaims 7)


Welcome to stream-of-consciousness.  My opinion on this type of narration has always been an emphatic "meh".  I've read pieces of stream-of-consciousness I enjoy, pieces that I despise, and never really managed to get a grounded yay or nay for the technique.  Joy Williams dives unapologetically forward, committing completely to this style.  At first, I was tentative to join her; sometimes stream-of-consciousness is confusing and tedious.  However, the quoted section above marks the moment I agreed whole-heartedly to go along for the ride. 

Instead of viewing stream-of-consciousness as an alternative to more logical narration, I now see it as  ultra-logical.  Williams'details and sudden veers "off subject" are more true-to-life than writing that portrays each character's thoughts and dialogue as being purely topical.  Those among us who are easily distracted (and even those among us who aren't overly so) will vouch for the fact that there are times someone may offer you a soda, and your first thought will not be concerning the soda's flavor or your thirst, but, hey, it'd be really great if you knew how to juggle.  Now, the leap you made may seem completely random if spoken aloud,  and maybe it makes sense in your mind (well, you wanted three sodas, but only have two hands, and it would just be pretty impressive if you could ask for three and then start to juggle the cans...) or maybe not, but the fact is, our minds are all over the place.  I think the descriptions of each character are so skilled and in-depth because we're reading thoughts that, even in other forms of literature, we would not be privy to.  This is human analysis on a different level, managing to be spontaneous without being random.   


See what other people have to say about the first third of The Quick and the Dead