“Dixie Zen” Article Discussion

This article by Sam Anderson is an exercise in vivid descriptions. His opening line is evocative: “People often compare the summer heat of Louisiana to being locked in a sauna for three months.” With just a few words, Anderson has set a tone for the rest of the work.

I think this piece is important for people wanting to write personal narratives or long-form stories. There has to be such an absolute commitment to the subject, to find stories and moments that will capture a reader.

Additionally, this work is a piece of differentiation. What makes tubing in Louisiana a quasi-religious experience that simply cannot be replicated by the rest of the country is deftly explored by Anderson: “In Oregon or Nebraska, tubing is just an incidentally wet version of a stroll in the woods, the spiritual equivalent of a hundred other outdoor leisure activities. In the South, it represents one of the only possible escapes from a greenhouse climate threatening to replace human life with ferns. Southerners are forced to tube.”

With these points in mind, here are some discussion starters and questions.

  1. Find your favorite line of description in the work. Why does it speak to you?
  2. Were there any moments were you thought a detail was extraneous? Were there moments where the detail at first seemed unnecessary, but you appreciated as you read further?
  3. When were you first hooked on the story? Did it not hook you? Why or why not?
  4. Do you have an activity that inspires the same feeling in you that tubing does it Anderson? Take a moment to write it down.

Please clip your toenails at home

So I started thinking about what my pet peeves are, but I realized I could allow just about anything to annoy me. I seriously think almost any daily action that someone does could be a pet peeve of mine (this is probably a character flaw-whoops). But Some major things I recently thought of that really stick out to me:
-Guys who wear Timberland boots around campus & don’t pick up their feet when they walk. Please, you aren’t walking through molasses, there’s no reason to drag your shoes under your feet like that.
-People who don’t let people exit the bus before they board.
-People who REFUSE to move onto the higher standing deck of the bus to make room for other people. Nearly every day I watch as people stand paralyzed & refuse to walk up the three steps on the bus to make room for others, why?!?!
-People that recline on airplanes-come on man, you know when you recline you take literally half of the person’s space behind you.
-When people clip their nails on airplanes. Are you serious? There is less than 5 inches of space in between us, and you want to send your toenails flying into my lap? No.

-People who take their shoes off on airplanes.
-People that put their hand inside the cereal box at the dining hall whenever they go to get cereal. Do you realize how unsanitary this is?!?! The cereal will come out of the box just fine if you simply open the box and pour, yet you felt the need to reach your grimy hand in there and scoop it out into your bowl-ugh

I think I could go on for days about things that bug me. Maybe these are real pet peeves, but maybe I’m also just easily bothered?

Scapegoating and makin’ change



Pet peeves are interesting. I don’t really have anything too strongly that I have a real issue with. Except, actually, maybe people not being sure of themselves. Which is what I just demonstrated in the previous sentence. I get annoyed at the sound of people coughing, really dry, dry coughs. I’m afraid that this post is going to turn into one giant rampage about things I hate, which I don’t want it to become.

Thinking about pet peeves, things that annoy me, I think about recent news of this umich kid Jake, who was caught on camera verbally abusing an Uber driver. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Over Facebook there had been a variety of responses– a lot of people furious, “disgusted” at him for his behavior. And his behavior was awful. But over the day today, I heard a few people say some pitying comments about him, how this one event in his life is going to follow him for a while now, as it’s immortalized on the internet. I hated the fact that people were pitying him.

But, then I read a Facebook post from one of my FB friends, which basically described how those sharing the video and calling him out for his behavior was just “bullying the bully,” which, in the end, does no good, and that we should stop assuming this self-righteousness as we criticize this guy for his actions, but then don’t take any “real” action to make change in the larger governmental and society systems and on people who actually have power. I’m still forming my opinion on this. I do agree that no one benefits from extreme bullying, trying to demonize one person and creating a scapegoat out of him. But, at the same time, I also believe that it’s still important to call out classist, racist, homophobic situations, to bring these (unfortunately) norms of our culture to light.

For the love of God, hold the door

I like to think I’m a pretty level-headed person. I personally wouldn’t say I have a short temper.

But three things drive me absolutely crazy. Let’s call them pet peeves. I’ll just list them for you, so I don’t start angrily rambling too much.

1. Hold the door

I’m not sure when this started standing out to me. But one day, while I was walking to class, someone opened the door in front of me and made absolutely no effort to hold it open. Like c’mon man, two seconds to keep the door open and help the guy out who’s walking behind you? Is that too much to ask?

It just seems like such a simple task that shows some common courtesy. Hold the door open, you might make my day. Maybe someone else’s too.


2. Airplane étiqueté.

When I go home to Long Island for the holidays, I hop on a plane. And obviously, when that plane lands, you have to grab your luggage overhead. But for some reason, people seem to really struggle with the concept of letting the row in front of you go first. I think it’s common sense, but maybe other people don’t.

Either way, it really gets under my skin. Especially when I flew home for Christmas and I watched a middle-aged couple blow by a college girl with crutches trying to get out of her row. What the hell middle-aged couple? Row 1 gets their luggage, exits the plane. Then Row 2 gets their luggage, exits the plane, and so on. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

3. Backseat driving

This past weekend, I was appointed as the driver for a trip to Cincinnati to cover the NCAA Hockey Tournament. No one else wanted to drive, and that was fine. I don’t really mind driving. It was all going well until about two hours in.

“Drive faster. Drive slower. Why aren’t you passing that guy?”

Maybe waking up at 7:45 that morning had something to do with my response.

“Would you like me to pull over so you can drive?”

Besides, Michigan’s game wasn’t until six anyway. The only difference that would have come from driving 80 mph, as opposed to 90 mph, was a speeding ticket. And I definitely didn’t feel like paying that.


Anyway, I’m done. I hope that didn’t come across as pessimistic. We all just have those things that grind our gears, ya know?

When you realize you are your biggest pet peeve…

Many people share similar pet peeves: obnoxiously loud chewing, the scratching of nails on a chalkboard, clicking of pens in a silent library, slow walkers, etc. Although I do experience all of these annoyances, for me, liars take the win. Nothing makes me more angry than liars. I will never understand how someone can look someone else in the eye, and tell a complete lie. Maybe this is because I am an extremely honest person. Maybe this is because I am an extremely gullible person. Maybe this is because I tend to easily trust what I am told by others. Maybe this is because I have never told a lie before. Or maybe its because I have been lied to before. But lying is that number one thing for me that causes my body to tighten up and cringe. When I find out someone has lied, I simply cannot wrap my head around it.


Confession: I did not post my entire piece from the most dangerous writing app because I was embarrassed about what came next when I ran out of things to say. Hence the title…

Wow I’m aggressive and other thoughts

The Most Dangerous Writing App:

I’m a fairly levelheaded person, so for me, pet peeves are kind of a big deal. I either don’t mind something or I absolutely hate it. And I’ve learned that by having roommates at college.

You don’t know how temperamental you can be until you live with someone. You share your space, you see them constantly, and you, unfortunately, experience a kind of round-the-clock closeness. There are certain harmless quirks and habits that drive me absolutely insane, and I blame it all on the constant being together.

When they say things, normal things, normal jokes or comments, and I hear them every single day, I have absolutely no patience, and I can’t even pretend not to be annoyed.

I get the worst scowl on my face, and I’m a genuinely unpleasant person. And I hate that about myself, because I should be able to put on a smile and pretend that every time they laugh I don’t want to scoop my eyeballs out with a spoon. I don’t think that this means I’m the worst person ever, but I am arguably the worst roommate ever. And if I know one thing about myself, it’s that I don’t live well with other people.

And my thoughts:

Wow I’m aggressive.

While this go round of The Most Dangerous Writing App was more successful than the last, I like the result less. I was able to type straight through, without “failing,” but because I didn’t think about the topic beforehand, I went with the first thing that popped into my head.

And consequently, I think I painted myself like an annoying and sensitive person. But I’ve decided to post the results anyway, because I know that at least part of this post is true.


I think the most dangerous writing app is slowly killing me

Pet Peeves… Oh God… I have so many. People that chew too loudly. People who don’t say please and thank you to wait staff. People who put their gum on their plate while eating and then chew it again after. When someone looks over my shoulder while I’m trying to do something. People who say like every other word. People who talk to quietly. People who talk to loud. People who try and get on a train while people are trying to get off. Just let them get off first, jeez. People that don’t use silverware when they eat. People who lick their fingers. People who don’t hold the door for someone right behind them. People who make excuses. People who have bad grammar. People who have bad spelling. People who play their music too loudly in their headphones, so that others have to hear it. People who talk on the phone loudly in public places. People who don’t spit their toothpaste down the drain so that it stains the sink. People who don’t clean up after themselves. People who are late. People who knock into me and don’t say excuse me. Wow, this probably sounds like a crazy rant. I really an not a negative person, I swear. I guess the words Pet Peeve just triggered me.

I Hate Animals: My First Experience Writing Dangerously

What animal are you? What’s your spirit animal? What’s your favorite animal? These are the ice breaking questions that I dread the most. My natural response is to say that I hate animals. But, that is not the type of thing that you can just say to a group of people. It’s like they equate animal haters with serial killers. Oh no this lady at Starbucks asked if I could watch her stuff, and almost caused me to lose the game. Anyways, I’m back. Animals. They’re disgusting. They smell bad. Most are not potty trained. They shed. I just don’t understand what there is to like about them. Now, I’m not a psycho. I don’t go around lighting cats on fire or anything like that. But that is the assumption when I tell people that I hate animals. That’s why I always hesitate to answer the question honestly. I always have to explain to people that I’m not a psychopath, but that I just try to avoid animals at all costs. I don’t go to zoos and I try not to go to people’s houses who have pets. It’s really not that difficult to avoid. The one problem is that the rest of my family loves animals. Unfortunately for me, I was outvoted 4-1 and we have a 80 pound, super sheddy, yellow lab.

Literati Event with Robin Queen

I must say, I was incredibly surprised by Robin’s interview at Literati. When I think of a linguist, I generally think of someone who is interested in how language works and how it has evolved; however, this wasn’t an exclusive interest of Robin’s – in fact, she seemed to almost favor creative works in writing her books. Admittedly, I have long held the view that academic work (such as linguistics in this case) are quite different than anything made for mainstream consumption. Somehow Robin has struck a balance between the two and I found this to be really interesting.

Robin also mentioned that in her writing, she often views it as an interaction with others. I have often heard that writing should be viewed as a conversation between the author and the reader, and this sentiment was echoed in the interview. But Robin put a spin on this that I had never really heard before: while writing is obviously meant to be read, Robin stated that she writes with the intention of having it be read aloud. This means that the way words sound, the way they interact, and the flow between words are all taken into account in her writing (I guess a lot of this makes sense, given her linguistic background). I think that all writers do this to some extent, in that words and flow are important – but never have I sat down and thought, “What would this sound like if I wanted it to be read aloud? And how would that change my writing process leading up to a finished product?”

To be completely honest, I’m not even sure how I would go about writing something that was strictly meant to be read aloud. Nor am I sure of how my message or argument would sound. Would I have to write the piece more like a speech? Or perhaps maybe a transcription? Or would I just have to write it like a normal paper and hope that it sounded the same read out loud? This would certainly yield some interesting literary conventions, as you would also have to juggle the sound structure of words in addition to the other rhetorical techniques that accompany writing.

Additionally, Robin mentioned that she will sometimes handwrite a lot of her work. This got me thinking: when’s the last time I handwrote a paper? And similarly to writing with the intention of having it read out loud, how would this change my argument and prose? While it may seem like a relatively insignificant change of pace, I think there are some interesting consequences that could arise from writing with pen and paper. Perhaps this would manifest in more “stream of consciousness” writing, or perhaps maybe in more deliberate works (who wants to drag out pages and pages worth of handwriting when you can more efficiently type the same thing?), but at any rate, these all might be fun conventions to try in future writing.

Priorities, people

When I woke up yesterday to go to my meeting with Raymond, I packed my bag with clothes for the gym and work for the library. I had my meeting with Raymond and then headed toward campus. I went to the gym, did my workout, and then, of course, walked straight home – the work in my bag left sadly unattended. On my walk home, I noticed that the weather had become sunny and warm – very springlike. So when I got home I was overcome by a very severe case of spring cleaning fever. I spent more than two hours cleaning the kitchen, family room and my already clean bedroom. As I did these things, I made a decision: no work until the sun goes down.

I woke up this morning and made the exact same decision. I spent the day rearranging the eggs my housemates and I had dyed until they were in the perfect position for an Instagram post. I walked with one of my housemates to Lucky’s Market, where I spent $30 on things I didn’t need: fruit and coconut water – which, on its own, tastes like sweat by the way – for a smoothie, a rotisserie chicken and some flowers. I made my smoothie, de-chickened my bird, called my dad and took a shower.

But on neither occasion did I regret my decision, despite the fact that I have a thesis due on Friday and feel horrifyingly lost and overwhelmed when it comes to my capstone project. So as I stood in the shower this afternoon, I thought about why I repeatedly made this decision. Was it just senioritis kicking in? Maybe so, but I realized for me senioritis is about more than just being tired and sick of work. It’s about prioritizing other things over work. As the amount of work I have piles up and the pressure to power through increases, I allot less and less time to it and more time to things that make me increase me personal happiness. And in doing so, I almost feel less stressed, because I am happier. I know everything will get done. When has it ever not?

So how is everyone else coping with their senioritis? Has anyone avoided it? Has any person ever?