Ad Hoc Annotation: We Are All The Same by Jim Wooten

Jim Wooten attempts to bring awareness to the continued struggle of AIDS in South Africa through telling the story of a young and influential victim during the early 2000s. The book does a good job telling the boy, Nkosi’s story from start to finish, including aspects of the the past that played into the boys upbringing, and important aspects of the current economic, social, and political context in which the boy and his new family navigates throughout his life. Wooten uses the boy’s story to highlight the challenges faced by AIDS victims even as medicine exists, and how political ignorance and the economic remnants of Apartheid has exacerbated these challenges — even in 2004, 8 years after the triple antiretroviral cocktail first came out.

Wooten does well to hook the reader to the charismatic and intelligent Nkosi, albeit balancing the tightrope between objective journalism and subjective storytelling; he offers a holistic view of the modern AIDS epidemic in South Africa, but his love for the boy is undeniable in this portrayal — something that is not necessarily bad for the story but at points threatens to undermine his journalistic integrity. This presents itself when at the end of the book he very nearly villainizes the boy’s original family — his grandmother and sister — but then chooses to step back from delving too deep into the family drama and the economic, social and political divide that characterizes their relationship to Nkosi’s new family.

I could use this for its journalistic long form prose, as well as its ability to tackle the complexities of a current sociopolitical issue in another part of the world, while effectively humanizing the issue for those who might not otherwise be interested.

Many Stories

The first and most important thing I’ll say in this blog post is that Literati is pretty cool and I will definitely be going back there. So underrated!

Upon finishing summer school and my internship this summer, I promptly made it a goal to actually read novels recreationally and to finish a couple before school started. I finished a couple exactly (Limitless by Alan Gwyn and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett) and I loved them both. I even started on a third (Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler). What I love about these books and what I loved about the short stories and the personal essays I browsed through while at Literati was the use of storytelling to create philosophical questions, achieve somewhat complicated (or maybe simple) conclusions, or to just generally reach out to the reader with a story they can connect to and whose lessons they can profit from.

At Literati, stories were told through different frames, categories, lenses:

  • There were autobiographies, and also biographies
  • Fictional stories reflective of personal experiences
  • Diaries, journal entries, and more carefully constructed letters
  • Satirical pieces
  • Straight up nonfictional accounts of events or things, but also personal accounts of people who had lived those events or things
  • Comedies, tragedies
  • Etc.

I read some Rebecca Solnit. I read from a book called “Sex and Death” (not by Rebecca Solnit) which featured a collection of submitted stories about sex and, yes, death — two themes the curators of the book found to be universally important to our lives on earth, no matter our backgrounds.  Each essay would open up into a scene and then a conflict, painting a picture for the reader and then hooking them with the issue to be solved. I love that. I think that if I am going to write about myself and publish it, it is not enough to assume that anyone will find it interesting! I have to personalize my story (in this case, my evolution as a writer) but I also have to universalize it in some way so that my readers, whoever they are or will be, can find their own personal value through reading my piece. That was my most important takeaway from my visit to Literati (and an idea that I really came to understand last semester during English 325). I think the content will come as I continue to look through artifacts I will use and as I reflect on the last few years in relation to the writing I have done. For now, I have an idea of the form I will try to emulate — or the forms I will hybridize to create my wonderful, lasting, relatable “Frankenstein.”

Blog 1: Possibilities

So! I am confident right now that I will find something interesting to think over and develop… but I’ll be honest, the ideas just aren’t flowing like I figured they would. I have a few ideas I’ll hash out a bit here, and I’ll look forward to letting them sit in my mind going forward. I have no doubt my ideas will change.

Content: I care deeply about New York, its inequalities, and the goal of spending my time working to improve my communities. That being said, I get somewhat anxious about New York while in Ann Arbor. I’m learning a ton in college, but I have always felt as though I may not have been directing myself enough while here toward the achievement of these vague goals I have for my work at home. This capstone has presented itself to me now as a unique and wonderful opportunity to create a project that tackles this anxiety head on. I want to learn about New York politics and/or some specific aspect of it, be it policy, history, law, or something else.

Form: English 325, The Art of the Essay, inspired me quite a bit by what it was able to teach me about, well, teaching myself. Honing in my own ‘personal’ essays helped me accomplish deep, honest reflections on aspects of my life that I was unsure about. I think a cool possibility is that I choose a theme around which I can write personal essays, AROUND WHICH I could develop a personal project.

In fact, I am beginning to think that I could achieve some sort of combination of form and content exploration by combining the two possibilities I have outlined so far here! Stay tuned.

Another idea on form: journalistic long form prose has always intrigued me. My dream job as a kid was “traveling journalist”, a writer and thinker who could uncover the world’s greatest and least known stories, and bring them to life on the page. I could possibly explore this form of writing by choosing a little known but interesting current happening in Ann Arbor to investigate.
To Know More About: There are many things I wish I knew more about, even apart from New York and the ‘self’ I wish to find in writing personal essays. For instance, I took a biology class this summer and it really opened my eyes to the world around me. That is not a joke; I actually had not taken biology and currently have never formally learned any of chemistry or most other natural sciences, and this biology class was awesome. I also have always wondered how far I could go if I stuck to a workout regimen and pushed my body to get in the best physical shape possible. I won’t do that for this project, I don’t think, but it would be an interesting experiment!

ePortfolio and Goodbye :’)

This has been a truly great semester, summed up by my pride in the projects I’ve completed… summed up in how cool I think my eportfolio is. Mouth full! Writing220 was certainly back loaded with work to finish up, but I think it all came together really nicely. The eportfolio was really kind of meaningless to me until I finished up the other work in pieces. I realized just how this would all come together right as it did (and with a lot of thanks to peer work we did in the class). Just as I figured out the best structure to the website, the pieces just fell into place and the website looked and felt really representative of (1) the work I had completed this semester – both within and even outside of this class – and (2) who I am. That’s very cheesy, but it’s true. The eportfolio really represents my aspirations as a writer, so that feels like a job well done.

What would I like you to know about my eportfolio… Well, I think you should know that I did not take that big picture of New York. I got that from Google, as it was licensed online for reuse. Pretty exciting when you get a good picture online that’s licensed for reuse. You should also know that in my “Other Work” section, I have written up a policy recommendation for a policy in New York called “421a” that deals with housing developments and, subsequently, the developments of affordable housing within private housing developments. It’s pretty long, but if you’re interested in stuff like that, give it a skim! Maybe you’ll learn something new.

I also want to say thank you to Naomi and to everyone in this class for a great experience. I looked through some of last week’s blog posts and could see that many people advised the next class to really utilize peer review and get close to their peers. It takes open minded and honest people to really utilize peer review and I know I experienced nothing less than real commitment, good feedback, and support in my writing from my peers. Have a good break, everyone.

 

My eportfolio: wefrank.wix.com/eportfolio

Advice For Newbsss

My first and major piece of advice for future homies within the Minor in Writing is to take advantage of how open ended the assignments are! Taking advantage and at the same time being grateful for the repurposing and remediation projects (because this doesn’t come around so often). This kind’ve manifests itself in a couple ways for me, and I’m assuming it will for you too:

ONE. You can do what you want. You can write about what actually interests you! School doesn’t let you do that all that often, but this class does. You get to choose your genre, choose your platform, and choose your topic, over which you may project your unique self and your ideas. It is really cool, and makes for some final projects that you can and should be really proud of. The work you’ll produce in this class can be meaningful and worthwhile. If you know that you want to learn more about a certain thing, or maybe that you want to have a greater body of work in this specific area, you can get right to it. Or maybe you have no idea… then you can explore themes in your life that interest you. Or something else I haven’t thought of for this blog entry, but that’s the beauty of it all. 

TWO. You can do it the way you want. That speaks for itself. Envision the project how you want it and get it done. It’s exciting to work on things that are truly, authentically, yours.

Other advice:

Be conscious of your learning. Reflect on what you write and how you write. Reflect on how effective your writing is and how effectively you project your voice through different styles and genres. This is the extra step that will help you really grow as a writer.

Go to office hours. And also go meet other Writing professors. Go to the sweetland website and make an appointment, then go into Sweetland and meet a really cool, smart, and helpful person! They all seem to really care about what they do and what the students are doing. They care so much about your learning and your interests! So go in and get to know them.
And speak in class. Have discussions on writing and what you like writing about. Speak your mind, agree and disagree, and just have honest conversations. Building good relationships and building trust with your peers will help you get the most out of peer review and peer groups. They are actually really helpful.

Storm

I was tempted to start this entry with the words “this time of year…” in regards to what was foremost on my mind this week. The amount of work due around this time of year is always going to be foremost in people’s minds at the end of the semester. This year has been a little different for me though and I think my mind has been in a slightly different place. Actually, no; my mind’s been in the same place, but my mood and motivations have changed. The remediation project and the eportfolio are absolutely reflective of a path I have chosen for my work, and this has really affected my feelings toward the work. There is a lot to do, but it is exciting work because I know I won’t just drop it forever once I finish. And this actually applies to my other classes as well. So it’s all good! 

This Thanksgiving ended up being a bit more stressful than I expected with personal things that came up. Luckily, I had finished a complete draft of my remediation project before the weekend. I wanted to be ahead of my work going into Thanksgiving in case things got busy meeting up with friends I haven’t seen for a year or catching up with family. When the weekend took a turn, I happened to be prepared, and so I haven’t fallen behind. It’s a good life lesson, I think, to stay on top of things and prepared for the ‘storm.’ Side note here: I went backpacking for a month a couple summer back and the most valuable lesson I learned was to always stay prepared in this way – do the routine, go to sleep with your storm cover and all, so when it does come, which at some point it will, you won’t have an issue. That’s a great lesson, and something that I still take to heart. When things get busy this time of year, one personal obstacle can throw a person off their work and off track from their other goals.

To tie things together: The remediation project and the eportfolio tie into my personal goals. In bettering myself and eventually, my community, these are the types of projects I want to do, and do well. So, this has been pretty cool.

No Place I’d Rather Be

I am actually really happy with the writing that we’ve done for this course. My whole academic career, I’ve been at least a little bit opposed to the academic papers I have had to write. They always seem so formal and rigid, and depending on the teacher and the class, they may force me to write about things I do not care so much about, or at least in perspectives that barely interest me. Exploring myself as a writer has been a fun and enlightening experience in many ways. Writing from my perspective has been transformative.

However! There is always some room for improvement, and I think this is a good to go ahead and voice my opinions on what I think I would have liked to be working on during class time and outside the classroom.

We do a lot of reading in this class on abstracts; we learn about style, genre, and rhetoric in their broader contexts, and then apply it to our own work and to other writers’ works. This is very informative and interesting, and helps us better evaluate those pieces which we find interesting and influential. I think in order to supplement this process of learning, it would have been helpful to practice with specific genres and styles of writing. I know I chose journalism as my genre and the New York Times style of investigative journalism and objective writing. This was all my decision, though, and looking back, I think it would have pushed me to better understand style and genre if I was told to, for instance, choose another classmate’s exemplar genre and style, evaluate it, and attempt to write in it. This could be a cool classroom activity or something along those lines. Basically, getting to see and learn to write in genres and styles different from what I am already familiar with.

I think context in writing is also very important, and we have talked a lot about that as well. Gauging the audience and evaluating the purpose of any piece and the exigence are aspects of my writing that I will carry with me forever. That is how important they are. Sometimes, I had wished we worked more with this idea. We could have done fun writing activities in class in which we took one concept and applied it to different contexts, with different audiences and different exigence, so as to practice our manipulation of rhetoric. This could be a really fun and interesting activity!
Those are my ideas for now. I really have enjoyed writing about projects that have meant a lot to me in this class. It has been an outlet to pursue my true writing aspirations. I have become a lot more knowledgeable on issues that I care about and on how to write about them.

Post 9

Orwell’s account is really interesting, because he goes through his major phases of writing. He expresses different reasonings for his writing, and for which any writer writes, but he also alludes to his own success as a writer, finding the one true tic that could allow him to produce “artwork.” He is best known for his works Animal Farm and then 1984, political and social critiques of his era and his predictions of the future. Seeing into the mind of a literary genius is always fun, and he has cool things to say. I also agree with many of things he points out.

He argues that any writer wants to or at least starts out wanting to write out of sheer egoism, among other things. This was definitely true for me growing up and even sometimes still. I oftentimes feel unmotivated to actually write about things, and sometimes the easiest motivation can be found in convincing myself of possible self-glory… Or even just the prospect of writing something that sounds good – and I think the idea of writing something that sounds good just sounds awful, and that oftentimes led to cycle of convincing myself to write then convincing myself that writing for these reasons is usually silly. Anyways, much of the writing we are accountable for is meant to be shared with others and meant to express our unique outlooks and research perspectives. Of course I want those who read my work to find it interesting and profound. In breaking out of this habit, however, I have been able to find my voice in my writing.

Writing for this class has helped me write with my voice, my opinions, and my informed (or uninformed) perspective on the world. I have been able to write uninhibited by the pressure to be smart of profound, just honest. I know that if I write work that is bound is research and that personal, political, social tic that Orwell speaks to, I will write work that represents me, and that is all I can ask for in my writing. Writing about my neighborhood and the issues that bother me and intrigue me has been a wonderful experience. I have discovered that I can have opinions of complex topics and I can learn enough to write about these topics and share them with experts. It is scary and anxious at times, but it is the only way I can really learn from others and take a step forward in my writing in that arena.

Blog 8: Using New Media

As I have dived into this Remediation Project, the technology part has definitely been the hardest. Not that I don’t like technology, because I do, but learning new forms of technology or technological platforms while learning a new digital genre and style… is hard on hard. Thinking about it feels like remediaception.

But then I got right down to it and tried out the new platforms and, when I did this, I found surprising success. I started out drawing out what I envisioned. I used the New York Times article on presidential candidates (see last blog post) as a template. I reverse outlined the article, looking closely at the digital rhetoric used, and to what purpose. I thought about the NYTimes audience as well, and I thought about mine. I decided I needed something that was more friendly to the layperson, no even assuming prior knowledge of certain institutions or posts.

So my second step was to I draw up a brief mock-up of what I wanted my remediation to look like. From there, I went online to see what website creators like Wix.com or Weebly.com were capable of, stylistically, spacially, and in terms of audible and visual components. I found a really cool fit on Wix.com, in which I could incorporate a really modern look and still make it feel accessible and straightforward.
I like where this is going, and I think technology is on my team now. It doesn’t feel like inception of remedia now. It feels more like exploring something that isn’t too complicated and isn’t too unknown. Most importantly, I’ve found a platform that can achieve the purpose of my remediation project, and which can be accessible and useful for my intended audience. Now comes the work.

Remediation – Finding Good Examples and Ideas

In my last post, I spoke briefly about an example that had caught my attention thus far. It was the “Class Matters” topic from the New York Times. Like other New York Times topics, this series focuses on one subject through different perspectives and digital mediums. There are graphs of varying complexities and types of information. Like many New York Times topics, there is a good amount of perspective supplied by ‘regular’ people, projected through the words or digital rhetoric of the journalist. For example, here, the journalist provides ways getting the story. There is a slideshow with audio from the words of an every day person. This is then followed up by an analytical research piece by the journalist. For me, I see this and I try to think of how I can remediate my project to create a supplement to the research I have done and the product I have thus far created. It would be cool to put together some interviews and voice over the opinions and outlooks of real people because that would  interesting and would provide more perspective for the my readers, who have only heard the story from me.
Some other things that I’ve looked at: Humans of New York (http://www.humansofnewyork.com/), for Brandon Stanton’s unique ability to ask the right questions and depict humans through their experiences and a snapshot on the street. Another pretty cool example of digital rhetoric that informs is the playlist that the New York Times offers when click on a video through one of their umbrella ‘sections’ (i.e. NY Region or Travel or Technology). It will play a video for the user, accompanied by words on the screen and a caption bubble on the side. When the short video ends, it was move on to the next one. Each video is interesting and new, created by Times journalists recently under the umbrella topic (here, called “Channels”)Take this video for example: http://www.nytimes.com/video/realestate/100000003981972/block-by-block-fort-greene.html?playlistId=1194811622241. Notice that as soon as you finish watching, it will smoothly play another video. About 10 minutes and three videos later, you will have learned a pretty decent amount about Real Estate and some history of Fort Greene (although skewed by those interviewed, and I really encourage you to read about the Walt Whitman Houses and the Auburn Homeless Shelter there…), Broadway, and Birds in New York. Admittedly, it seems a bit random as you watch, and it is hard to feel as though you really took a lot from it. The digital rhetoric here, and the smoothness it exhibits is very nice though.