On: Grammar

“Grammar is a piano I play by ear, since I seem to have been out of school the year the rules were mentioned”.

Joan Didion, in my opinion, resonated incredibly clearly with my thoughts and feelings as a writer. Ms. Didion captured the very essence of what I believe I personally associate with grammar, in that I never really did take a grammar specific course growing up. Sure I can “hear” proper grammar..but can I put that down on paper too? And I could not have asked for more in terms of preparing myself for college writing from my previous schooling, and I attribute every last bit of success I’ve had in building my skills and talents as a writer to the outstanding teachers who’ve been there with me throughout the course of my life. I would not be anywhere in my writing ability without their guidance and their constant support to persevere. But grammar seems to be the place where my education in writing and writing technique has taken so many twists and turns, I never really have been given concrete instruction on grammar, ever. And I speculate this was the case for me because many of my teachers growing up focused more on what I was saying as a writer, and less on if I was saying it in some technically correct way. Truth be told, I appreciate this outlook profoundly.

And like Ms. Didion pointed out so clearly: “All I know about grammar is its infinite power”, and that’s exactly how I feel today in my relationship with grammar.

But I believe that Mr. Orwell offered up plenty of insight on how I see political opinion being shaped and intertwined in writing today.

We are all inherently bias in a sense, unable to perfectly escape the thoughts and the opinions we hold from the things that we write. This is true in almost everything I write, and all of the interactions I have had with my fellow writers. Whether it be writing letters to local constituents from Capitol Hill this past summer for my internship, or simply trying to state facts regarding American history in my recent Political Science coursework, I thoroughly see and absolutely agree that it is virtually impossible for us to completely remove our own voices from the pieces that we construct.

An Unexpected New Path!

“Learning a new system is learning a new ability”.

Over this past weekend, I was able to delve into a brand new video editing software that I had yet to explore: Adobe Premiere CS6! I had all but mastered the ins and outs of my two favorite video editing programs (Sony Vegas Pro and iMovie), and was very excited to begin a new adventure with Adobe Premiere…Right off the bat, I had heard many times over that Premiere Pro offers the most complex timeline editing and color correction tools in the commercial video editing software market. I was hesitant to begin using Premiere Pro from a young age, given the barriers to entry that non-trained editing enthusiasts like me have in adapting to programs like this. But to say that I was not absolutely thrilled to have purchased my very own copy of this software would be quite misleading.

Something I noticed from the get go is that Premiere Pro lacks any sort of prompts that guides users toward learning even the BASICS of timeline editing, simple sorts of things like splitting clips into separate portions on the timeline. You are truly left to your own when exploring Premiere Pro, which could be quite disconcerting..Although it took me a good few hours to adapt to Premiere without the aid of tutorials, I feel that my transition into the program would have gone nearly nowhere without my previous knowledge of the Sony Vegas and iMovie editing programs, during the same first few hours. My absolute favorite portion of Premiere to learn using was the color correcting mechanism, along with the overlay tools, which quite literally blew what’s available in Sony Vegas and Premiere Pro out of the water.. And although I’m not trying to turn this post into a tech review, I would be a fool not to mention that Premiere has quickly become a joy to play around with. Since I had been accustomed to the more intermediate editing software on today’s market, I hadn’t challenged myself in exploring more with the top echelon type of software like Adobe Premiere. It would seem that the timing in picking up Premiere was just right, and I can’t wait to see where this new road in editing leads.

Remediating an Argument, Digitally

In terms of what’s to come next, I have many routes before me for our upcoming Remediation Project. Over the course of my past two years here at Michigan, I feel that I have been given limited openings, and had limited access to build course projects outside of the essay writing sphere. Academically, I’ve rarely had the ability to branch out into other project styles, as the steady diet of exams-essays-exams-essays and more exams seems to be the norm at our academic institution. Building and expressing my ideas through the creation of media-based project opportunities, most notably through video production, has become my very favorite method of creative expression as a young man. This being said, as I have been looking to get into a new video project, I was curious as to how I might go about presenting a video for this project, outside of the standard YouTube platform (looking mostly for website/resource suggestions, as I continue to search down a topic).

As I felt upon first learning about the project, I believe that the Remediation Project will be a fantastic opportunity for me to drive home a set of ideas through media creation, allowing me to also focus away from the sphere of essay writing, for a short period. I truly cannot wait to pin down a topic for my new project (I am considering anything from a humanities based research experience, to a montage/compilation of what it means to be an objectively, or subjectively, successful student at the University of Michigan). I very much look forward to discussing these ideas in class this week, in order to delve into what may be the best road for my own Remediation project!

There are two (or more) sides to every story.

As we continue to be consumers of information and followers of the mass media, it can be difficult to sort through the quality, or not, of the information that digital media hubs continuously provide us with. As defined by famous American writer and statistician Nate Silver, we can often sort the information we receive in our digital world into two distinct categories: “signal” or “noise”.

Signal is in essence a bit of factual information that builds toward knowledge and a real understanding of the ways in which the world operates (i.e. learning about financial markets and their policies signals the ways in which social and fiscal inequities exist throughout the world), usually in an objective context. “Signal” information travels from Point A to Point B, with minimal distortion. “Noise” is information categorized as a deviation from the facts, such as in the role many social media outlets can play in passing information from Point A to Point Z. A lot can be lost in translation when relying on Noise for the facts, as there are an incredible amount of hands in the pot.

All of this being put together, the truth is we live in a world where any individual, given the resources necessary, can create and interject their opinion into a discussion through use of the internet. By definition, lots of this information can be defined as Noise, as there is little to no fact checking when it comes to the processes of posting on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter.

As for why I care about the voice and accuracy of today’s digital rhetoric, in high school I had a few year gig as a YouTube partner, for reviewing video game products. I would post in weekly or bi-weekly intervals most months, and would take pride in providing my honest opinion on the latest and greatest Nintendo products. In all, I love the process of video editing, there’s no single hobby that I care for more. And being able to earn money in exchange for something I love doing really struck a chord for me as a teenager. Overall, my content reached 2.7 million views across five different YouTube networks, and I’m pretty satisfied with a 0.89:1 like:dislike ratio that I hold on my content.

But as with anything, there are two sides to every story.

I cannot stress enough that no one individual is perfectly impartial to bias, and this is particularly true in the video game reviewing industry. By the time I started to receive tens of thousands of views per month on YouTube, I was receiving my games for free, sometimes weeks in advance, by companies interested in having me share their products with my audience. As much as I said I was immune to the bias bug, I don’t think that receiving my games for free hurt my developed image of the product I was reviewing..

And so, was I contributing to the mostly objective set of Signal information, or the largely subjective Noise that the internet provides a constant stream of? 89% of viewers “sided” with me..but what about the 11% who did not meet me eye to eye? You can’t please everyone, sure, but did my digital rhetoric not pursue a worthwhile venture in gaming for these viewers? I guess I’ll never have that answer for sure. All I can say is, when sitting there at my desk recording my reviews, I said it like it was.

Reviews are inherently subjective, I know, but the difference between a good or bad video game is very nearly black, or white. And from where I’m watching now, I ask everyone to be careful about what they read online, particularly given the added financial incentives reviewers have to say positive things…

It’s Been A Long (But Rewarding) Journey

When it comes to the genre and style I’ve adopted for my repurposing project, I’ve found myself creating several elongated thoughts, which could really use another look or two. Since I was in middle school, the comma has been at times both my best friend in writing, and my worst enemy in writing. As I look to mature my writing, and adapt new styles of writing while revising my repurposing project, I have strong hopes that I can work to strengthen my sentence structure and diction in the process.

Syntax has never come to mind for me while writing, I feel that this is the case because my previous teachers had not heavily covered the intricacies of grammar. My personal sentence organization has been either loved or unloved by my previous instructors as well, it comes down to whether the ideas I’m conveying make sense on their own, en route to also getting those thoughts down on paper. That being said, I work to place heavy personal emphasis on using a wide array of vocabulary within my essays. Although certain words in my works of writing feel as if they were lifted directly from the thesaurus, the truth is often that I’ll tend to sit there for minutes at a time, recollecting every which word that could possibly make a given sentence better.

I’m proud of the strides I’ve made in my writing, throughout the course of my continuing education at Michigan. The process in becoming an advanced writer is a long one, no doubt. And with the changes I’ve made in my own bag of tricks, hopefully one day I will make it there.

New Sources For Repurposing

In terms of the progression of my research, I have had a productive experience in finding new, investigative sources for repurposing. As this point in time, I am looking through the rhetoric that’s presented by both online blog and news sites, as to how The Butler may have indeed misrepresented the social standing and events of the Civil Rights Movement in 20th century America. Although most of my research focuses on non-numerical information, such as research reports from American professors regarding the dangerous historical inaccuracies presented in The Butler, I have also found myself searching for varying quantitative information for my repurposing project as well.

According to the various labor statistics models I’ve researched, the Real Median Household Income for Whites during this 1967-2012 period sits at $57,009, while African Americans earned $33,321 over this same period of time. Those who point to this income gap of nearly $24,000 less earned by African American households in this span have made questionable arguments regarding why exactly such an income disparity exists, often pointing to a perceived lack of motivation or effort on the part of the African American workforce nationwide. I believe, as a whole, that the rhetoric presented in The Butler makes similarly precarious arguments as a film.

As it relates to the various levels of research I’ve been tasked with performing in the past, I would say that this particular research process has been more about me heavily focusing on blogs and online magazines, such as sources like Rolling Stone Magazine, rather than those “strictly academic” types of sources. I am incredibly excited to go outside of the box throughout the repurposing process, and as a whole would like to stray away from the more academically inclined sources, and gain a broader perspective on the general public opinion on The Butler.

A Sense of Rhetoric, and Historical Misconceptions in Film

When it comes to establishing a sense of rhetoric with regard to my project topic, I am repurposing a previous argument I made regarding the lingering societal impacts that film can have on a given audience, particularly on the topic of race. I envision myself repurposing my arguments and opinions towards the impacts of the recent film The Butler, a flick I had understood to largely endorse negative racial thinking, while disregarding the political impacts of such ideology. To provide some context to my topic, the large majority of the plot of The Butler focuses on the real life story of the celebrated White House butler Eugene Allen, named Cecil Gaines in the film, who had served eight United States presidents over the course of three decades. In my continuing education at the University of Michigan, I came to this argument while researching the Civil Rights Movement during the course of my Communications 101 class sophomore year.
Generally, when developing the rhetorical situation around my topic, I found that the danger that The Butler delivers to a given audience can be found in how the main character Cecil, as a whole, is a man portrayed as being largely accepting of his social standing as a butler, against that of the White majority. The context of this topic, who I believe needs to hear this type of argument the most, would be the millennial audiences in our nation (born in the early 1980’s to the early 2000’s). Knowing how film can provide audiences with certain historical misconceptions on our nation’s history, I believe it is not only Hollywood that has had the capability to significantly alter viewpoints on race and civil rights, but also modern text.
When trying to find other rhetorical candidates I could link to my repurposing efforts, this past weekend I came across what I feel strongly to be a great resource in helping me understand my own rhetoric, in a historical context. As I found in my research so far, the text The Souls of Black Folk (1903) has stood the test of time as a fundamental window into African-American struggle for civil rights in the United States. The book takes the standpoint from the start that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line”, and the main focus of the novel was to characterize why African Americans should not need to be positioned to have to “beg for their civil rights” in the United States. The author W.E.B. Du Bois has the book split into various chapters that focus on his perspective and knowledge regarding what made 20th century America such a prime leader in reducing the human identities and dignities of African Americans, and what could potentially be done to solve these issues.
From what I have found within The Souls of Black Folk thus far, Du Bois goes on to provide a host of rhetoric relating to the shortcomings in the works of famous African American advisor and educator Booker T. Washington, and how Washington’s role as a national civil rights leader played out. Du Bois was significantly weary of Mr. Washington mainly in relation to how Washington stressed that African Americans should currently give up the following: 1. Political power, 2. Insistence on civil rights, 3. Higher education of Negro youth. Du Bois did not understand where these three proposals had merit, due to how increasing civil inferiorities would inevitably take place, only furthering the disenfranchisement of blacks in America. African American education and suffrage were what Du Bois dreamed most of, and Du Bois believed Washington was leading a movement that focused away from such things, in the present.
The Souls of Black Folk will prove to be an excellent resource in not only developing my own sense of rhetorical situation within the context of my arguments, but also in understanding the lasting impacts of our nation’s civil rights leaders. The problem of 20th century America was indeed the problem of the color line, a distinct deviation in political and social rights based on race. As a closing thought, when developing my own sense of rhetoric in this repurposing project, I would also like to stress, and never forget, that the world should never be a place where one would need to struggle greatly for the same rights that belong inherently to all of mankind.

Numbers Never Lie*

In terms of news from the worlds of sports and economics, nobody does it quite like FiveThirtyEight. It was this past Winter Semester where I learned of FiveThirtyEight.com in my ECON 195 class here at Michigan, and I continue to get a kick out of the incredible varieties of content the site publishes for a given reader. FiveThirtyEight is primarily known for being an ESPN-run blog dedicated to connecting complicated statistical data to the ever-changing worlds of American politics and sports, but in my opinion the site provides so much more than that. For example, I admire the thought-provoking topics and the unpredictable questions the site takes on, such as when editor-in-chief Nate Silver “analyzed 6 million flights to figure out which airports, airlines and routes are most likely to get you there on time and which ones will leave you waiting” or other topics, such as a personal favorite of mine, regarding the number of available jobs relating to the American poverty level which can be found here: http://53eig.ht/1Fk7aH9. The target audience of FiveThirtyEight, in my experience with the blog, would extend anywhere from an individual who enjoys not just your ordinary political, economic, life, sports, and life blog articles, but extensions of complex and often overlooked facets of our society that many of us had never before considered. I would certainly give anyone interested in learning more about statistical models and theoretical data the green light to check out FiveThirtyEight. You will discover answers to questions you never knew existed, and questions to answers you had once thought were the true norm. Because, after all, numbers never lie*


The Latest from Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight can be found here:

Writing as Complex Interaction

There is little question that the art of writing provides our modern world with a critical means of communication, one in which we employ each day. When speaking on our recent “What Counts as Writing” class activity, many of our entries provoked the various forms writing could take on, in relation to the true definition of modern writing and genre. The details of this assignment had been made clear, and it was my understanding that our class did an incredible job searching the web for what we believed, as individuals, counts as “writing”. The examples our class drew from attained various results, and as a class we attempted to argue that anything from iMessages to an assortment of McDonald’s coupons fit the bill when we attempted to define what writing is in the modern world. In addition, I enjoyed and was surprised by several other examples on what our class defined as writing, including but not limited to lyrics and musical notation, as well as a given comments section on YouTube. I believe we did a fantastic job in this research effort as a class, and I would ultimately say that my own personal views of the ways in which art (such as poetry) fits into a genre of writing were altered as well. I came to this conclusion: The human effort and technical skill needed to create a successful, imaginative, and interactive work of art, can be related rather closely to the effort and technical skill placed in a given work of writing.

In addition, my goals for the Minor continue to increase in scale as we build our way through class activities and individual assignments. I’m very much looking forward to what’s coming next in the Writing 220 curriculum, and beyond.