July 27, 2008

Memoir Review on the Night before Class Begins...

Chapter 2

The "so what?" is emphasized in the memoir genre (why should I care? why should others care?)... answering this question gives purpose and authority... writing the memoir shouldn't fulfill one's ego... stories should be written for the sake of the story not other ulterior motives (such as revenge, to get attention, etc.)...

Pick mentors carefully!

"It takes time to learn"-- there's a negative attitude from non-professional writers undermining the value of writing and writers... they often think that since WORDS are ubiquitous and used everyday (especially when speaking), everybody can write... everybody does have the potential to write, BUT not everybody will have the perseverance to write for a living... I'm starting to realize why writers are often called "word smiths" because writers shape and create using words like sculptors. Anybody with hands can pick up a hammer or something in order to start beating something to a pulp But not everybody can pick up that hammer or chisel and create a work of art like David.

Learning process- I liked how Barrington mentioned the difference between saying one's a writer and one's an apprentice writer. The former usually received a condescending response like, "Oh you're a writer, I'm a neuro-scientist. I've been planning to writer my biography ever since gradeschool.... Oh you're writing your memoir, I thought only famous people write their memoir? Who's going to recognize your name?"

Don't worry about publishers... write memoir first, then start searching...

Ideas- record dreams (in the past, I've had interesting and powerful dreams, but they're so scary [my heart racing]... that I purposefully did not record them because I wanted to forget about them), have a writing notebook, don't make excuses, just WRITE!, learn from others (read their memoirs)

Why should people/you care? Identification/connection: "Moments in my life might resonate with moments in theirs."

Chapter 3
Memoirs have forms (just because they're personal, it doesn't mean that they're easy to do)

Think structure and organization, similar to Fiction (form serves functions)... arrangements, selectivity (SIGNIFICANT details), clarity, audience friendly, high and low moments, a sense of completion/closing/middle/beginning... like a fragmented essay, like a personal-not-private narrative.... could have parallels... can be as straight-cut as recall and last paragraph analysis/musing... since it's a process learn when to ADAPT... no magic formula/ page length... differing perspective between child and adult... some sense of resolution...

Chapter 4
Truth: exact truth and emotional truth (other truths)- Memory "is not a record of the past but the evolving myth of understanding the psyche spins from its engagement with the world" (not historical facts) but if you're going to use historical facts, double-check and make sure you're citing the facts correctly.

Different perspective ROCKs! The way you recall events will be different from others BUT it doesn't mean it's not true (the difference is okay-- you're the expert of YOUR life)

Telling the truth is hard... it has consequences: Pain (of reliving sad moments), being ostracized, betraying other's trust (revealing family secrets), recognizing the past as something not "romanticized"... be responsible with your words

advantages- learning from others, speaking on behalf of the voiceless, enjoyable- seeingone's writing grow like one's own children...

HUMOR/irony can engage (tone/ voice's authority)... think imaginative recreation of the past... be transparent with your readers (let them know you're exploring instead of coming-off as a whiner or "know-it-all"... process/journey...

Memoir is a blend of truth and art. Not necessarily scientifically or historically true, but a true experience/moment nonetheless, and art, something "made", to make... to write to show "a" truth (factual/emotional etc.). Writing is NOT just self-expression; it also shapes culture: "Our words make the world."

Chapter 5
Memoir employing fiction writing techniques (also think cinema!) to highlight a truth:

Scene- close-up, immediate, an instance, slow down, SHOWs, dialogues (essence of what the person would say, doesn't have to be verbatim, But must stay truthful to the character's personality- select... only use plain attributes if speaker is not clear, avoid descriptive attribute (she mused, she snapped, etc.)--- look hard for the HEART of what actually happened...

Summary- long shot, great distance, covers a lot of time, can be enriching with details

Musing- can be clear-cut in the end, or interjected throughout, embedded--- whatever you prefer... Insights, speculations, questions, purpose, revelations, discoveries: "the essence of memoir is 'the track of a person's thoughts struggling to achieve some understanding of a problem.'"

Note your weakness and strengths in order to improve... YOu're the director!

Chapter 6
Moving around in time: There has to be a "now" (implicit/explicit) and a "then"... the now ANCHORS readers so readers can have a starting point... "now" clarifies for the reader your struggle/ your explorations etc.... shows "on-going" nature of inquiry/self explorations

Past- retrospective, not as limited as the present
present- immediacy, limited (in the sense of clear sentence constructions)

Practice both tense separately to master!

...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2008

hodgepodge

beginning of a temporary end...

Lots of things happened since the last time I blogged: food, post-flooding, movies, crash course, memoir prep, Pioneer Day, Eng. 1010 students, good-byes...

Food:
I'm finding inventive ways to prepare left-overs for a new dining experience (I don't know why some people I know have a negative attitudes about left-overs... for me, food is food, I appreciate them. If I don't like them I avoid them nonetheless I'm always open to try new and different types...at least I'm not starving). A couple of weeks ago I "made" (heat/fry more likely) spaghetti sauce using Paul Newman's Sweet Onion and Garlic tomatoe sauce and added fresh onions, garlic powder, two sugar cube, ketchup, and a hint of cinnamon, mixed all of these with 1 lb of ground beef (too much for one person... that's why I still have left overs)... anyway, I was getting tired of boiling spaghetti noodles every night (so they're fresh at least) so one day instead of using spaghetti noodles, I mixed the sauce with my left-over Spanish rice. Then an idea occured, "why don't I make burritos?"...

days passed and I went to the grocery store and bought flour tortillas and other stuff... I tried the concoction and tried my first Italian Burrito... to make it a little bit more "healthy", I added some greens (from the Dole pre-packaged instant salad, I usually get, "Tender Garden" which consisted of sliced carrots, spinach, romaine, etc.) and drizzled it with Asian Ginger salad dressing... so it's more than just an Italian Burrito, it's an East-meets-West Burrito...

talking about the East, I revisited the Indian Oven. In the past, I've always gotten the buffet lunch special. I would spend $8 plus tax and I would be TOO full (who can resist unlimited servings?)... However this time, I opted to order from the menu so I could try other things and maybe save money. I ended up spending the same amount of money, but the good thing was that I got to try other things. The food I ordered were delicious BUT half of them were too expensive for the amount served. The strawberry lassi (yogurt drink) and the Basmati rice were sufficient.

However, the mango chutney and the chicken soup were too small for the price charge (even if they were "imported"). I didn't know what a mango chutney is; I thought it was some sort of salad. I asked the server to describe it and she said it was "sweet". She almost seemed irritated at the question, but she continued smiling. I figured for $2, it should be somewhat substantial. She came back with a small metallic container, similar to those ketchup holders in cafeterias/Wendy's. Mango chutney is like a mango jam with peppers (it's a sweet and spicy [but not too spicy] jam). Of course I didn't know what to do with it so I started mixing a little bit of it on my Basmati rice for flavor (I took the rest home to use for spread on toast).

Like I said, the soup was great but the serving was insufficient. The size was probably cup-size, but for $4, the container should be bigger. I've had soup for less in bigger containers (from The Corner Bakery and the Great Harvest Bread Co.)...

have you ever tasted an energy drink that tasted like Tang mixed with grinded/crushed Flinstones Chewable Vitamins?... I have...

Post-flooding:
a while back I blogged about my apartment flooding... the post-flood was pretty interesting. The blowers stayed in my house for 2 days (at least) and every high-elevated furniture whether desk, tables, or couch, was filled with puffy books etc. for drying. My kitchen was un-navigable. The noise from the blowers made it feel like I was in an airplane hanger; the carpet was undulating like waves, like rolling hills, like those fun-house floors, like jello. As the hours passed I learned to tune them out (luckily), and at night I turned the blower, closest to my room, off. ... tip toeing with my flip-flops, damp carpet... forgeting the floor once in a while, slipping...smell of musk/ wet dirty hair... even after the carpet was cleaned it had somewhat the smell of a bathroom but not lemon-scented fresh... days passed by and the odor is disappearing

I'm lucky that this was a very minute flood in comparison to what happened in the mid-west a couple of months ago, but I still had to work to avoid penalty (avert bills). Some of the library books I borrowed were damaged because of the flood. Talking with the maintenance people/worker in situ (in the field/ on location; apartment), I was assured that everything will be okay. On the contrary, talking with the people behind the "paper work", who handles the bills, I received a different impression... the maintenance field workers told me that there would be a letter ready for my retrieval the next day. I went to collect the letter but to my dismay the letter wasn't even ready and when I inquired about it, they responded, "Letter? we have a hand-written note..." (all that was going in my head is, "where is their sense of professionalism?"... most likely the people at USU library would take my case more seriously when I present them a typed letter with contact info rather than a hand-written note from scratch paper)... they finally asked me when i needed the letter... I replied, "As soon as possible- at the end of today, if that's okay..." I explained to them that it would be better for me to have the letter when I bring the damaged books back and that I was in the process of setting an appointment with library officials on this matter... I picked up the letter, and i knew they didn't want me there. They didn't ask me about my situation, or how I was managing with the inconvinience so of course I wanted to get out (a careless thing I did was not even read carefully the letter so if there were any mistakes I could take care of it immediately without returning)...

as soon as I got back to my apartment, I finally read the letter... while reading this letter, I became more appreciative for my English training/background... being an English major, I've been trained to be critical on how ideas are expressed especially in how words are chosen and how sentences are formed/structured (reading between the lines and other types of analysis), and I'm surprised how my English training helped me to really analyze this three short-paragraphed letter. To add to my stress, the letter suggested that I was at fault and that the library should consider the situation/factors when/if they decide to charge me for the damaged books. They averted the blame and pointed it in my direction (the water valve exploded in a locked closet, which is off limits to residents)... I keep the apartment and its visible side clean, it's their job to make sure the inner workings of the house is functioning properly.

I met up with the library, showed them the letter, brought back the backs... I explained to them my side (I sort of whined :) and gave them my interpretation... they were more sympathetic). They took the books off my accounts, and I left the letter with the contact info. One of the ladies asked if I wanted to be the mediator. I pointed out that this would me more problamatic so I said that it would be better if they contact housing personally and discuss (I can just imagine going back and forth, emailing but not getting a response, getting the run-around if I became the mediator)... a good news, I might be able to keep some of the damaged art books I borrowed (there's a chance that the library will re-order new books and disposed the rest... yes the paper is wrinkled and some pages are stuck/torn, but for the most part, the pictures are good to study)...

Movies:
I saw Hancock and Batman: The Dark Knight. They're enjoyable. I liked the anti-hero idea in Hancock but not the twist. The visuals were stunning. The beginning of Dark Knight was a bit slow for me. It's good that it's independent; there was no apparent transition from the last movie (it's sort of like in media res). Christian Bale's Batman voice was annoying and comical but as the story progressed, it got better. The Joker affected me. He irritated me (I believed his character). Dark Knight, like Hancock, had superb visuals and effects.

Crash Course:
I'm helping my Thai friends with their thesis and research paper by giving them a crash course in Eng. 1010. In 13 days we'll be talking about aristotle's rhetorics and writing as a process (13 days is not enough but at least it's something). This is all voluntary and SOMETIMES I forget this. Sometimes I get annoyed when my students had to cancel because they had to talk to their adviser. My annoyance abated tremendously when i remember that this is voluntary and they choose to seek help (it's not like they're required)... sometimes I forget that most of them are graduate students... they already had the concept of a writing process. Knowing this is good, I'm able to condense info (good for time) and move faster. They're aware of their academic audience and their subjects... so we're working on their weaknesses, which is grammar. They have the ideas, but the grammar is getting in their way of expressing their ideas (they're getting stuck because they're so occupied with their grammar that they forget the ideas. they're practicing the idea of fastwriting, badwriting, shitty first drafts etc.). So in the short time, we have, I adapted my approach.

Grammar is making more sense to me now that I'm teaching it. The short lessons, I'm currently giving them, deal with sentence structure and word choice. and in teaching these topics, I finally understood the difference between a clause and a phrase (they have similarities also). Knowing the different types of phrases, dependent (three types) and independent clauses make me more aware of how I structure my sentence and how meaning changes depending on juxtaposition (in the past, I memorized, and everything was lumped to one thing for example in the case of 'phrases'... I found this confusing in the past when I used to think in "absolutes" so if the phrase example didn't meet the phrase criteria of my understanding, I wouldn't know how to fix or identify or use it to express my thoughts (there's a distinction between prepositional and absolute phrases especially how they function). So the plan of action is to look at their adviser's marks and see how to polish the sentences so meaning is clearer.

Memoir Prep:
This Monday, my intense one-week workshop in Memoir Writing will begin. I have to finish the assigned text reading this weekend and resume reading the memoirs I borrowed from the library.

I did finish reading Louis L'Amour's memoir called, "Education of a Wandering Man". I liked it a lot because he talked about his informal education, reading, his process as a writer and his travels (I'm inspired to read one of his western novels). He even touch upon folkloric genres, such as storytelling, oral histories, etc. I also got the idea of logging the books I've read completely from him; I'm starting to record the books I've read in 2008 and I'll backtrack when I return to Philadelphia (seeing the list growing does give me a sense of accomplishment and it's interesting to just see the types of books I've read- easier to remember too).

Pioneer Day:
On Thursday, July 24, most of Utah celebrated Pioneer Day (which means universities were closed... most business remained open)... this day honored western migration, settlement of the west, etc. I wanted to see what they regularly do here in Logan to celebrate so I watched the parade, which showcased government, institution, business, people of Logan... candy were dispersed, children running for them... some pie eating contest and music- Fender Benders- recalling classic rock and roll and an acapella group, Vocalocity... there's also the food-- I ate a deep-dished pepperoni pizza for lunch, with yummy funnel cake topped with powder sugar and half apple and half peach toppings... I meandered through the small zoo in Willow Park Zoo (good collection of birds)... hours passed and it was time for another snack so I bought a Navajo Frybread served with honey butter (yum-yum!)...I didn't see the rodeo due to financial concerns (i invested money in food instead)...

my students this semester:
Today was the last day of English 1010-002 for my students. I collected their Giant Reflection paper; the last presenter went, the last four students did their "sharing my work spotlights" and facilitated a discussion- mostly about process and audience ... I gave out fun awards (it was elementary-ish but it was just a fun way to acknowledge their hard work), then they filled out the course evaluation and afterwards we had a PARTY (I gave them extra credit for bringing food for the party and most brought delicious food!).

one thing I don't like about being an instructor is being/getting attached to my class. My students have shared aspects of their lives in their writing; I scrutinized their writings that I start seeing how their minds work; I've talked with them during conference and emails and I've gotten to know a little bit about their lives (their family, a bit of their problems, their dreams)... I'm genuinely curious so the questions I asked them are questions I'm really interested in knowing/understanding... they could be sharing it because they want to share or because they're obliged by my role as their instructor (getting to know them throughout the semester, I'm leaning towards the first reason: them wanting to share)... I did offer to help them in the future, all they had to do was email me but most likely they'll move on with their lives and I'll move on with mine. I find it difficult on my part to detach myself because seeing them grow as writers makes me feel like I'm a 'writing' parent...

and another thing that I don't like is the "cold-shoulders" I get once the grades are turned in. I'm not expecting them to be my bestfriends, but congeniality would be nice (they stopped being nice and attentive once they no longer attend my class or need me)--> this is a generality of course, and on the other side of this, I've had students who remained sincere even after the semester was over...

it's easy for me to start all over again if the experience is bad BUT when it's good, it's difficult. I hope I always have good teaching experience but...going over this process over and over again is not getting any easier... the good vibes, I blogged about in the beginning of the semester proved to be true (I don't know how this would translate in the course evaluation)...I hope for good...

this semester I taught my 5th batch of English 1010 students... I guess I am learning from old experiences... this time around, the atmosphere seemed to be right enough and conducive enough for learning and collaboration... for the most part, they did their assignments and turned them in on-time (requirements and all)... I wasn't so tensed (wearing tie and slacks, don't get me wrong, I like the shirt, tie and slacks, which I own)... I was comfortable enough to take a photo of my class (which will be coming soon in Facebook), to share some writing about my interest/ a bit of my humor... some improv... the students actually discussed and when the discussion created the right prompts, it went deeper, away from superficiality... in their spotlights, they've brought out some interesting parallels and connection (I'm hoping that they'll realize this, or maybe at least in hindsight, they may discover this)... I remember the times when I'd give them a prompt and they would write in their writing binder (they were focused- all I heard were pens moving and an occasional page being turned)... I feel proud of them... I'm not saying that I'm not proud of my old students, I think it's just something about this semester, like I said everything seemed right: my approach, the receptivity of the students, the organization, etc. (the fall semester will be a different story- new textbook, new class, new students)... so the third time is not the charm, fifth time's a charm (unless you're talking about 3rd semester being a charm)...

sure I made some students angry for challenging them or making them work, trying to educate them, making them think... I might have given a student her first A- (I remember getting my first B+) so maybe I helped her start to understand that an "A" isn't everything (maybe?)... I encouraged revision... I remember the longboard demonstration...

I finished reading their Giant Reflections and for the most part, they've written positive things about their experience ... they could be buttering me up (if so at least they understand how to meet audience expectations [me] and shape subject-matter).... but a great part of me would argue against this and believe their sincerity... I was afraid that my students would get the stuck on the idea that Grammar is more important than Content, because I marked up their paper with red pen (I needed to justify the grade I gave them).... their reflections showed their understanding that Content/ideas and grammar compliment each other; I was able to show them that their ideas were good, they just needed more time in the polishing stage to work on some grammar so the ideas could be conveyed clearly.

Something happened in their education which made them loathe English and writing... based on their reflection, it appeared that most of them now were less apprehensive and thus more receptive to writing so hopefully I've started or reestablished a dialogue/bridge between them and writing/English... I sensed a change in attitude for the better...

In spite of the work and all the grading, and dealing with a few disgruntled students, I had a BLAST (makes teaching a worthy endeavor)!

Goodbye:

"Goodbye my friend[s]...It's not the end...So glad we made it, time will never never ever change it..." ~The Fab Five

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2008

Memoir Prep

On July 28, my one week intensive seminar class in Memoir writing will begin... my teacher emailed the class telling us to read Judith Barrington's book on memoirs called "Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art" ... so to prepare, I'll have to finish reading this by July 28 (pretty easy, only 176 pages), and I'll be blogging my notes, and...

I'll be reading supplementary memoirs:

David Sedaris's "Naked": I first heard of Sedaris when he came to SHU-- regretfully, I didn't attend his lecture, ironically enough missing his lecture made me want to read his works, I'm not sure which one I read first either "Me Talk Pretty..." or something about "denim/corduroy"

Mark Doty's "Firebird: A Memoir": I first heard of Doty last semester... he was supposed to visit USU but had to cancel due to health reasons... USU rescheduled him for this November so hopefully by november he'll be healthy and he could visit USU... my friend/colleague read his book called something like "Still Life with Oysters and Lemon"? for one of his class... it explored art and life and so during office hours, he'd discuss some of its aspects with me (for sure I put my two cents especially when it came to discussing art) ... eventually I read this book also ("Still Life...")

Ishmael Beah's "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier": Beah is USU's guest author for the summer so he'll be visiting USU and will give a talk... the freshmen are also reading this book... so I want to read his book before he gives his talk in August

John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley": I started reading this book last Febuary- I'd read snippets of it before I slept- hopefully I'll finish this before class begins

Louis L'Amour's "Education of a Wandering Man": I accidentally discovered him in the Logan Library, I saw a display of his works and I got interested- he wrote mostly westerns but the title of his memoir caught my attention

I'm not going to finish all of these by the 28th, the important thing is exposure and enjoyment... the first three books explores childhood (which is good because I'm prepping also for my children's folklore class this fall- reading memoirs about childhood might give me ideas for my research) and the last two books talk about travels and journey (two of my favorite things to write about)

So far I'd read the intro and chapter 1 to Barrington's book

Intro

key words/phrases: Virginia Woolf, frankness/candidness, conversation, telling our story, risk, embelishment, truth and memory

some thoughts: I never heard of Virginia Woolf until Nicole Kidman portrayed her in the movie "the Hours". After this, I kept hearing about her especially from my English and/or feminist friends... they were singing praises about Woolf's work. Initially I found this annoying so I shunned Woolf's work and did everything in my power to avoid her books...just a couple of days ago, I gave in and borrowed "the Hours" in the library (this was all coincidence- I didn't know that Barrington was going to mention Woolf in the intro)...I watched the featurettes about Woolf's life and work and "Three Women" which sort of explained how the movie was structured, I watched these before the actual movie (I didn't have a chance to finish it because I was tired and had to sleep and the following day I had to return it in the library- next time)... Barrington noted Woolf's candidness especially when she wrote a prototype for today's literary memoir insinuating an incestuous relationship with her half brother (one of the other things she wrote about which interests me is her childhood memoir exploring her relationship with her mother- most likely I'll try to read this one also)...

Being frank and candid was initially scary... but I remember what I told my students when I explained to them their personal narrative assignment... we discussed the difference between "personal" and "private"- the subtle difference lies in the author's feeling of comfort: is she/he WILLING and comfortable enough to SHARE her/his experience? With this in mind, being frank wasn't so terrifying.

I like conversing and the idea of telling one's story (I feel lucky because the classes I'm taking seem to connect with each other. For example... In June, I took a seminar in Life Stories...I'm about to take Memoir class (telling an aspect of one's life), and in the fall, I'll be taking "Storytelling" [telling stories])... the idea about conversing is pretty dynamic because whenever you converse with people, in a way you are performing... you interact with them (read their gestures/facials and react to these), there is a tone or two in your voice, you pantomine, you do a lot of things (an idea just popped out: Is memoir writing the literary version of oral storytelling?).

I related when Barrington mentioned risk of offending others like parents and friends, etc. whenever I write about them in my blog, I usually use the ambiguous pronoun... this is something I need to explore more...

Embelishments, truth and memory all seem to contradict each other... a semester ago I would have believe it too... my mind changed and adapted to new information/enlightenment I got after finishing my seminar in June about Life Stories... one of the things I learned was that memory is like history, both are selective, we usually remember what is the most memorable, depending on the victor or writer/recorder... from a lifetime of memories, our brains usually select the most dramatic and meaningful... it's okay to be selective- it doesn't mean that it's the only truth, or it can't be true, it's our perception, our impression of our experience, how it affected us mentally/physically/spiritually/emotionally etc.

Chapter 1

Definition:
old concept- memoirS back then were closely associated with autobiography- broader, covering all aspects of a person's LiFe...tries to be factual, relies on facts/research... more than just memory

current concept- memoir, literary essay-like, focused, an aspect of a person's life (story from a life), such as Childhood, more in-depth...I like what Philip Lopate said about memoirs and other "informal or familiar essay" such as diatribe, moral philosophy, fantasy, etc. ... the author's voice (engaging, personality-galore, relax/conversational- the author's signature/fingerprint/identity) distinguishes this genre from others (it plays a CENTRAL role)... it's personal but uses fiction writing techniques (like the personal narrative I assigned my Eng. 1010 students)... an impression... author assumes role of narrator to help with distance even though he's still narrating about an aspect of his life

-person's thoughts/mental struggle is the plot/adventure (author both tells an amusing story and muses about it)
-narrator conversing intimately, like a columnist
-"Not everything in a memoir is factually accurate" (26)- this statement helps me understand Sedaris memoir more... some of the writing in "Naked" seem really out there and even if they are "out there" I still believe him. What Barrington said about the assertion of the author, which affects the reader, is starting to make sense. I believe what Sedaris is writing about because he believes in the story he's telling me. I find him reliable as a narrator (credible enough to tell me his experience). I TRUST him, his voice.

I like this quote "Self Revelation without analysis or understanding becomes merely an embarrassment to both reader and writer." I encountered this personally after I finished grading some of my students' personal narrative (in the Fall/Spring/Summer semester)... I always tell them to answer the "so-what" question in the end, i'd tell them that after they "recalled" an experience they needed to "assess" it also... I'd comment on their papers and ask them "so what?" (I know this sounds harsh...it was with good intention that I said this)... so what that "you didn't want to disappoint your parents?" so what that "you're living by yourself?"... another way I tried to approach this, "why is this memory/experience important to you?"... it's easy for me to ask these questions on other people's paper but when it comes to my own paper, I too struggle (I'm not the outsider seeing the essay objectively)... I'm the insider, writing, in the the midst of all the reliving/figuring out...I've learned though that what usually helps me is to see some kind of pattern (analyze the before and after, how the experience/memory affected me?, what changed? etc.)

tips for beginning a Memoir:
-find a focus/theme (not your whole life) - I'm thinking about childhood, Philippines, being a GI, my house
-be in a judgmental/questioning state of mind- working on this...
-read good memoirs for example- On-going with Sedaris, Doty, Beah, Steinbeck, L'Amour
-find your voice- I practice this all the time when I blog and in my journals...

I'm on my way...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:15 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2008

flooding

today I experience being a flood victim in a miniscule scale... since I'm a creative writer, this entry will be extra dramatic... I'm going to blow everything out of ProPortioN because it's fun (plus it's one of the nature of writing)

Dorm flooding seems to follow me... when I was in SHU, my room in Canevin got flooded since my room was in the first floor, the flooding was the result of gravity... one of the pipes in the ground floor got clogged so everything was back up ... obviously the build up water can't climb all the way to 4th canevin... it has to get out somehow... why not in 1st floor canevin?

I'm in grad school now and I've updated my living space... I no longer live in "dorms" instead, I live in "graduate housing"... my one room dormitory has evolved into a two-room apartment with my own bathroom, living room, kitchen, and a mini back-porch (for my bike) [slowly climbing the ladder]... here's where the drama unfolds...

I just finished tutoring my thai friends in the library (2nd day in giving them a crash course in eng. 1010)... I'm bicycling towards my apartment... I went towards the back-porch instead of the front because this is where I usually put the bike (Yellow submarine)...

the curtains were pulled all the way to one side exposing my apartment, the couch was outside... my painting is still hanging... I see a stranger inside my apartment walking around (usually my first instinct would be- burglar must call cops... but the positive side of me kicked in "I must have a new roommate and he's moving in" the stranger was really closed to the hanging painting, I thought he was going to remove it... looking back there was no logic... I didn't question why the couch was outside, why nobody told me about a possible roommate, why my living room was empty... always looking at the bright side...

I finally entered the apartment ... I discovered that there were 3 strangers and everything was moved in the kitchen and there were blowers on the ground... "I lived here, what happened?" surprisingly I was calm, and they were calm too...

one of them answered me "one of your water/heater pipes burst... your neighbor called us saying that water was coming out of your apartment..."

in my mind I thought they were going to blame me so immediately I said,"It must have happened sometime in the afternoon because I left in the morning"

"Yeah, your neighbor called... when we came in, there were at least 2 inches of water... the stuff in your bedroom didn't get that wet... but some of your books and paintings got wet..."

then i started to think, what paintings? what books?- I saw in the kitchen counter the watercolor books, paper and supplies were wet... the good thing is that the wet paper were water color papers so they're used to being wet (I was a bit sad because a wet paper, even though it's still in tact, will change the water color effects... then i got somewhat happy because this is easy to replace... good thing I didn't start my big water color project- I can't imagine spending hours doing a water color piece and find it destroyed)... i stopped thinking about the paper, once i saw the wet books (books that weren't mine... they belonged to USU's library)... once again I'm surprised at the things I was thinking about... I just experienced a mini catastrophe and I'm thinking about money...

immediately I asked, "Can you write me note explaining that I had a flood? because those books are not mine... they belong to the library..."

"Sure... which library?"

"USU's, Merrill Cazier..."

" we'll have the letter typed out some time in the afternoon tomorrow"

he did bring out the point that "good thing your neighbor called... can you just imagine entering you apartment and finding water everywhere" and it's true, I'd probably be more freaked out!

they talked amongst themselves... mentioning that if they have to pay for it, they'll have to, it was their job, their responsibility (hearing this was a relief... then later I got sad again because they were really nice books... I needed them for my watercolor project and two of them are memoirs I'm reading for my class)...

they left... the blowers stayed... I can turn them off when I sleep and turn them back on tomorrow when I leave... one of them or another crew will come back tomorrow and "assess" the situation (I might get new carpets, yippee!)... coincidentally most of my personal books were somewhat saved, it's just everything else... everything in the living room has been moved in the kitchen... my room has been pushed to one side... my bed is no longer parallel to the wall, it lays diagonally across my room... in each doorway the blowers block the entrance... if i want to get from one place to another I have to hurdle over them... wet carpet, dank/musky smell... kitchen floor a bit slippery/lots of smudges... I probably don't have hotwater, which sucks when I take my shower tomorrow morning...

my hunger sort of disappeared but I know this will kick in later- body stress is probably adapting [so while I typed this entry, I put rice in the rice cooker in order to cook it... the great thing is that this didn't happen during finals week (knock on wood)... it's summer, I only have one class to teach... my own class won't take place until the 28th of july, there are no other stress factors which can make the situation worse

my tv time got interrupted but at least I'll have time to force myself to read my textbook for my memoir class... I have nothing else to do, and I can't sleep this early...

most of my shoes are wet.... funny thing, this one pair of shoes I try not using during rainy season is now soaked, I hope it's not broken...

watercolor sketches cover the stove burners... books lay open for drying...

maybe the flood is telling me to clean my apartment more (I did plan to have a late summer cleaning in early August, I would have finished my teaching and my own classes- I would have more time)...

i survived the flood, well anyway, at least most of my stuff survived the flood...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:53 PM | Comments (2)

July 13, 2008

Melange

eclectic delicacy

if you ever get a chance, go try Cottage cheese and marshmallows- they have the same color but eating them together and depending which one you chew first, it has one of those before and after sort of taste

evils of CRACK

one day you can be flying through life, getting by, life is sunny as you cruise, feeling the breeze that ruffles your silky hair and then you encounter CRACK and it brings you down, your life comes crashing down, you fall, drama of scraped knees and palms... dirty, no matter how hard you fall, you must get up and pick up your life again... OH I'm talking about sidewalk cracks, most likely the other crack (the drug) can be dangerous too...

journey to Spaghetti Land

next time I'll only use half a pound of ground beef... cooking the ground beef was interesting...first I tried frying it but I got intimidated so I just boiled it to completely cook it... I used the Newman Sweet Onion and Garlic tomatoe sauce...I added some fresh onions, garlic powder... to make it watery, added ketchup... to make it 'a la Philippines'- I placed two sugar cubes and when I served it, a hint of cinnamon... weird? i didn't screw up the pasta- it boiled well, it wasn't clumpy or lumpy!

the journey was messy, but the destination was delicious (satisfaction)

Mexican Jello

easy to make- add four cups of milk to gelatin mix and refrigerate.... similar to Philippine Jello during fiestas... Coconut flavor! Yummy!

Get Smart (the movie)

-overall good, better than the Love Guru, more jokes not revealed in the commercial...Steve Carrell humor is definitely present...

Story collecting

could be better but I'll deal with whatever I have... I have to read back issues of Children's Folklore Review to jump start my research paper... I met up with my storytelling professor to talk about my duties as one of her TAs...

students

I'm having a good time teaching this summer... the students so far are showing more dedication in comparison to students who took Eng. 1010 in the fall and spring semesters... and because I'm crazy, I decided to give 2 of my thai friends a crash course on effective writing (using prnciples in the Eng 1010 curriculum) in 13 days [something is better than nothing]...

End of Summer semester

the next 2 weeks will be insane- 2 more major assignments to grade, student conference and presentation... then I need to prepare for my intense one week seminar in Memoir Writing...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 11:28 AM | Comments (2)

July 12, 2008

asking for help totally failed

the silver lining and the bright side... one story is better than no story...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:09 AM | Comments (3)

July 5, 2008

HELP: Tell Me a Story!

Hello SHU community and Beyond... I need everybody's help (students, professors, doctors, etc. ALL ages, it doesn't matter)... most of you know that I'm a graduate student studying Chidlren's Folklore... I have a project to do and it involves collecting stories...

My project is not due until Dec. 2008 and right now I'm just doing pre-liminary research... Here's how YOU can help... "STORIES" is a pretty BROAD term, and I'm trying to narrow my focus and find an angle...

I'm trying to narrow my focus by asking you to share a childhood story that's so memorable to you... the stories I collect here will hopefully give me a focus and an angle to PREPARE this fall when I start officially collecting them in a methodical manner with proper documentation etc.... I won't use your stories other than to get a "feeling" and if I do use your story, I'll send you an individual email asking for permission (you can refuse or accept- no hard feelings)...

I talked to one of my advisers, and she reminded me that "stories" is broad and to make things complicated a child's sense of story is even vague (depending on the age and other exposures/factors- a child might associate jokes, riddles, fairy tales etc. as stories-- the other tricky thing is that I'm asking YOU [people of all AGES] with different backgrounds/concepts/perspective to SHARE with me... I'll never know what I'll find unless I ask ... so PLEASE PARTICIPATE (you can ask all my teachers: St. Matthias, Arch. John Carroll HS, SHU, USU, that I have good academic integrity so I won't abuse the information you share with me)

so If you're interested in participating just comment on this entry and tell me your story in the comment section (pass the word and tell everybody you know, who'd like to participate)...

here are some guidelines:

1. Think back when you were 10 years old (or close to that age), Tell me a story (it doesn't matter what genre- I'm being vague here on purpose because I'm trying to find out something) that you remember telling your peers? What story(s) was popular in your group? What did you tell each other? I'm looking for Personal stories not Private stories and REMEMBER to SHOW a lot (with details) instead of to TELL.

Thanks for participating and helping me! Once my focus is narrowed and I find an angle, I would know how to analyze whatever data I get; and I would have a better idea on how to approach this project this Fall, so thanks in advance!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:35 PM | Comments (1)

Cooking, citizenship, and chillin' at fastfood eateries...

last week I cooked my first beef steak...

first I had to somewhat defrost the meat... so I ran hot water on it (is this sanitary?)...once the meat was somewhat malleable/bendable, I marinated it somewhat... I sprinkled an estimated pinch of salt and pepper on both sides...then I think I used a teaspoon of lemon juice to spread on one side (repeated for the other side)... I just let all (salt,pepper, lemon juice) settle/marinate the meat (for at least 20 minutes)...

while those ingredients was flavoring the meat, I prepared the pan...I prewarmed the pan for a minute on high...then lowered it to medium and spread 2 tablespoon of olive oil... 20 minutes past, and I place the meat in the pan to fry it... it sizzled and the oil leapt/splattered creating a halo around the pan (grease stains?-- this is why the stove gets dirty [now i understand])...sometimes I felt the pin-prickly feeling of oil stinging me...it's like the bites of fire-ants (but milder?)...

I kept flipping one side to make sure both sides are nice and brown (bloody stuff started to exudes from the meat- heat causing the meat to clean itself?)... I fried both sides for five minutes to be sure (the good thing is that I didn't burn it-- sure some of the edges were charred, but it was still delicious)... once the supposed frying time ended, I lowered the heat and poked the meat... no liquidy stuff was coming out (good sign that it's cooked) and then I cut it in half to see the insides, it wasn't pink/reddish (another good sign)...

I served this along with rice-roni's Cheddar and broccoli flavored rice (which wasn't that difficult and daunting to cook- just add water, butter, rice-roni and BOIL- once it reached its boiling point, lower the heat and let it "simmer")... I was full in the end... I ate the left overs for dinner the next day...

A couple of days after cooking this beef steak, I experimented with canned tuna and eggs...

I sliced half an onion (I learned that in order to prolong the life of the onion, one must slice it and put it in the freezer) and a Roma tomato... I spread one teaspoon of olive oil on the pan (I didn't want the same oil splatter- plus the tuna is pretty much cook so I figure little oil is needed)...

I put everything together and the last thing i added was the scrambled egg... I think I might have overcooked everything in the end because the tuna was a little dry (overcooking is better than undercooking especially when it comes to raw eggs)... everything is still edible and delicious for me (just add a little ketchup)... I ate this with white rice (I recently discovered a working rice cooker in my apartment, hiding in one of those cabinets in the kitchen [my first flatmate left it and I'm glad he did!])...my next cooking project will be SPAGHETTI (coming soon!)...

A couple of days ago on July 2nd (2008), my parents and brother became American citizens (I became one before 2006)... I wasn't able to attend the ceremony because I'm in Logan, UT teaching... I called them and they just received the card I sent them... I watched the fireworks on July 3rd with my thai friends and for July 4th, I just stayed in my apartment dorm and chillaxed (watched tv, graded two papers, caught up with scrapbooking etc.- very laid-back)...

So far this summer, I've been balancing between cooking and eating out: cooking my own food, and either eating at the university cafeteria or eating at local eateries (fastfood chain or not)...in the passed couple of days, I frequented Taco Time and Subway...

Taco Time
McDonalds has its Burger King and Taco Bell has its TACO TIME...Taco Time claimed that they used fresh ingredients and they probably do... BUT eveything gets lost when cooking is approached in an assembly-line fashion... I tried their new Pork Quesidilla served with a scoop of rice and beans with tortilla chips and green sauce (verde chili)... the tortilla and chips' supposed crispyness was on the verge of being overly toasted... in the end, I still preferred Henriquez Mexican and Salvadorian Grill (cooked just right and cheaper!)...

Subway
I tried the Foot-long special for $5 and it was good... I ate the first half for lunch and the other half for dinner... Overall a good bargain, and it filled me up... I had the roasted chicken breast on Monterey Cheese loaf with spinach, pickles, tomatoes and honey mustard sauce... this was also approached in assemmbly-line fashion but somehow it worked for a sandwich-type meal... for dessert, I walked over to Juniper's and had the Caramel Pecan Icecream (it was okay, it wasn't like the Gelati's I would have in Philadelphia, but still acceptable)...

YUMMY!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2008

Tagalog Test for a Native-born

Why did a person, who was born in the Philippines and grew up there for 9 years, take the Tagalog language proficiency test at BYU (Provo)?

the person I'm talking about is Me (if that wasn't obvious)... most of you know that I'm trying to complete a master's program in Folklore (in the hopes of supplimenting my BA in creative writing [English])... one of the requirements in a Master of Arts (MA) degree is proficiency in TWO languages...

Originally, I planned on brushing up on my Spanish and making this count for my second language... last semester, I reviewed and took the Spanish placement test and I passed the Spanish 1010 level, which meant that I had three more levels to complete before I'm considered proficient (SP 1020, 2010, 2020?)... in an ideal world where I have more time (more than two years), this task can be easily accomplished...

HOWEVER in the REAL world where I teach two classes and take two classes in my program, I gain opportunities and lose some. I'm building up my CV-resume and picking up skills with the teaching and at the same time I'm not able to focus time in studying Spanish... the few down times/break I have is just that, few and rare- I still have to be SANE. So during these few breaks, I do what sane people do: take a break!

I reached a point where I had no problems accepting a Master of Science (MS) instead of a MA (I figure that after I complete my program and I have more time, I can continue practicing Spanish and maybe there's a test out there I can take to show proficiency and I can show this "certificate" to my future employer) But my colleagues still kept saying that MA is better (favored) because of the language requirement (another skill)...

I was about to just settle for the MS when one of my friend/colleagues (who went on a mission in the Philippines and spoke/studied Tagalog) suggested: "Why don't you take the test for Tagalog?" BYU in Provo was offering this test (Tagalog as a subgenre of Spanish)... and he gave me the website to find out more information...

Can I do this? I thought to myself... I went to the website. It was clear that BYU students who spoke Tagalog was exempt from taking this exam. But I'm a USU student, and reading between the lines, there is a chance for me because the website states that other institutions may have a different policy for language profiiciency...

with hope, I went to the director for the graduate program for the English Department here at USU to clarify this idea... The issue of "NATIVE SPEAKER" came up. I asked him how USU defines "native speakers"...

my rational: yes I was born in the Philippines, and I grew up there for 9 years, the highest formal education I received in the Philippines is 2nd grade... after that I went to the U.S. from 3rd grade to the present, I've had an American education... in both situations whether speaking Tagalog or English, listening/writing/reading Tagalog or English, I still struggle, I still miss the nuances in both language (eventually I get it but it doesn't come easily)...

...here's where the situation gets knotty (for my case specifically), during the meeting with the director we tried to figure out which test I should take... if Tagalog is considred my native language, then that means technically I can take some sort of TOEFL test... if English is considred my native language then I can take the Tagalog test... here's where it gets tricky, the director pointed out the discriminatory nature of testing a native on the procifiency of his native language, he brought up a good point: if a Tagalog speaking person is being tested on Tagalog, then why aren't Americans tested on English to show that they're proficient in it?...

Here's another factor in my case, I'm a graduate instructor (GI), and one of the requirements for being a GI is being proficient in English; if I weren't then the English Department wouldn't have hired me. The director pointed out that taking the English proficiency test would be pointless because I already surpassed this requirement when I was hired ... at the end of that meeting, we sort of settled on the idea that I'm BILINGUAL... right now the director is writing a letter to the dean of graduate studies about my case...

I wonder if the bilingual factor was considered in the clause "proficiency in two languages"... if I don't take Spanish, if I passed the Tagalog or English test, would I still get the coveted MA?

Weeks passed...

I haven't heard from the director (I'll email him next month) but I still took the Tagalog test last Saturday June 28 with my friend (I took it because the testing site is in Provo [2 hours from Logan at least] and I don't have a car, and it was only $30-- it's an investment- if this is succesfull then I save TIME and I get an MA instead of a MS, and if it's not, then it's ONLY $30)

I still have to REVIEW my Tagalog... it was sort of fun, I just listened to most of my Tagalog music cds, and I read this humorous/satiric Tagalog with English book about culture of and problems in the Philippines called "Bakit Baligtad magbasa ng libro ang Pilipino?" by Bob Ong (Why do Filipinos read books backward [upside-down]?)... I sort of wanted to do more, for example, read Tagalog news and watch Filipino TV on-line, do some chatting with my missionary friend who spoke Tagalog... but I waited until the week of the test to get SERIOUS about this test (I couldn't believe that I was going to take the test)...

I listened to Tagalog music when I woke up, while I graded, while I read, while I cooked etc.... then I read Ong's book everyday at least 20-30 pages a day (getting through this book was difficult but it helped me with vocab and grammar- while reading this book, I found it easier to read it when I read it outloud or in whispers...

on the day of the test, I woke up at 4:30 am, my friend with his family, and I left Logan at 6:30 am... we were supposed to be at the testing site 20 minutes before 9... we arrived 3 minutes before 9... the test was scantron- multiple choice, listening, and reading comprehension...

I thought the grammar's difficulty was okay... it was a bit tricky because I got confused between formal and informal... then when I started to overanalyze it too much, I ended up second-guessing my answer/instinct... I followed the old/ sometimes irrational adage "If it sounds right, then it's correct"... sometimes I whispered the phrases so I could hear it (it's amazing how audio can make meaning clearer)...

the listening was okay... there were funny moments especially when the questions and answer choices were sort of absurd that they're funny... the test takers laughed (they undertood and caught the absurdity)... once again, the only time I had difficulty was when I overanalyzed-- sometimes rather than paying attention and listening to the dialogues, I'd make up my own dialogue and finish the dialogue OR sometimes I'd construct the dialogue based on the choices of answers the test provided... Luckily I stopped this habit and focused (hopefully not too late)...

the reading comprehension part was the most difficult... I had to translate 12 passages, each passage got longer and the vocabularies got bigger (the nice thing was that the passages dealt with some cultural aspects of the Philippines: values, religion, weather, foodways, literature, history, etc.- nice cultural review)... the annoying thing was that it took FOREVER translating the passages, and they'd only ask three questions or so--)

a good test-taker would just look at the question and look for "key phrases"- I didn't feel comfortable doing this because it's been a while since I took a formal test on Tagalog... so I translated sentence by sentence-- the advantage of doing this is that the information is retained longer in my brain, and I feel more confident in answering the questions and if I'm not then I know where to find the information in the passage...

translating was fun... when the passage was short, i translated it to the best of my ability following English grammar rules... but the longer and more complicated the passages became, I forgot about the grammar and I focused on the idea (somehow the translation started looking like choppy poetry)... I started taking shortcuts (using letters to designate names, or Mars and Venus symbols for gender, slang, etc.)...

I finished the test 20 minutes before time was up (11:45)- I decided to re-check the grammar section... If I pass, I hope this could replace the language requirement for my program so I could receive a MA instead of a MS...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:49 PM | Comments (5)