March 2010 Archives

I Have Hope and Desire For This One

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I don't think a chapter in Joseph Williams' book could make me more embarrassed this one.  I felt like he was talking to me; although, if it was significant enough for him to write in the book, then I guess I am not the only writer committing these crimes.  I think almost everything Williams suggested not to do in this chapter in Style, is something that I have done and continue to do.

For instance:
-Meaningless words
-Doubled words
-Redundant Modifiers
-Redundant Categories

What I have a lot of trouble with is, "Metadiscourse That Attributes Your Ideas to a Source.  Don't announce that something has been observed, noticed, noted, and so on; just state the fact," (Williams, 86).  I always feel like I have to introduce something in a sentence and I am always getting feedback telling me to stop that and just state the fact but either I never remember or I just can't get a feel for doing it.  I feel the need to introduce what I am going to say.  It's really unfortunate.

However, I have already been aware of my problems with concision.  I think it makes me cringe to think about getting rid of the meaningless and doubled words because I'm not going to have anything else to work with!  Yes, I am going to have to work on concision.

Bibliography for Dummies

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Robert Darnton, a man who writes so much about the mechanics behind books, has started to give me perspective on his knowledge in The Case for Books.

"Previous bibliographers had assumed that each book would move through the chain of production according to consistent, linear pattern: a certain compositor would feed formes to the printers at a certain press, who would run off the edition, frequently leaving traces of their activity in the pattern of headlines at the top of the page, direction lines at the bottom, or press figures," (Darnton, 137).

Yes, this is certainly the way the production of books used to work, but where does the work come from now?  It comes from those darn machines.  I assume this book is not going to go into much of the mechanical and futuristic essence of technology nowadays, but I think Darnton allows the reader to compare what he is saying with that of the present and future of the book.  The production of books have already changed, but they are continuing to change with the idea that books might become an internet thing.
"The printers scattered clues to these irregularities by marks left in the text.  In some cases they crossed out a redundant page of Romeo and Juliet.  In others, they left corrections added by hand during the final proof-reading.  The text was always changing, always slipping morphologically from one state to another," (Darnton, 141).

Do texts change as much during production now?  The process is more robotic, so there isn't as much of a chance for the print to change; that is, after the editors have had a chance to look through it.  Maybe this is why we see mistakes in books sometimes, because people are not taking as much care into the process.  Also, there are so many new authors now who are releasing books multiple times a year.  This is why there is a purpose for writing bibliographies today.  

The amount of books that are produced and re-produced is insane.  I have the first addition of the book Wicked, which is not even that old, and now I just saw a "third" new addition of the book!  I don't understand why there needs to be so many, I guess the author thinks its necessary or someone is telling him to do it, but I see the need now for keeping that information straight.  When I have written bibliographies for class, I never gave much attention to what I was actually writing, of course that was in high school.  And in high school I never thought I was going to grow to love books and become a journalist.  So, it's good that I could learn from Darnton now about those insights to books that he gives.  I think it's interesting that he doesn't talk about the importance of what's on the page and reading in writing like we have read by other authors in this class; instead, he talks about the mysteries of the actual 'book' which, coincidentally, is the theme of this class.

If On A Spring Morning A Student

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Italo Calvino continues to surprise me in If On A Winter's Night A Traveler.  Even more than that, he continues to make me think on another level, perhaps on his level of writing.

"I'm producing too many stories at once because what I want is for you to feel, around the story, a saturation of other stories that I could tell and maybe will tell or who knows may already have told on some other occasion, a space full of stories that perhaps is simply my lifetime, where you can move in all directions, as in space, always finding stories that cannot be told until other stories are told first, and so, setting out from any moment or place you encounter always the same density of material to be told," (109).

What amazes me is that this is the first book where I feel like it would not be good for me to skim or read ahead because of what new plot I might be missing.  Calvino is clever in getting the reader interested in the story.  I get confused in some areas and that makes me want to just jump ahead a little but I know I can't because I would probably be lost in even more confusion, and I do not want to be confused more.  This is a knew way of reading a book.  Mostly because in class we talked about books allowing us to jump ahead and skip around as we like but he is really writing this book like it's a story being told vocally.

"...The sign of real wealth, solid and vast, in the sense that if, we'll assume, I had only one story to tell, I would end up botching it in my range to show it in its true light, but, actually having in reserve a virtually unlimited supply of narratable material, I am in a position to handle it with detachment and without haste, even allowing a certain irritation to be perceptible and granting myself the luxury of expatiating on secondary episodes and insignificant details," (109-110).

Does this mean he is trying to "get to the point" of his stories without having any other insignificant details like other book plots?  If so, then I haven't seen that yet.  If I dissect the book and weed out his chatter to the reader, and look at the actual stories being told, then maybe I would see that he is not boring us with details that don't matter.  Actually, I can probably now see that its true.  

Calvino is dropping the sense of oral culture into this book.  He is layering his stories with the normal interruptions and annoyances that normally might happen if someone were telling a story to you; or to me.  I find myself telling the book to "get on with it" the way I would tell someone in person when they have trailed off into something else.  However, he is showing the difficulty of reading something like this, because the book doesn't listen to you when you are telling it to get back to the story the same way a person would listen.  In this case, we just have to keep reading and hope that Calvino finds his way back to one of the stories he is in the middle of telling.  I might not read this book again.  In fact, I think once is enough.  But I would recommend it to anyone else because of his unique style of writing.  This definitely is not a normal book and that's why I kind of like it.  It's like a tough class in school that you absolutely hate when you're going through it but years later when you look back you think, "wow, I did learn a lot and I hope lots of people can experience it and learn from it."  That's how Calvino is making me feel:  A little bit in pain, but I'm sure I'll leave the book with a new sense of writing for the reader.

Books Are Not Ordinary: They're Unique

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In The Case for Books, Robert Darnton writes, "...he calls up a librarian at Harvard in order to find out whether it was sold off as a duplicate.  'Oh, we would never have hard copies going back that far - they just don't keep,' she replies.  He  then shoots back, not to her but as an aside addressed to us: 'They don't keep, kiddo, if you don't keep them,'" (Darnton, 126).

I didn't know that libraries discarded books that much.  It amazes me to think that a place as sacred for book-keeping as a library would treat books that way.  I always assumed they saved every book they could lay their hands on, and I suppose some of them still do a good job with that.

The internet has certainly affected the originality of books.  You know, it's not always about just having the story, sometimes it is about having the book in hand.  As Shellie said in her blog, the internet just offers so many things from shopping to online research to chatting with friends, so why not add reading books to the list.  I can't imagine how much it would cost to find some of those original books.  I'd hope people would still pay money to get those original the same, I have gone to used book stores and seen old addition copies of books for about a dollar and that just makes me want to stock up.

I for one do not appreciate school books as much as I should, or really any paper or books that are involved with the university.  What I mean by that is I prefer to look up books and articles from out school library on my computer rather than physically going to the library and hand-shuffleing through the journals.

Many books are a part of online reading now.  As much as I would hate to see old and legendary books being destroyed, would I really mind if newer books were just put online?  Probably not.  As it is, many people are trying to conserve paper nowadays anyway, so not using paper for some of the thousands of books published a year wouldn't be such a bad idea.  I never thought about books being sent straight to the internet instead of's like those movies that are made straight to DVD's.  This is something that I'll probably have to think about again in the near future.

Satisfaction Guaranteed?

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Oh Italo Calvino, YOU never give up do you?  Well, YOUR book If On A Winter's Night A Traveler isn't at all what I thought this was going to turn into.  In fact, I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  Actually, I know it's not bad, but it is weird.

'"Reading,' he says, 'is always this: there is a thing that is there, a thing made of writing, a solid, material object, which cannot be changed, and through this thing we measure ourselves against something else that is not present, something else that belongs to the immaterial, invisible world, because it was once and is no longer, past, lost, unattainable, in the land of the dead...'" (Calvino, 72).

I absolutely loved this paragraph.  Of course that is what reading is.  Books are more often meant for the reader to get away from their own world and dive into something impossible.  Sometimes that is my frustration with reading.  I will be deep in a story that I wish were real and sometimes I'll wonder why its not real...then I remember that this is a "story" because of the fact that it could never happen.  Although, I have hope that the essence of those fiction stories could one day be real, but that's a different story.

I was right about this book.  I hoped I would get used to Calvino talking to me as the reader and I did.  He actually did not talk directly to me as much as he did in the first few chapters.  However, I noticed that in one chapter he referred to "you" being me, a lot.  He was always trying to associate me with Ludmilla and Uzzi-Tuzii to try and get me thinking about the plot and it did work.  It was almost as if I gave into his way of talking to me and finally decided to go along with this game.  Then, he switched gears and in the next few chapters referred to himself more then me.  He said "I" constantly and it seemed as though I was gone and he was just telling a story...which is what I liked better.

Overall I was satisfied with where the story was going until I read that very awkward sex scene.  Yes, I had to start from the beginning once I got into the scene because I thought maybe I was mistaken for where it was going.  It might not have been as awkward if it was, for lack of a better term, a "three-some?"  Even writing this is making me uncomfortable so I'm going to stop.  But, I must say that he had me until that point.  Now, I feel as though I have to watch myself while reading this because it appears that any crazy thing can show up in this text.  This does make it more exciting but it also makes me a little nervous for what's to come.

Control CAPITALIZATION and Avoid Bias

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When in the Setonian office, I have noticed a lot of bickering about names, places, and objects that need to be capitalized.

Here is what the Style Guide says: Capitalize the first word after a colon in all titles in references and in the text and in headings.  (Ex: Capitalize specific course departments titles.  (Ex: GSU Department of Psychology).

APA style tip #2: AVOID BIAS

As much as most of us have been writing articles, I still find at least 1 or 2 bias references in articles because sometimes we really don't know that we are doing it!

Gender bias should be avoided and appropriate language is needed when discussing issues of sexual orientation.  Make adjustments to labels and call people what they prefer to be called.  Use adjectives to serve as descriptors rather than labels.  (Ex: "elderly people," "amnestic patients").  

Start the Race Strong and Finish the Race Strong

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A point well taken!  Taken from Joseph M. Williams' book Style.  "But if the first few words of a sentence are worth special attention, so are the last few, because how you end the sentence determines how readers judge both its clarity and its strength," (Williams, 66).

I cannot tell you how many times I have "hacked" through a subject in one sentence just to reach the end and be done with it.  What I learning is how to provide the more familiar ideas into the beginning of a sentence or a paragraph so the reader is drawn in, and then express the more difficult thoughts and ideas to keep them intrigued.  I almost feel as though this is a trick on the readers!  But I like it, and I think this will be very helpful.

Will this take a long time to edit?  Possibly, but I am going to try write with more stress at the end of the sentence than I have before.  I know that I have learned something like this in the past, because I try and not let my sentences trail off into nothing at the end.  I want readers to become interested in what I'm talking about and after reading this chapter on Emphasis I recognize that it is important to always check the emphasis at the ends of everything I write. Seeing as it was important enough to put in this book, I will want to keep a closer eye on it on   my own writing.

Is it Really Going to Help?

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I don't know if I am the only one who feels this way, but I don't enjoy when someone assume's they know me, which has slightly tampered my feelings toward Italo Calvino in his book If On A Winter's Night A Traveler.  Though he does have a cool name.  When reading the intro to this book I began to think that his way of writing specifically to the reader would stop after the into; but I was wrong.

The style of writing is creative and it is different.  I will be glad to read this book for those reasons alone.  I enjoy a challenge and I enjoy reading something that isn't normal just to say that I did.  However, this will be more tough then I presumed because I have yet to find out what this book is going to be about.  I couldn't tell you one thing about it yet, except that Calvino writes in second person.

"You are at your desk, you have set the book among your business papers as if by chance; at a certain moment you shift a file and you find the book before your eyes, you open it absently, you rest your elbows on the desk, you rest your temples against your hands, curled into fists, you seem to be concentrating on an examination of the papers and instead you are exploring the first pages of the novel," (Calvino, 7).

Does he want me to be doing these things?  This is kind of monotonous to me because it doesn't pertain to what is actually happening as I am reading.  I feel like I am reading a book that is meant for someone else.  He had to have figured that some readers would feel that way so I find it hard to believe that this wasn't an intention of his.  Does he want to make me feel uncomfortable?  A little irritated?  Confused?  Probably.  A smart author knows how he wants his audience to feel; therefore, I am interested in seeing where this book goes since Calvino seems to "know me" so well.

There is Potential. I Don't Know What it is Yet

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If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, by Italo Calvino is certainly an adventure to read and something that my mind has to remain entirely focused on while I'm reading because I might miss an entire idea or a scene change.  

"I am looking from the outside at the life of an ordinary evening in an ordinary little city, and I realize I am cut off from the ordinary evenings for God knows how long, and I think of thousands of cities like this, of hundreds of thousands of lighted places where at this hour people allow the evenings darkness to descend and have none of the thoughts in their head that I have in mine; maybe they have other thoughts that aren't at all enviable but at this moment I would be willing to trade with any one of them," (Calvino, 17).

There is something to be said for a text that is telling a story but telling it to the reader like it's face-to-face.  With the interruptions and everything.  It seemed to take a while for Calvino to even get to a beginning of the story.  It felt as though he kept talking in ciricle's to avoid telling the rest, which makes me nervous for the rest of the book.  As I read on I saw that he made it a point to tell the reader about the obvious repeated pages and such; I like his honesty.

Fortunately, it is easy reading, but I feel very distracted when I read it; and not by outside distractions, but by his ability to distract me from the actual story.  Then I thought he must be doing that on purpose because he knows thats how it might make people feel, so maybe that is the actual point of the story.  

He writes as though I already know about his life and that is a bit confusing at times.  Then again, I am familiar with this style of writing because it is the way I write sometimes.  I would never write this way with the intention of it being a story read by lots of people but I write that way for me; sometimes in my journal, sometimes in class.  Overall, I understand that he rides these trains and I understand that there is a woman involved, but so far it would be hard for me to explain what this story (if you could call it that) is actually about.  Then again that might be the idea.  I won't know until I read on!

Grab A Copy

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In Writing Material, Elizabeth Eisenstein said, "Sixteenth-century publications not only spread identical fashions but also encouraged the collection of diverse ones.  Books illustrating diverse costumes worn throughout the world, were studied by artists and engravers and duplicated in so many contexts that stereotypes of regional dress styles were developed.  They acquired a paper life for all eternity and may be recognized even now on dolls, in operas, or at costume balls," (Eisenstein, 128).

I still can't get out of my head how awesome it would have been or how, for lack of a better term, "cool" it would have been for people to finally be able to share ideas and items through these pictures.  It seems easy living in a world today where we can look everywhere and find copies of pictures of clothing and we are able to see what the new fashions are.  I am able to pick up a magazine and see what people are wearing and who they are with, 500,000 miles away from me.  This is the beauty of the printing press.

How astonishing to be that first person who copied a picture and could share it with someone who was not familiar with it.  This gives the printing press a whole new meaning:  A universal meaning.  It was no longer used to copy texts.  More simply, it was used to copy the image.  The actual image of the time.  This is why we are able to recollect the clothing they wore from that time and how they presented themselves and what kinds of items surrounded them.  Sure, we could have read about all of these things but what is ingrained in my brain is the images I have seen.

This reminds me of when I've read a book that gets turned into a movie.  I read the book and I have these images of what the people look like and the time period and the setting.  When the movie comes out based on that book, I suddenly have new images of who these characters are and where they are.  Then if I go back to read the book, I can no longer picture the initial images in my head.  Instead, I am seeing the images that I saw with my own eyes portrayed on screen.  This relates to the invention of copying pictures.  Sometimes we need more than words.  The printing press, no matter how time-consuming and grueling it would have been to duplicate pictures, gave civilization a new way to learn and a new way to bring people together.

Managing Sentences to Become Coherent

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Write clear, well-informed sentences that attract readers to your work.  If you write long, drawn out sentences that bore readers to death, literary gremlins will attack you in your sleep.  To avoid these literary gremlins you must know how to properly place all words and sentences to make the story come out.  If you fail to put everything together in one smooth and continuous pattern, readers will become lost and confused, losing interest in whatever you wrote.  Without clarity, readers lose interest and understanding in the meaning behind  writing.

This is the original paragraph that came out of the exercise.  I personally think that it flows really well, I was actually surprised by this.  If anyone can offer opinions on this paragraph for what might need to be tweaked than that would be great.  Otherwise, I am going to leave it as is for now because this paragraph does show coherence.  I liked this exercise because it showed our ability to write sentences that continued the flow from the first sentece.  I think the class did very well with this for the most part.

See what my classmates came up with!

To Be or Not to Be Coherent and Cohesive

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"When you create cohesive flow, you take the first step toward helping readers feel that your prose hangs together.  but they will judge you to be a competent writer only when they feel that your writing is not just cohesive but coherent," (Williams, 60).

This passage from Joseph Williams' book Style goes on to define the differences between cohesion and coherence.

I never thought of writing this way.  When writing with a cohesive feel, all of the sentences fit together; this I can understand.  I see how sometimes the sentences fit and thats great, but what happens next?  What's the next feeling?  Then I read how Williams described coherence.  For a sentence to have coherence, then all of the pieces which fit together, can be seen as adding up to something greater.  There are times when I can feel myself writing under pressure or having to just get a paper done and I always think my sentences sound great where I placed them.  Then, I will read the sentences later and think, "Wow, these sentences were well constructed but I have no idea where I was going with this."

Recently, I have been getting in the habit of taking time away from a paper, going back to it and rereading it while trying to pretend I am someone who has never read it before.  i do this so I can tell if the sentences flow and make sense together to reach my ultimate point.  It was nice to now read that it is possible to have some great sentences, all about the same subject, but no clear point.  I will definitely try to be as coherent as possible.

We'll Never Know How Far it Will Go

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In Writing Material, Dennis Baron writes, "While brave new literacy technologies offer new opportunities for producing and manipulating text, they also present new opportunities for fraud," (Baron, 37).

Chelsea brought up some great picture examples in her blog about this subject of fraud.  People are becoming much wiser in developing technologies today but with that comes the even smarter people who can crack the codes and bend the rules to create their own ingenious discoveries.  These people are frauds.  What is most unsettling is the fact that we cannot detect it a lot of the time.  People are so good at lying and manipulating texts, pictures, anything on a computer, that no one can tell the difference.  We live in a scary world that keeps getting more scary.

"My contention in this essay is a modest one: the computer is simply the latest step in a long line of writing technologies," (Baron, 37).

I have mentioned this before in other blogs;  the computer is hardly the farthest the technology of writing is going to get.  But I think people are already trying to make things easier that don't need to be made easier.  There is a great performance by Ellen Degeneres that can be seen on YouTube and during this particular segment, she talks about technology and how it is only causing people to become more and more lazy.  

There is a danger here that we are not aware of.  Sure, things are becoming more convenient but what is wrong with still maintaining that mobility?  As a human being, I am prepared to exercise my brain and body but technology is starting to take that away.  I was watching the news and saw that the most recent generation of children is the first one ever predicted to not outlive their parents.  What is happening?  Could it be the video and computer game technology that keeps advancing and grabbing children's attention?  Kids aren't even required to write anymore and instead they must type, which takes away the writers cramp but also the skill.  The online shopping and instant messaging which allows for no necessary outside contact?  Kid's can stay at home and have the convenience of a television, computer, and phone that allows games, music, and communication all in one.  Technology maybe killing us.  I will not let that happen to me or my children.  If there is a need for this much advanced technology and features and there is a need for kids and adults alike to still exercise their brains and body's in hands-on ways.

Writing and Reasoning

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Peter Elbow offered a great transition chapter from orality to writing in Writing Material.  Elbow writes, "Students can never feel writing as an activity they engage in as freely, frequently, or spontaneously as they do in speech," (Elbow, 137).

Before this quote, Elbow writes about the way children are praised for speaking when they are just learning how.  No matter what word or sound comes out of their mouths, it is encouraged that more is better.  Speech is free and it always has felt that way; you can't stop it.  Why else would there be an amendment about freedom of speech?

Given this act of praising granted by our parents, Elbow goes on to explain the way that writing makes us feel when we are young, and although I had never thought about before; it's a bad feeling.  Teachers make students write when they want to punish them.  Where is the sense in that?  When I think back on this, I can't help but think of the damage it's doing to our free will to write.  I suppose writing was good manual labor.  I can remember thinking about not wanting to be punished because I would be forced to write, and in elementary school, it certainly was not a fun task.

A punishment; that's just baffling.  Many students, such as I, have grown to learn that writing is so much more than school work.  Writing is a way to escape.  I don't know anyone who escape's by sitting and talking to themselves (as helpful as it might be).  Writing can strengthen skill and imagination.  Writing can offer a world of freedom which unfortunately does not come to our attention when we are young.

There is a possibility, in the future, that punishments in school will no longer be writing but instead a form of technological punishment.  When I look at television shows or movies that take place decades ago, the punishment in the classroom was to recite sentences or words or phrases out loud.  Then when writing became the more difficult task, that became the punishment.  So, when I look into the future of elementary school punishments, I can see it being typing on the computer or something to that affect; which, I think teachers are already putting into use.  Technology is the more difficult task then writing now because there are many more utilities involved whereas you would only need a pencil and paper to write.

My Inner Ear Has the Upper Hand

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In chapter 4 of Williams' Style, he says, "The terms active and passive, however, are ambiguous, because they can refer not only to those two grammatical constructions but to how those sentences make you feel.  We call a sentence passive if it feels flat, regardless of whether its verb is grammatically in the passive voice," (Williams, 47).

I like this quote because I understand it.  It almost refers to my thoughts in a previous chapter about how I structure my sentences around what sounds correct.  Though, it is confusing to know that this could actually be a rule.  Williams says that even if a sentence is grammatically correct, we can still call it flat; which is how I evaluate my writing.  I guess there is a time and a place to to move around the grammar and structure so it just sounds right and I never want to try too hard on making a sentence sound right to me, but I would like to find the middle ground.

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