a new perspective

I’ll be honest, it was nice to have somebody make a decision for me. Its not easy to make decisions. I find that weird because when picking between two things I usually want one of them more than the other. I guess I just find committing to that one thing to be the hard part.

Going forward, my favorite idea that Yona gave me was making a documentary. I wasn’t told what to make the documentary about, but making a documentary was something I never would have thought to do. In Writing 200, my project was taking an essay, transforming it into a play, and then finally a video. So I have some experience making films already. The idea of making a documentary sound like a lot of fun, but I realized that going through the editing process isn’t for me.
Another idea Yona suggested was writing a story about my most boring class, and making fun of it, but hopefully grasping something valuable/worthwhile from the experience. To me thats a great idea because I would find it funny. After much thought, I decided that not everybody would find it as funny as me and it would be better to go with another idea – something more people could relate to.
It was through these two ideas that I came up with my idea to write an essay about a collection of math problems that I find important and that may help others view the world differently – through a mathematical lense. I say these two ideas helped me because I want to use my experiences from even my most boring classes and document them in a way that benefits the reader.

It was great to have Yona because she provided a bunch of unbiased ideas. This assignment allowed Yona and I to exchange ideas in a way that normally wouldn’t occur. I say this because most people, when giving advice about a project, will ask somebody what they are doing for that project. For this assignment we were given information about eachother that was related to the project but not our direct thoughts. This way Yona could think of an idea based off my major, my interests, my previous writing experience, ect. and not necessarily an idea for the project that I already told her.

One Thing Is Clear

Hurry, please. … There’s someone screaming outside,” a neighbor whispers. “There’s a gunshot. Hurry up. … There’s someone screaming. I just heard a gunshot. – 911 Caller

I’ll dedicate this post to a few quotes from the Trayvon Martin case that have caught my attention over the past couple of weeks. I find it interesting how much words can say beyond what is written and how both sides of the case have selected the words that they have. I’m going to try to leave my opinion out of this post – arrest George Zimmerman (I said try) – and focus on the quotes and what I have learned from them. I will also be looking at comments from you maybe you can provide a different prospective on some of these quotes [especially some that I don’t comment on].

But first – if you haven’t already –  listen to the Zimmerman’s 911 tape.

Actually, could you have him call me and I’ll tell him where I’m at. – George Zimmerman

1)

I’ll start with my favorite – but possibly the saddest:

They’ve killed my son, and now they’re trying to kill his reputation. – Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton.

With all the media surrounding this case and the recent release of evidence against Trayvon Martin – suspensions for marijuana and graffiti, and statements from key witnesses – this quote is absolutely spot on. The choice of the word they’ve adds this idea that Trayvon’s killer is not just George Zimmerman, but it is the societal system that is also killing his reputation.

2)

Next, I’ll lump a few quotes together from various witnesses that – the media and I believe – are either on one side or the other. By these quotes, you will see that the witnesses try say one or the other was the aggressor never both. The first witnesses that I will quote are roommates that have claimed to be making coffee in the kitchen when the incident occurred.

Zimmerman was standing over the body with — basically straddling the body with his hands on Trayvon’s back,” Cutcher said. “And it didn’t seem to me that he was trying to help him in any way. I didn’t hear any struggle prior to the gunshot. And I feel like it was Trayvon Martin that was crying out, because the minute that the gunshot went off, the whining stopped – Mary Cutcher.

Selma asked him three times, ‘what’s going on over there?’  He looks back and doesn’t say anything. She asks him again, ‘everything OK? What’s going on?’ Same thing: looked at us, looked back. Finally, the third time, he said, ‘just call the police’  -Mary Cutcher speaking for her roommate Selma Mora Lamilla.

These two seem to be on the side that supports Trayvon Martin. Remember, its been a month or so since the murder/self-defense occurred. Both Selma and Mary have had time to think the situation through and responded with the above quotes when interviewed. The last part in of the first quote is what sticks out to me the most because there is a lot of controversy circling this question of, “Who was screaming?” Mary Cutcher chose to add this part in her comment. She could have simply stated: The minute the gunshot went off, the whining stopped. Instead she included that Trayvon Martin was crying out, which is definitely important to the case and how the media will portray her account.

There are other witnesses – including Trayvon’s girlfriend – that support that George Zimmerman was the aggressor and not Trayvon, and they can be found on any news site.

3)

Now, I will add some quotes that tell a different story. Some of these quotes were reports from the actual crime-scene so they were most likely not carefully thought out, while others have just surfaced in the whirlwind of publicly released evidence surrounding this case.

I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me. – George Zimmerman

“I told him [presumably Trayvon Martin because he was not the one that “John” claims was wearing the red sweatshirt on the bottom] to stop and I was calling 911, and then when I got upstairs and looked down, the person that was on top [Trayvon] beating up the other guy was the one laying in the grass. I believe he was dead at that point”  – “John” the protected witness.

 4)

A development in this case that has occurred over the past couple of days has been the comments by Zimmerman’s friend Joe Oliver.

This incident – on its own – is not a racial incident, this story is a racial story. – Joe Oliver


“He cried for days after this happened. The George Zimmerman I know is not here anymore, because he knows that he took someone else’s life, and he’s extremely remorseful.” – Joe Oliver.

5)

As with anything violent, violence is usually not a good response. However, the New Black Panthers have made their presence felt by placing a bounty on George Zimmerman.

According to the street people’s law, (George Zimmerman) has been charged with murder — according to street law, according to God’s law. – Mikhail Muhammad, leader of New Black Panthers.

Witnesses and others closely involved with this case should be worried about their safety.

“I now have to be concerned for my safety, not just for myself but for my friends and family as well,” he said. “Yet I wasn’t there, I didn’t pull the trigger. All I’m doing is standing up for a friend.” – Joe Oliver

I believe this quote by Joe Oliver couldn’t be more true. Violence really is not the answer here. Trayvon is dead and that is the tragedy here. More violence will never makeup for that loss. This brings me to my last quote. Regardless of what happened that night, it’s hard to argue against the fact that,

My son did not deserve to die – Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin.

Is this the Real Zimmerman?
Or Is This?

All information can be found at http://www.cnn.com

Library Graffiti

Does this ever happen to you?

It’s always the same story. “I’ll just wait until tomorrow to do that.” Or, “I have time later in the week for that.” Soon, I undoubtedly find myself in the stacks scrambling to finish math homework thats due at 8 am, a blog post thats due by 10 am, and, “O I forgot,” a summer job application that is due by 5pm. Now I have to pick what’s more important. I begin rationalizing my workload; prioritizing by what needs to be finished on time and what doesn’t… Looks like I won’t be working there this summer.

Checking the time, I notice that it’s 1:06 am. And for some reason I feel the urge to write the time on the wall. Anything BUT work. The intercom clicks on, “The Shapiro-Hatcher connector will be closing in 30 minutes and the doors will be closing in 45…” I better pack up my things, but only after I take a peak around the graffiti covered walls. There’s years of procrastination written all over the walls.

Some are creepy:

Others are inspirational:

Some are vulgar: But I’ll save those for later.  I find it interesting to see what graffiti people choose to respond to and what graffiti is best kept untouched.

Edit 4/6/12:

For my other writing 200 mini-course class we had to make a short photo-essay documenting anything that reveals something about the University of Michigan. As you’ll see, it’s related to this post so I thought I’d put it up here.

Michigan Revealed

Background

The Hatcher Graduate Library opened its doors in 1920. Over the years, it has become a hotspot for hard-working students looking for a quiet place to study. Students have spent countless sleepless nights tucked away in the library’s stacks, and as a result there is years worth of procrastination written all over the walls. From love notes to vulgar phrases, the walls of the stacks are covered in graffiti.

What Will You Find?

The graffiti is monitored by students and erased by the library’s faculty. Basically, anything is fair game until the janitors walk around with bleach, ink remover, and fresh paint. Students make, deface, and comment on the graffiti that lines the walls – bringing light to their own baggage and penmanship.
My photo essay strives to document the graffiti in the stacks and show that many different students, in a variety of different mindsets, created an open-book of the studying mind. The graffiti can show so much more than just what’s written. Why did they write that? Why did they respond to this specific one? The ink-covered walls leave behind the diverse memories, emotions, and spirit of the stack-studying mind.

Step-By-Step Thinking

As I said before, there is graffiti in almost every stall, and – at the beginning- I flipped through pictures of stall numbers to foreshadow this idea. Then I used the stall number photos before the graffiti pictures to signify where they were taken. I started off with the picture of the gorilla because when I think of graffiti, I imagine pictures and doodles. Quickly, I show that there is more than just pretty drawings in the stacks; there are love notes, inspirational quotes, hate letters, words of wisdom, and much more. People from all different backgrounds and mindsets study in the stacks everyday, and the graffiti is a reflection of that. The arrangement of my photos –  somewhat jumpy from serious to inspirational and back again – is used to show that anything can be written on the walls. From playful sayings – like, “I’m hungry”  – to encouraging punchlines – like, “Get back to work!” – it’s hard to miss.

Why Hate Rick?

Searching the Internet for an interview of Rick Reilly, my favorite sports writer, has exposed me to the controversy surrounding his name. I found websites dedicated to stealing his credibility, the most dominant being FireRickReilly.com. Their mission is to “expose Rick Reilly as a hack” and to “call out the nations most hated sports writer.” I didn’t even know Rick Reilly was so famous. Up until a few years ago, he was the author of a column, The Life of Reilly, on the back page of Sports Illustrated. His short, one-page column was different than other sports articles. He didn’t glorify statistics, or write about the finer sports moments. He related sports to real-life. That’s why I loved his articles.

So is this the Rick we all love?

After getting a chance to look over an interview of Rick, I learned that he left Sports Illustrated to work for their longtime rival ESPN. It’s definitely surprising that Rick left Sports Illustrated for the strong media presence and mainsteam-ness of ESPN. It takes away from my feeling that he is a writer and not just another sports analyst.

Even so, I’ll tell you what I gained from all of this. Rick states it perfectly in his interview. The question was:

Q: ESPN has been after you before. Why make the jump now?

A: “They pretty much let me create my own job. They said, ‘think of us like a Chinese menu. Take what you want from column A, column B and column C.’ So I’m getting to do what I really want, which is to bring well-written essays to TV. And to do, hopefully, a high-quality interview show. Plus, the money is ridonkolous. At first, I was sure they meant Pat Riley.”

Rick is just like any other writer. First, who wouldn’t take the money? And second, what writer wouldn’t want their dream job? Sports Illustrated’s, The Life of Reilly, was my dream sports article. That doesn’t mean its what Rick wanted. Besides, he provided us with twenty-plus years of Sports Illustrated columns.

Or is Rick really a “man who makes $10 million to spew crap”

And that got me thinking. How often are writers stuck in a job that they don’t want to have? Or, just this idea that writers for various publications may not actually want to be there. It may not be their ideal atmosphere, or their dream job. They’re writing for the reader. That’s why they have the job in the first place.

On that note, I understand why Rick left Sports Illustrated: Screw the haters. At least he can finally do what he wants. In school we are always writing for a prompt. Then we get a grade. Just like Rick gets money. I would love to write about a topic of my choosing and still receive that same grade. Rick has a dream come true, and  judging by his choice of his personal favorite Life of Reilly column, he’s not so evil afterall.

Q: You’ve had 20+ years as an SI columnist. Fondest memory?

A: “Wow. That’s like asking Kirstie Alley about her favorite donut. I guess I’d say the time the magazine took us all down to Orlando for a three-day meeting and I finally got to really know Gary Smith and Steve Rushin and laugh so damn hard I thought I was gonna break a rib. My favorite column has to be “Nothing but Nets” – a column about malaria in Africa … which started the Nothing but Nets campaign through the United Nations foundation, which is now up to $13 million. How cool is that?”

 

Where’s The Audience? (This is last weeks idk why it was saved as a draft and didn’t post)

It’s been a month since I started thinking about why I write. Sadly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be capable of developing a clear answer to the question. Over time I’ve found that my perspective and opinions are always changing.  I’ve come to the conclusion that reading and writing new material forces me to open up to new ideas.

When it comes to blogging, my experience in this class has provided me with new insight on the topic.  A month ago I didn’t really understand that blogging was considered a genre of its own. I read blogs due to their strong Internet presence, but I never explored or experimented with the genre before reading Andrew Sullivan’s piece. After reading it twice, I’ve found two main points:

(1) Blogging is all about the now.

“A reporter can wait – must wait – until every source has been confirmed. A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is in many ways writing out loud.”

After getting a chance to blog, I’m starting to grasp this concept. I think the idea that the deadline is now is what makes blogging different than other genres. My experience has clearly not been as intense as Andrew Sullivan’s, but I realize that many characteristics of blogging stem from the fact that it’s instant. Quick/unpolished writing provokes a more blunt and informative style than most other genres. In Sullivan’s words, “Reading at a monitor, at a desk, or on an iPhone provokes a querulous, impatient, distracted attitude, a demand for instant, usable information, that is simply not conducive to opening a novel or a favorite magazine on the couch. Reading on paper evokes a more relaxed and meditative response. The message dictates the medium.” Interestingly enough, this notion can be applied to my repurposing essays. As a writer, using the appropriate genre is essential if my goal is to reach a certain audience. I find that knowing my audience often dictates my approach, and with the repurposing essay I know the audience of my old paper – my professor along with the students in my class. Now it’s time to determine how I can repurpose it for a new audience. Andrew Sullivan’s Why I Blog has made me realize that I need to consciously consider my audience as a write.

(2) A Writers Dream (Or maybe not)

“It was obvious from the start that it was revolutionary. Every writer since the printing press has longed for a means to publish himself and reach – instantly – any reader on Earth… From the first few days of using the form, I was hooked… Blogging – even to an audience of a few hundred in the early days – was intoxicatingly free in comparison. Like taking a narcotic.”

This also stems from the whole idea that blogging is in the now, but, is more concerning certain types of writers. Andrew Sullivan’s is clearly the type of writer who loves to have instant access to a sea of readers; it’s his fuel. In Why I Blog, Sullivan shows the world his perspective. Now that I’ve read his essay twice and have gained experience in the blog-o-sphere I can start to understand his point of view, but I also don’t 100% agree with it. Writers have their own comfort zone, and Sullivan’s is the Internet. Maybe over time, I will start to adapt to his thinking, but for now I like the reasons Why I Write. 

What About You “Barney”

It’s easy to be Barney, especially as a writer. I wrote a whole paper about Why I Write, and I still don’t even know who I am as a writer. What do I sound like? Am I consistent in all of my writing? It’s hard to answer these questions because I often don’t listen. If I have a paper due at 11:55 pm, I get it done and never look at it again. I check for errors but I rarely analyze my writing as if I was the reader. I should because it would definitely help me grow as a writer. But like Barney and his flaws, I just don’t even listen.

After glancing over the fall cohort’s eportfolios, I’ve determined that my eportfolio will need to present me as a writer. It will need to go beyond simply Why I Write (although that’s part of me as a writer) and present material that explores who I am as a writer.

So that brings up a new question. What do I want to sound like? Unlike Barney, I can’t just ignore the truth (although it would be easier). As of right now, I think my eportfolio will center around this question. Maybe for a job application, I will want to show more of my research-based and argumentative style of writing. Or show blog posts for my friends. There are many different aspects of my writing that I want to show depending on my audience. Perhaps I should start there and look over all of my writing. Now that they have faded out of my memory maybe I can be the reader this time.

Don’t Tell Me What To Do

What is authority? In Reading and Writing Without Authority, Ann Penrose and Cheryl Geisler toss around this term [authority] that is complicated. In short, the essay covers the academic lives of a first-year college student named Janet, and a Ph.D. student, Roger. The research, “[was] particularly interested in how the lack of authority shapes the writing and reading practices students adopt.” Janet, being an outsider in the academic field, was expected to have fundamentally different [worse] ways of interacting with academic texts. And the research found this to be somewhat true.

-Back to my question-

When I think authority, I think about my boss at the pool. “You better be done scrubbing that whole scum-line by the end of your shift.”

“You got it,” I reply without hesitating. He has authority over me. So I do what he tells me to do.

Or the TV show cops. Police do what they want. Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.

Geisler and Penrose bring up the idea that authority can also be a personal thing. In the case of their research, I realize that I have authority over the way I write. I never thought about it that way. It’s obvious, but I was taught more like Janet: “The approach [that’s] consistent with a more traditional information-transfer model in which texts are definitive and unassailable.” In the past when writing research-papers, it was exactly that. I literally found facts and plopped them on the page.

This brings me to my last question: Am I Janet or Roger? And after writing this whole thing, I’m thinking my answer is neither. I’m in between. Roger has found his authority in academics, while Janet appears to have not even thought about it yet.

As Geisler and Penrose point out, “[there are] four epistemological premises which seem part of Roger’s worldview but not Janet’s.

(1) Texts are authored – I understand this, finally.

(2) Authors present knowledge in the form of claims – Now that they put it this way I can be more aware of it.

(3)Knowledge claims can conflict – Ehhh.

(4)Knowledge claims can be tested – I guess I don’t agree with things that authors say sometimes, but I tend to take everything literally, even though as a writer I don’t usually do that.

I find it interesting that they use the word worldview because authority does shape my perspective of everything around me. Whether it’s as simple as having authority over a fellow coworker or as complex as having authority in my academic life, authority is somehow part of it. As a high school soccer player, I had authority over my own play and getting better. That was after twelve years of playing the game. That ties in with what Geisler and Pensrose say, “confidence in one’s own authority is assumed to increase generally with age.” As I said before, they toss this word around a LOT in this essay. And there is so much to dig into; that’s the point I’m trying to get across. What is authority? I’m not exactly sure, but it dominates many aspects of our lives, especially as writers. Having what Roger has [his mindset] is something that all writers should desire. Authority is significant. Authority is complicated. And most importantly, authority is a part of life.

 

 

Too Many Questions

When faced with this question of Why I Write, I found that it’s not easy to answer. It’s not everyday that I ask myself: Why do I do this? Or, why do I do that?  And it’s especially hard to answer these questions without a clear definition of what this/that is. At first, I was chasing a yes or no answer. It’s easy to say I write because I like to, but that leaves the question: What do I like about it? Introducing a whole slew of new ideas. So I decided to take a different approach, and start by asking myself a question that I know the answer to: What is my definition of writing?

This reminded me of an essay I wrote about essays. “Essays are used not to just communicate ideas, but to do so in a way that entices and interests the reader. An essay is a writing form that blends thoughts with that creative edge.  That’s what makes an essay a genre of its own.” And I was able to write over four pages about the genre alone.

This got me thinking about how essays relate to other genres. In fiction writing, a material can be presented and left to the reader to analyze. In argumentative writing, the author argues a point and supports it with research. In an essay, the author needs to present an idea or story and dissect it under a specific lens to get his/her point across.  Other genres can do the same thing, but in essay writing it is vital the author does so. Otherwise, the essay is no longer an essay.

As you can tell, I have a lot to say about essays. I could tell you the difference between an essay and a short fictional piece. I could also tell you where to put in a comma before a conjunction. My point is: I could I tell you a lot about writing, but there is still even more that I don’t know. And there are always more questions to answer.

On that note, I decided to limit my scope to just the questions I can answer. I’ve found that my definition of writing lies in all of those little pieces. What is an essay? Where do I put the comma in this sentence? How do I introduce this character in my story?

To answer this question of Why I Write, I need to connect all of pieces in the puzzle. Meaning, I need to collect all the information I know about writing and form an overall idea of what it means to me.  Instead of asking myself the broad question of Why I Write, I need ask myself: What is this aspect of writing, and why do I use it that way? I cannot answer Why I Write with questions I don’t know the answers to.

 

Selfish or Selfless

I never thought about why I write; it never really occurred to me. Come to think about it, I write because in school I have to. I’ve always looked at my writing that way. I never write just for me. And that’s strange considering I do a lot of things just for me.

Thinking about this idea, I was reminded of a short essay called On the Bus, by Jonathan Franzen. In this essay, Franzen tells the story of a bus trip that he took to the Bush Inauguration. But it wasn’t just any old bus trip. The International Socialist Organization sponsored it. At the beginning Franzen felt confused and out of place. But he went, and he makes it clear that he went because he, “[was] lacking any better invitation elsewhere,” early that Saturday morning.

From there, Franzen describes the scene when he arrived at the inauguration. “If you’d been there, you might have been roused by the ceaseless chanting of ‘Racist, sexist, anti-gay, GEORGE BUSH, go away!’ And ‘Hey Dubya, what do you say? How many votes did you steal today?’ Even if you didn’t actually believe that George Bus was a bigot or that he’d stolen any votes that day. Maybe, long ago, you felt similarly divided at high-school pep rallies… You might have been glad you came down here.”  Franzen finds himself lost in the moment. He went out there on a Saturday because he had nothing better to do, and now he finds that he is enjoying and participating in the Socialist protest.

Franzen concludes the story with the bus ride from the Inauguration back to his home. He finds that he is similar to the men in the International Socialist Party, “Few pleasures compare with that of riding on a bus after dark, hours behind schedule, with people you violently agree with. But finally, inevitably, you get dumped back in the city. You may still be one version of yourself… then [you’re home] naked and alone.”

You’re probably wondering how some bored man’s bus trip has anything to do with why I write, but I have found that the story is very much similar to ideas presented by Orwell, Didion, and Sullivan. A common thread in Orwell and Didion’s, Why I Write, is: They write for themselves. Plain and simple. In Orwell’s piece he talks about “sheer egoism” being one of the “great motives” for any writer. And in Didion’s piece she talks about how her self-exploration led her to become a writer. As I mentioned above, I found this idea almost foreign. I felt an almost selfish vibe, and didn’t understand the importance of what Didion and Orwell had to say.

After reading the Sullivan piece, I was presented with the idea that writing for yourself can be positive to others. Sullivan is obsessed with his own writing and being able to constantly blog in the public sphere. Unlike Didion and Orwell, he points out that his passion is what provides readers with a wealth of information and enjoyment. And this is when I began thinking of the Franzen piece. Franzen rides that bus for himself. He wanted something to do with his weekend, he wanted to fit in at the protest, and he wanted to socialize on the bus ride back. By asserting himself in this way, he also was able to provide the International Socialist Party with what they wanted: Being one more person strong.

Going back to the Orwell and Didion essays, I can now see where they are coming from. Without their “sheer egoism” the world never would have seen Animal Farm or The Year of Magical Thinking. Doing things just for me, as Sullivan points out, may not be so selfish after all, especially in the context of writing.