My “Portfolio” Will Go On

I am going to just go right ahead and say it: Oh sweet jesus what have I gotten myself into?

Contrary to the title of this post I am not really drawing any correlations between my portfolio and the Titanic… yet. With that being said, looking at all the posts from last semester and their reactions to creating the incredibly in-depth and extravagant portfolios, my first reaction (and still kinda my reaction) was to pick my jaw up from my keyboard.

Jaw Dropping
Jafar and the Genie know how I am feeling.

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Let’s try that again

After stumbling through this french thing that is apparently some kind of “analysis/conversation” hybrid called a Precis, I realized how wrong I was in my last blog post. I called out Brandt and bashed her style. While I don’t regret what I said, I realized I was focusing on a petty topic and blinded myself. Talking in groups today I discovered how much I enjoyed the article. There were quotes aplenty that had me tilting my head in wonder and interest.

Tilting my head in wonder and interest

Much like this puppy, I am intrigued by what is happening in front of me. It just so happens that Brandt’s article and my previous response. Brandt had only one topic, but she had many different arguments for her topic, and that was something I said in my last post and I completely agree with myself. She did a great job tackling a very broad and relatively untouched topic.

I just wanted to get that off my chest. I did not feel my last post to be adequate and so I feel better having addressed that, I also hope the picture of the puppy will make amends.

“The Productive Side Of Literacy”

First things first,

I loved the topic of Brandt’s “The Status of Writing” and “How Writing is Remaking Reading.” I loved the ideas and loved the concepts addressed.

HOWEVER, I hated the presentation. I was so intrigued by the idea of changing from a reading culture to a writing culture. The idea was something I have never even thought about, yet Brandt’s presentation made me want to continually stop reading. More often than not she started her paragraphs with some along the lines of “We just discussed this, now I would like to talk about this.”

She starts off one paragraph :”In the rest of this chapter I want to continue to explore the implications of this transition in the history of mass literacy.”   Perhaps I am being a little melodramactic, but perhaps Brandt should be a tiny bit more creative and not just tell me exactly what she will be doing. Read More

Gossip Boy

I knew that writing this would be different than previous papers I have written because of the nature of the prompt. Different in that I am writing about myself and not a piece of literature, and I am writing on a topic without knowing if I really have an answer. So since this was a different type of paper for me, I approached starting it in an entirely new way. I sat down and made a list of everything that came to my mind when I thought about writing, Then I looked at this list and I picked out what I liked about  writing because I figured I probably write because I liked certain things about writing. So after I went through that list, I saw some reoccurring themes. I like to write because:

-I can have my own style and voice

Started writing my list on my iPod in a Jimmy John's booth

-I don’t really have to follow a form

-I am pretty good at it.

Those three things basically covered why I write. This was probably the most fun part about making the rough draft. Usually when I start a draft I dive into writing and just ramble my way through until I hit some high points and realize that I want to focus on those. However, this time I had three targets to aim for while I wrote. Writing about why I write has been immensely fun because I have been able to look at my three themes and just play connect the dots. Starting at one and watching as it ultimately is linked to the next topic. I get to explore why I like those themes and then how that directly translates into my writing. I had a different feeling throughout the writing process and I have been trying to figure out how to put words to the feeling… but I think I finally found the right one: gossip.

I use the word gossip because I feel like I have been gossiping about myself. I know, it sounds totally ridiculous, but I have been writing about things that are funny and interesting to me and I guess there is no real drama that gossip usually thrives on, but I still feel as though the general mindset has been “did you hear why Sal loves to write?” Think about it, writing is very similar to gossip, the topics and the depth may change, but the fundamental characteristics remain unchanged. Not to mention that my writing has changed, much like my own gossip has grown or shifted topics from elementary school to high school and to college. So yes, I will openly admit that this paper is one long gossip session to myself, but I look at it as a positive thing. Although, I may have to start a parallel essay on Why I Gossip.

Cynics and Subtle Comedians

John Steinbeck’s America and Americans is both well written and extremely intriguing to me. The whole book is dedicated to airing any grievances Steinbeck may have held in his life, but this chapter, labeled “E Pluribus Unum,” in particular is heavily based in the politics of where “Americans” came from and what “Americans” stood and still stand for today.

“Having suffered, one would have thought [Americans] might have pity on the newer come, but they did not; they couldn’t wait to join the majority and indulge in the accepted upper-caste practice of rumbling some newer group.”

In short, Steinbeck calls many Americans hypocrites and in doing so lays down every slur imaginable, ethnicity, race, sex, religion, you name it. Many of which I didn’t even know existed and because of that he ultimately comes of with the image a cynical old man lecturing the youth about why they will amount to nothing. Yet among the slurs, Steinbeck lays down lines of painful and honest beauty that cuts through red tape, cultural barriers and into the heart of the reader. Steinbeck’s commitment to his beliefs is what is most impressive and what instantly linked his writing to Orwell’s. In Why I Write, Orwell didn’t say, “oh, most writers should think about maybe adding these elements in their own writing.” Instead, Orwell flat out said, there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer.”  He laid out his philosophy and gave little chance for rebuttal. Maybe the stubbornness of these two authors just portrays a grumpy old man image, but at least they have a definite image. Which I guess in a roundabout way brings me to my discovery while comparing the two authors. I enjoyed and am intrigued by both of their works because they are passionate about what they are saying and you can feel that they care about their topics. Mostly though, I respect them both as authors because they are able to make me as a reader believe that whatever they are writing is the truth… well… kinda sorta the truth.

Oh and were you wondering what slurs he used exactly? Here is just one line from the chapter: “To all these people we gave disparaging names: Micks, Sheenies, Kraits, Dagos, Wops, Ragheads, Yellowbellies, and so forth.” Perhaps I am not culturaled enough in the slur world because I know maybe two or three of these or maybe it’s because I’m not the slur throwin’ type of guy. Regardless, Steinbeck sure knows how to hand them out.

Based solely off of her article and this picture I draw the following conclusion:

Didion seems to be the grandma from movies that appears so sweet and serene but every once in awhile will drop a quick witted insult under her breath with a younger person standing next to her, mouth agape, responding only with an exasperated “Grandma!” While looking side-to-side to see if anyone else could believe a grandma could say such a thing. Yeah, Didion seems like that kind of person to me, but again, I’m just going off a picture here.

What is so glorious about her writing is that it gives off a subtle humor that seems to invoke a bit of self-mockery. I think this gives the illusion that she is not completely narcissistic and allows her to seem grounded, but in reality and in her writing, she is looking at herself, thinking about her life, and her struggles, and in all honesty, this is what makes her piece so inspiring. The piece is all about her, (of course it is when the title is Why I Write) and she is focused strictly on her life and her struggles, but her humor creates a bond with the reader that doesn’t have you searching for laughter, but rather enjoying and indulging when it is presented.

This style of subtle humor is what made me pick up an old Kurt Vonnegut book: Mother Night. Vonegutt much like Didion has the ability to make the reader sincerely chuckle yet still respect the story and not write it off as a comedy. Didion ends her piece brilliantly, she doesn’t outright ask the reader anything. What she does is make such an compelling argument about herself and then resolves her own argument making it seem plausible that everyone should be able to do the same. Therefore, as the reader finishes her last sentence, they take it upon themselves to think, well wait, why do I write, and who am I as a writer? That is something I truly wish to emulate, the art of subtlety. With humor, emotions, and messages buried in the words and within characters. I lack the fine touch, but I can very much appreciate an author that has the ability to execute such subtlety.

With Vonnegut, the ending is a little different, a little more dark if you will:

They say that a hanging man hears gorgeous music. Too bad that I, like my father, unlike my musical mother, am tone-deaf. All the Same, I hope that the tune I am about to hear is not Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas.’   Goodbye, cruel world!”

The man is talking about how he will be hung before the sun rises, yet the humor is just enough without killing the beauty of his acceptance of death. In some regard, like with Didion, I find myself asking, “Were I ever in a situation that involved me being hanged, what gorgeous music would filter through my ears.” Ridiculous? Without a doubt. Powerful? Perhaps intriguing would be more fitting adjective.