“It’s just so well written!”

is my go-to response for why I’m currently reading Lolita. It is a classic, yes, but there is absolutely no denying that it is one creepy novel. I am avoiding carrying it around to classes like I usually do with books (in case I get there early, we get a break, I might possibly have a 5 to 10 minute window to indulge my pathological reading obsession) so people don’t ask stupid questions.

Because yeah, for the uninitiated, Lolita is definitely written from the perspective of a solipsistic pedophile trying to rationalize his desires and actions. Lolita herself is the narrator’s 12-year-old obsession, a precocious, angry little girl whose flippant comments belie the loneliness and pain she feels. Reading scenes between the two main characters feels icky and wrong.

But dear readers, this book! I hesitate to recommend it because it might get me put on a government watch list, but the writing! Vladimir  Nabokov (who in interviews revealed his disgust with his own character) creates the ultimate unreliable narrator, while simultaneously hinting at the real state of the world. The rich imagery, full of descriptions of the French Riviera and the rougher facets of the American landscape, immerses the reader in its tangible world. And then there are puns, alliterations, allusions, metaphors, flashbacks, asides! Reading Lolita is like watching an Olympic gymnast make her death-defying stunts look easy. Nabokov, not even a native speaker, is clearly a master of the English language.

So when I say “It’s just so well written!” I mean it this time, not as the oft-repeated  justification of a girl who reads during meals because she can’t fit it anywhere else in her life. Lolita is truly a well-written piece of literature. So read it, if you can, though I understand if you don’t want to show anyone.

Break and Social Media; Or Why I Never Left High School

Break is a time for reconnecting with old friends one has been separated from by the cruel forces of colleges in other cities. It is for catching up, meeting up, and making time for the old high school gang. Of course, this gathering is probably less absolutely vital since the advent of social media; I can keep track of Emily, Clayton, and Jen from my own computer every day I’m in Ann Arbor. And for this I am thankful. New media is excellent for staying connected (Thanks Captain Obvious). But it is also excellent for pettiness, gossip, and fighting.

In my new media essay, I talked about how new media enables a constant stream of conversation, and how that would be great, except sometimes the conversation isn’t worth having; like when a whole bunch of commenters use the space under a kitten video on YouTube to hate on Justin Beiber. I don’t like Justin much myself, but seriously guys, his fans should not all be shot along with everyone who clicked the “Dislike” button. As much as those conversations frustrate me, they are nothing compared to drama created online by people I actually know.

For example, one friend, who shall remain anonymous, told me that she uses her Twitter account to talk about how she really feels; stuff she can’t put on Facebook. I would love to explore the norms that have evolved around which statuses belong on Facebook, and which make better Tweets, but for now I’ll stay on topic. She has been having  a conflict with another girl who is a follower of her Twitter. So Girl 2 can see everything Girl 1 posts about her, all in the spirit of catharsis. Why does my first friend feel the need to express her annoyance with people on Twitter? Why does the Internet need to know? (Asked the girl currently writing a blog post about her high school friend drama)

These same friends had an all out battle on Google Plus a few months ago, like full on Cyberbully nonsense. Foursquare, that inexplicable Smartphone mechanism which allows you to “check in” to various locations (so people can track your every move?) has also played into their fights. When one girl claimed to feel ill to avoid seeing the other, she checked into places on Foursquare, contradicting her earlier assertion that she was staying home. When these two make up, Facebook is full of back and forth Wall Posts saying “I HEART YOU BEST FRIEND” and such.

Why am I chronicling such utter nonsense? Well, honestly, because I’m frustrated, and like Girl 1, I feel better when I put my frustrations on the Internet (Someone should study this. Seriously.) and I know neither of my friends are likely to stumble upon this particular corner  of WordPress. Also, I think examining what new media is being used for, and the new ways people can fight, and express themselves, is interesting. Before all of this media, would my friends even be fighting? Probably. But maybe they would have to confront each other head on, rather than resorting to the cloak and dagger dance of social media.

I made a website!

I guess I will never cease to be amazed when I successfully create a piece of new media. But after 3 days of sitting at home at a card table with my laptop and some sunflower seeds, alternating between website creation, essay writing, and studying for my ridiculous Comparative Developed Democracies exam, everything feels like a miracle. Since this is Day 4 of no makeup, no moving, and no breaks except for meals and The Walking Dead, it is about time I actually managed to finish some stuff.

How I've felt for the past 3 days. (Source: TV.com)

So making a website was actually kind of fun, and despite a couple weird, stubborn things (the side menu refuses to organize itself in anything but alphabetical order, and putting numbers next to things was helping until I got to ten, which the menu thought meant 1 again. So I had to put 9s in front of my last two items in the Remediation project), I was actually pretty successful. I even fulfilled my dream of Cracked-style links at the bottom of most of the pages.

Writing for a website was different because it required so much explanation. I know you all already know what a remediation project is, and why we had a blog for class, but obviously the audience of the Internet doesn’t. This was a pretty good exercise in writing for an audience, well, I guess THE audience.

All of it. Source: http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/Internet_History.htm

So I hope you all had as good of an experience with creating your portfolios as I did.  Here is a link to mine, in case you are interested. You’re all actually on there, or at least those of you who were in the Minor photo.

https://sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/amolkowportfolio/

Have a great Winter Break!

 

 

Ideas!

The syllabus says to blog about our ideas about our remediation projects, or our portfolios. Dear Readers, you’re in for a treat, here is my update on both!

Remediation Project: Is going fairly well; I have to clean up the language on the slides. I do like the background the way it is. Later this week, I’m going to look into voice recording software to create the speech-y bit. I’m looking into some differences between language used in spoken pieces rather than written ones.

Portfolio: Once I gave up on WordPress (it is, in fact, a blog. ) and checked out GoogleSites, I made quite a bit of progress. I have this lovely layout that looks like  a cork board, and even have some pieces up! It is turning out a bit more of a “fun” portfolio than a professional one, but it is not a bad direction. As I have mentioned before, I am woefully inept with technology (I used to call .gifs “jiffs”) so wrestling with changing the menus on my site has been an adventure. I want it to be simple, so html is not in my future, barring any sort of revelation.

Voice Thread

I just did the Voice Thread thing, and figured I would blog about the experience! If I hadn’t done mine yet, I would definitely have appreciated a couple of How-Tos from someone so here goes:

Voice Thread is super easy. I was scared I might need a special microphone thing (since I do not have a Mac or an especially current PC and don’t have a webcam, this was a concern). But I just sort of talked in the direction of my computer and it picked it up! For some of you, this probably seems less than miraculous, but I was absolutely baffled. My computer can hear me!

The site is very user friendly, everything is pretty self-explanatory, you just upload a file, and then talk over it. There are nice, friendly buttons that say things like “record” and “stop recording” which was helpful for the technologically illiterate like me. You save after every segment that you record, so it doesn’t all disappear on you.

So yeah, my experience with Voice Thread was a very positive one! This doesn’t often happen to me, because usually I get really frustrated by new computer things.  Besides the fact that I sound really nasal and uncertain in the recording, and am wondering if I always talk like that, it was actually kind of fun! Yay Voice Thread!

How Bradley Cooper Taught me to Write.

Last night, as per the grand Olkowski post-holiday tradition, my immediate family came home, exhausted and full of turkey and cousin-gossip, to gather around the television and find something on Netflix. This is probably the only time we all watch TV without eating anything. We’re all too full, and too tired to make popcorn or nachos or whatever. This year, we chose Limitless, a movie that came out earlier this year, starring Bradley Cooper and his enormous blue eyes.

LOOK AT THEM! (Credit to people.zap2it.com

Anyway, in the beginning, Bradley (Oh wow, I have no idea what his character’s name was, I just called him Bradley in my head the whole time) is an ugly (For Bradley Cooper), unkempt writer because in the world of movies, there are like three professions, and most people are just writers cause guess who made up this story? He is having a massive amount of trouble coming up with the first word of a novel he told all his friends he is writing. So for a whole day, he sits in his room and stares a the little blinking line on Microsoft Word.

Poor Bradley. This is my life. With a cleaner apartment and less facial hair. I believe I have whined about how hard it is to start writing a paper before this so I’ll stop now, but I would like to applaud the people who made Limitless, for this realistic portrayal of the writing process.

Of course Bradley’s ex-brother-in-law (wow that is a ton of dashes) gives him magical pills that unlock the rest of Bradley’s brain so he can do more things. And since Bradley is really a good writer deep down, he just lacks motivation and focus, he writes his landlord’s wife’s law paper in an afternoon and then writes his whole novel in four days.

This is what I look like when I finally manage to write something too! (Image from The New York Times)

Now, it’s obvious why Bradley starts off as a writer, rather than a lower level finance guy (he eventually uses his drug induced awesomeness to day trade). Besides the fact that all writers just love to write about writers (See: Stephen King novels, most chick flicks, YA books), Bradley gets to enact the primary fantasy of all writers, professional or student. The drug doesn’t make you superhuman. It doesn’t give you powers or make your brain bigger or whatever. It simply makes what is already there available, like Advanced Search Google for your brain. Bradley is already capable of writing this book, he just has not been able to access it before. The lesson of Limitless, besides “doing drugs doesn’t really have that many consequences if you’re smart about it,” is that everyone has the potential to do great things if they could only be clear-headed and focused.

The dream of the writer is that there is a book/poem/song/paper lurking somewhere beneath the surface, and that if we all just stare at the blinking line long enough, we’ll find it. The problem is that if we wait for our subsurface genius to magically show itself, we’ll never get anything done. Limitless was also about how achieving greatness is partially just taking the step to DO something. One of the first things Bradley does when he gets on the drug is clean his apartment, something he obviously could have handled normally, but never had the motivation to just start and finish. Writing is the same way.  You never gets done unless you gets started.

So for my next paper (my 5th in three weeks), I am not going to whine about it, or stare at Microsoft Word, willing it to appear. I’m going to just get started so I can get finished. I have every ability to write it, just an irritating lack of focus and motivation, which is really no excuse. Hopefully, by following the example of Bradley (with the motivation, not the drug taking, and the murdering, and the day trading), I can just write this without waiting until the last minute (literally) and without some of the melodrama that has been a big part of the last 4 papers.

 

e-Portfolio

I would like my e-Portfolio to be fairly professional, but like, interesting. I was thinking of using WordPress, but I really do not want it to look like a blog, so I am exploring some options regarding what is possible with WordPress versus other sites like Weebly or something. I want to have a menu bar on top with categories like “Political Science” and “Creative Writing” so that the hypothetical portfolio peruser knows what they are getting into when reading. I have told some of you about my pathological obsession with Cracked.com and I would like to incorporate a “If you liked this, now click this link and read more!” feature because it works on me like the thing with the lab rats and the button that gave them drugs.

Aw. Can we not kill it for science? (Credit to this person's blog: http://people.tribe.net/c58df4ab-90a8-4014-823b-30a62a1043cb/blog/52dc1716-249f-417a-88cc-57563e7d003a)

I would enjoy a comments section, as you all know I love feedback as much as I like list-formatted comedy articles.

I would like to be colorful as well, professional does not have to mean gray! It may or may not end up purple.

I don’t have many ideas beyond these, any comments, questions, or concerns?

Hate on Me Hater, As Long As you Hate Constructively

Most of you know that I am a member of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) since I shamelessly promote our events in class sometimes. Caveat: I am not writing this as a representative of SAPAC because that would mean that this is our official response as an organization, and it is not, this is just my take on something that has been very frustrating the last few days.

This year, SAPAC has been introducing a new freshman workshop to the campus. All freshmen are required by the university administration to undergo a SAPAC workshop during first semester in order to teach them some basic things about consent, sexual assault, and safe sex. The dedicated individuals in charge of those workshops noticed some negative feedback over the last couple of years and overhauled the workshop over the summer, basing the new one in research, narrowing the focus, and making it more interactive. The result was Relationship Remix, a one and a half hour long exploration of consent, respect, and safety in romantic relationships. We have gotten fairly positive feedback from participants about  if they learned new things, or had gained new perspectives. Obviously, nothing is perfect, and any workshop we do is subject to improvement, but we do have a good thing going .

The Michigan Daily, our university’s main student publication, apparently disagrees. The Daily has chosen to publish two articles within four or five days of each other, one an Op-Ed piece, and another a Letter to the Editor, disparaging SAPAC’s efforts. I would not even be mad if either article gave even a speck of constructive criticism, but the authors (both freshmen who recently received a workshop) were less than what one would consider constructive. The first, the Op-Ed piece, stated that our workshops are a waste of time, as freshmen already know all about these issues. The second, a Letter to the Editor (yes, I am aware that this person was probably not on the Daily staff, but they did choose to print it) condemning the workshop because it helps foster a culture of “free sex” and if we all stopped having “free sex” sexual violence would be eradicated. This was also a response to the fact that, as SAPAC collaborates with Sexperteam on this workshop, we provide free contraceptives to promote safe sex. The letter writer was horrified at the prospect of free condoms on a college campus, and ended his letter by questioning the moral compass of the entire university.

I could spend this entire blog post writing furious, well-written counterarguments, and taking cheap shots at the writers for being freshmen, and other crimes against humanity. As my roommates can testify, I have already done this at length. Instead, I would like to discuss journalistic responsibility, the conscious choice to repeatedly print pieces bashing a student group that deals with sensitive topics, and the fact that when one writes an article for a newspaper, it should be more than spouting off about your own whiny opinions without any backup or purpose beyond venting. That is what blogs are for (natch).

But wait! Isn’t the Op. Ed. column and letters for the editor strictly designed for people’s whiny opinions? Yes, I suppose. I am only asking that a measure of accuracy, relevance, and respect be taken in the writing and publishing of these articles. Just because you can publish anything you want doesn’t mean that it is ethical or worthwhile. One article was titled “U mandated Relationship Remix program is a joke.” Thanks Michigan Daily. Thanks. Though the Daily, to its credit, did allow a member of SAPAC to provide their own article in response to the first one, the printing of the second just seems a little ridiculous. Neither article provides research, neither provides specific criticism besides “Don’t bring condoms” and both authors just seem annoyed that they had to take time out of their schedule to listen for a little while. That isn’t journalism, it isn’t news, and it certainly isn’t helpful. If the Daily wants to report on Relationship Remix, can they at least write something serious about it?

First Article: http://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/viewpoint-pointless-relationship-workshops

 

Response to first article: http://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/viewpoint-importance-relationship-workshop

Letter: http://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/letter-editor-university-mandated-relationship-remix-program-joke

Storyboard

My storyboard is kind of lame. Joseph’s is awesome, its this sweet Powerpoint that my final draft only aspires to be, and Paige’s features drawings, so it already wins. Mine is some text boxes of varying sizes (I tried to get them all the same size, believe me, I did) with some Times New Roman, size 12 text explaining my intentions for each slide. But that is okay, this is just a preliminary sort of deal. I never really plan things out before I write them and when I do, it never is very pretty. So here is my storyboard:

Ain't it pretty?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evaluation as Carrot

The Yancy article got me thinking, do we all need evaluation as much as this article says we do? Yancy quotes one woman, a housewife, who cannot quantify her success as a parent without grades or salary increases, but wonders if she knows she has done a good job if she is simply exhausted at the end of the day. Yancy finds this alarming and recommends the use of self reflection to avoid students “… dependent on external rewards, not knowing where to begin to consider their own performances” (Yancy 13). This made me wonder, how dependent are we on external rewards like evaluation? Is evaluation our “carrot”  for doing things well, a motivation in itself?

Come get the carrot! Come get it! That's a good undergrad!

I blogged a little while ago about how much I wanted my Poetry professor to give us back our essays already so I could find out how I did. If anything is indicative of a dependence on external reward, that blog post probably is (I got a “B” by the way which is perfectly acceptable). I mean, I am a little over-excited by comments on my essays, even for the bad ones. Because otherwise, I really have no idea if my writing is any good or not.

I DON'T EVEN KNOW!

As much as I don’t really agree with Yancy’s high estimation of self-reflection (we’re students, we’re not entirely qualified to make judgments about most writing because we are still learning, we obviously have incentive to absolutely love our own work, we all have a healthy sense of self-flagellation which makes us hate our own work, etc.) I definitely recognize this external locus of evaluation as problematic. An external locus of anything can be difficult to deal with, as the world is unlikely to continue to provide an exact measure of how well we are doing on each task we complete.

A+ on that batch of coffee Jill! Though next time, try not to drop the coffee filters, it ruins the overall effect of your piece.

Deciding the worth of the things you do on your own is actually pretty important, for the sake of continuing to do things, and for the sake of learning after people stop telling you what to learn. This can be applied in anywhere in life. It would be super-helpful if the Grand Poobah of Life, the Universe, and Everything would just reach down from the clouds and inform you that your last relationship is going to making you fail “Interpersonal Connections” unless you fix your communication problems and improve your loser-spotting skills in the next one. However, this is not the case. Honest self-evaluation is absolutely necessary for figuring out what you are doing that works, what you are doing that doesn’t work, and why.