Pics on Pics on Pics

baby me
Potential image for the “The Beginning” landing page of my portfolio.

Because I want to feel of my EPortfolio to reflect the kind of collage-y feel and “maker” vibe of my final project and evolution in general, I am incorporating a lot of pictures in my design. Still, these can mostly only be found on the home, within my Capstone project itself, and on the landing pages for each section (beginning, middle, and end). I’m still brainstorming whether I should include images in other areas of the portfolio, such as the pages with essays.

Still, since the theme of my portfolio utilizes a fairly busy and cluttered background image to set the “zine” theme, I’m not sure whether incorporating other images on the pages with writing artifacts will make the feel of the page too cluttered. I also want to keep the focus on the writing itself, rather than images that I never initially intended to pair alongside the writing. So, I don’t plan on incorporating images onto the pages with my artifacts. I feel that the overall background image of the crumpled paper and the bright yellow color provide enough stimulation for the audience, and though I want the pages to feel post-modern, I don’t want visitors to feel overwhelmed.

Looking back now, however, I don’t want my portfolio to be devoid of images, save for the sticky notes and paper on the homepage. Maybe I’ll look to incorporate images on the lading pages of “The Beginning,” “The Middle,” and “The End,” possibly images of things that connect together and reflect growth in stages of three. It may be cool to see if I can find images of myself that relate to writing, from when I was very young, a teenager, and now. This way, readers will get to see who I am and possibly feel more connected to me as the writer, seeing me as an actual person rather than a random mysterious voice. One potential image is this one of me as a little kid, which could be on the landing page for “the beginning.”

On Being Almost Done

I know I’m required to write a blog post at the end the class, but I figured I should get a few thoughts down before that. In that final post (for class, not ever), I’ll write about “the journey”—the ups and downs, what I’m proud of and what I hate—or maybe something less cliché. Today, I just want to write about my Writing 420 class.

Collaboration is not a novel word to most University of Michigan students. I know personally, I’ve heard it in classes ranging from psychology and organizational studies to economics and statistics. I know that collaboration involves working with other people, and the end goal is presumably to improve or create work product. Collaboration sounds relatively simple, and even beneficial in theory, but what about in practice?

Well I think it depends. On the one hand, working with other people can breed new ideas. On the other, it can cause conflict, awkwardness, and as I’ve witnessed, occasionally tears. My experience tends to be with the latter (the negative in general, not the tears).  But not in Writing 420. I have never seen collaboration so concretely in action, never fully understood its benefits, until this class.

Each student at that long table in our North Quad classroom wants their classmates to succeed. We critique each other, compliment each other, and always provide ideas to supplement those critiques and compliments. If it weren’t for my classmates, this is a brief summary of how my portfolio would look (this will really only make sense to those of you who have seen it, I apologize for that and will hyperlink to my final project when it is completed): a confusing, meaningless homepage, an about page misleadingly titled “About me,” the presence of Wix website pages that I intended to be hidden, and no project. Without the help of a classmate, I literally would not have a project. My Map that I have spent days tweaking, hours moving little boxes to align the various aspects, could never have existed without collaboration.

So, I wanted to thank my classmates for their collaboration, for providing me with the tools to create a project I can be proud of. I hope all Minor in Writing students get so lucky.

See ya!

Well, this is a bit surreal. This blog post marks my last assignment at Michigan. High Stakes!

I’m happy to share with you all my new portfolio. My last one was an utter disaster and I wish there were some way to destroy it. Without further adieu, here is the link you have been waiting for:

http://jasonrubinstein4.wix.com/jasonbr

Check it out. Read every word. Just kidding; don’t do that. Well, unless you want to. Anyway, my portfolio, titled “The Writer,” was a way for me to showcase my personality through writing. When I began to write my Evolution Essay, I realized my writing progression is gigantic metaphor for who I am. That essay is what I want you to read most. And hopefully that will give you an urge to read more of my work which is plastered all over the site!

My capstone was a long-form feature about an Ann Arbor chef, who wants to end the stereotype that Gordon Ramsay has created for all chefs. They don’t all yell and scream. Writing about a chef was difficult; especially because I had no idea what would be cliché and what wouldn’t. I gave it my best shot and hope you enjoy it should you read it.

Most of all, please read the evolution essay: I never opened up like this before — that should entice you.

Before I go, thanks to everyone in my class. You’ve all been great. Special shootout to Julie — you challenged me when I didn’t want to be.

Cheers

PS: Check out my portfolio! And read the evolution essay.

To Whom It May Concern: Evolutionary Essay Audience

Over the course of the Minor in Writing, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what needs to be done to draft right when I write it. When I wrote my first evolution essay draft, I knew that I needed to clarify my terminology, incorporate the introduction into the conclusion, and create a better connection between a few of the paragraphs at the end.

Just recently, I did a mini-assignment that was intended to help me decide if my draft had been suitable for four specific audience members of my choosing. One audience member is someone in my field who I look up to, another is a close peer in the minor, the third is a friend not in the minor, and the fourth is someone not in the minor or in my field of study. The mini-assignment would help me decide how to revise my draft to meet my audience members expectations.

Well, an evolution essay is primarily aimed at a writing audience (at least mine is). Though my “field” is neuroscience/pre-medical studies, my intended field in this essay is those who write and read. Why? Because I want this essay to be interesting! I want it to stand alone as a cool piece of writing.

With my current draft, three of the four (unnamed) audience members would be pleased. The only one how would be unpleased is the person in my “field” who I look up to. I have chosen this member to be English professor John Rubadeau. I love the guy. I think he’d find this draft boring, quite honestly. Aside from the introduction, my language is quite bland. He likes flowery, well-adorned language. John also loves humor. Again, my essay is lacking. There’s some there, but there could easily be more. Oh, and he’s also a huge fan of the Greek rhetorical circle (creating a cyclical connection of ideas throughout the essay). I know he’d be bummed that my draft doesn’t return to the ideas from the introduction—at least not explicitly.

Although I knew a few things I had to do in order to make my next draft better, this exercise helped me to realize that there are changes I should make that I was not originally considering. It also helped me to realize that my fictional audience would approve my use of “bullshit” in the essay; I wasn’t sure if I should keep it. It’s always fun when people don’t mind profanity.

An irrelevant photograph of my dog Lennon and a snowman. Cheers.
Here’s an irrelevant photograph of my dog, Lennon, licking a snowman. Cheers.

Wait, Who Am I Actually Writing To?

I loved the Revising and Refining exercise, because I’ve been bouncing back and forth between who I want to speak to through my piece. Evaluating some key players (and those not so key) really helped me narrow down who I want to impress, and who I can stop focusing my attention on so much. The people I chose to evaluate include:

 

A top expert in your field:

  • Michael J. Weller
    A Michael J. Weller zine cover.
    A Michael J. Weller zine cover.

    is a British zine artist and writer. He got in on the zine movement when it was first starting to take root back in the 1970s, responding to British counterculture movements, especially within the punk genre. He even designed a postmodernist album insert for David Bowie, which is very cool and zine-like.

  • How he might respond: To be honest, Michael would probably think my zine is pretty amateur, but then he might ask: aren’t zines supposed to be amateur? Because he was so involved in the height of punk counterculture, Michael would probably think the topic of my zine (college) is too mainstream. Still, that’s okay. By taking a mainstream topic like college and placing it in the zine format, I’m hoping to question some social norms and put readers in a resistive mood when reading, in hopes that they will look at the institution from a new, possibly skeptical, light. Nevertheless, though he’ll never see it, impressing Michael J. Weller would be amazing.

 

A close peer in the minor in writing:

  • My blog group knows my project pretty well at this point, so I feel like they would be able to give me fair and honest critiques of my work. I’ve gone over my ideas with them step-by-step throughout this process, so they know where I started, how I’ve shifted my thinking, and where I want to go.
  • How they might respond: Since I’ve been talking to them so much about my project, they probably won’t be too surprised by the final draft. However, since we’re all seniors at U of M, I hope they can see the humor and relate to it as well. If not, I may need to broaden my stories or switch up some topic interpretations.

 

A peer from outside the minor in writing:

  • My friend Sarah is someone I’ve known since freshman year, so she may be able to relate to some of the topics and stories I’m writing about in the zine. We also have a similar sense of humor, so I feel like her opinions would be very useful when determining what’s actually funny and what should be cut.
  • How she might respond: I really hope that Sarah would think a lot of this is very funny. I usually talk to her about topics like this all the time and she really understands my voice both as a writer and as a person. In this piece, my voice really overlaps between writer and conversational-human-being, which I think both contributes to the humor and will help readers like Sarah really see the humor.

 

Someone who isn’t an expert in writing or in your field:

  • This sounds cheesy, but my mom isn’t an expert in writing or zines, but I still think I’d want people like her to get something out of this work. She went to college so she probably has some memories that would relate to my writing in the zine, but since the genre would be completely new to her, her perspective would be valuable in determining whether the zine design or extraneous features add or take away from the written content.
  • How she might respond: Looking at the writing alone, I think my mother would find a decent amount of humor from this zine. She would relate to the group project parts (since I’ve complained about them to her multiple times), as well as other timeless topics like dorm rooms. Still, there are some things she wouldn’t get, such as Michigan-specific themes. I’m totally fine with this though; the zine genre was created to serve underground communities and tend to be incredibly localized, so I am targeting the piece toward current University of Michigan students, incoming students, faculty, and somewhat-recent alumni. She also might not really get the zine genre as a whole, but my mom’s not really an “edgy or underground” type of person, so I don’t really think she would be familiar with them to start with. Still, she’d likely get something out of the design elements and postmodern, scratchy expression in correlation with the theme itself.

 

This exercise really made me realize that my audience does NOT have to be all-inclusive. I’m seeing how, especially as part of the highly-localized zine genre, exclusivity could actually enhance the piece. It’s providing me a lot of freedom to think that not everyone has to get it; when I was writing my rough draft, I felt the need to over-explain some things and broaden my thoughts so that everyone who ever went to college (or even heard of college) at any time in their life would totally and completely get all of the jokes. Now, I see that that’s not necessary. I’ll probably respond to this more detailed target audience by going through and localizing the piece by tweaking the design and through design elements. I’ll include pictures specific to the University of Michigan to make my specific audience clear.

 

Who Am I Writing To?

 

For this blog post Shelley assigned us to complete the “Who are you writing to?” mini-assignment from Revising and Refining. So…who am I writing to?

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  1. Emily Schuman: A top expert in my field that I would really like to impress is Emily Schuman, creator of the blog Cupcakes and Cashmere.
  2. Sarah Schuman (not related to Emily): Sarah is a trusted friend and peer. As a fellow writing minor I trust her opinions. She also knows me well in and outside the classroom, which makes her a great audience.
  3. Jordyn Levine: Jordyn is one of my best friends from high school. We took almost every class together in high school, and I trust her knowledge and opinions, especially with writing.
  4. Becca Lesser: Becca is my friend and roommate who is a Computer Science major. She is not an expert in writing or fashion.

 

After reading my evolution essay draft aloud, I noticed that my voice can be heard throughout the entire piece. I think that my essay is relatable and easy to understand. All of the people I wrote about writing to would have no problem digesting my essay. Obviously someone in the Capstone course like Sarah, would have the most invested in reading my evolution essay because she knows exactly what it it and what it is about. Further, Sarah is a close friend and she would be interested in knowing what my evolution as a writer has looked like throughout the past four years. Someone like Emily Schuman may not care about the pieces of writing I did in my LHSP class freshman year, but she still may be interested in the overall point of my essay.

Both Jordyn and Becca are close friends and I think they would be interested in my essay for different reasons. In high school Jordyn and I always edited each other’s papers, and I think she would be interested in seeing how my writing has transformed over the past four years. Becca on the other hand would simply be interested in hearing my story. She may not care about each specific paper I wrote, but she would be intrigued to learn about the changes in my writing and why those changes occurred.

Right now I think I am doing a pretty good job of writing to a wide audience. Although there will definitely be specific people who are more interested in my Evolution Essay than others, I hope that everyone reading my essay will be able to find something to relate to. As I begin to revise I will focus on making sure my voice is prevalent throughout the piece. I also want to make sure to clearly identify when I am including excerpts from past pieces so that my essay looks good both structurally and visually.

The Power of Short Words: A Mini Assignment

Hey guys. I’m going to try out a mini assignment that Shelley has posted to our Canvas page. It’s all about learning to utilize the power of short words—those that are only a single syllable (I’m not doing a great job it thus far). The assignment is to write a 200 word description of a place that I am familiar with using only monosyllabic (lol, the irony) words. I’m allowed to use three multisyllabic words which I will number using parentheses. Let’s see how it goes.

_________________________________________________________________________

Room one-one-nine is small. It is green with a blue floor. The trim on the door is brown. The door is not to close—such is the way of the psych ward. The top of the door has been cut so as to strip any edge from which a noose could hang—such is the way of the psych ward. Art sits on one wall, and the rest are blank. Light comes through a large window (1) off to the side. A bed is set on the far wall. White sheets lie on the bed; Maia lies on top of the white sheets on the bed in the small, green room with the blue floor in the psych ward.

She has cut her body. They are small cuts, like those from paper (2). But they are still cuts. They still bleed. She needs help.

She is here for the week. She will go on to Denver soon, where she will stay for one month. I go to see her twice while she is here. Each time she is bored—not by me but by life in the psych ward. Each time we read and play cards. There is no more for us to do. We talk. Joey came a few days back. She says he has been well. Joey is a good guy. Maia loves him.

I love Maia. I want her to be well. I want her to love herself (3).

_________________________________________________________________________

Wow—that was much harder than I would have expected. I think I cheated. “Maia” and “Joey” are actually both two syllables. So is “Denver.” At least I kept the descriptive words to single syllables (other than “herself”). The rest were nouns. This is the website I used to ensure that each word was monosyllabic.

Try this! It’s tough!

Electronic Annotated Draft FTW

When Shelley suggested that I try a mini-assignment in class on Monday to help with my Capstone revision, I brushed it off. I thought there were so many more productive ways I could be spending my time in class, and decided to continue writing my Capstone piece. In the last week I have basically started over with my capstone, and I’m now writing a personal narrative about my experience with fashion throughout my life.

Today I spoke to Shelley via Skype after sending her my most recent draft. It was extremely helpful to talk it through with her and she had a lot of great ideas on how I should proceed. After our conversation, I realized that it might be helpful to do a mini-assignment. I chose to do the electronic annotated draft and I am so happy that I did. The assignment asks us to go through a draft and add comments in the margins in certain places where you want to know more, are unsure of your point, have questions, etc. Doing this after talking to Shelley was great because I was able to take her comments and pinpoint specific places where I could work on them.

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I may have gone a bit over board with the comments…

This exercise was great, and I will be coming back to my draft in the next few days to answer and resolve all of the questions I posed for myself. Another lesson learned…Shelley is always right 🙂

Who Are You Writing To?

Assignment:

For this blog post, we were required to complete a mini-assignment from “Revising & Refining.” In this mini-assignment, we were tasked with looking at our Evolutionary Essay from the perspective of four peers: a top expert in our field, a trusted peer in the Minor in Writing, a trusted peer from outside of the Minor in Writing, and someone who isn’t an expert in writing or in our field. Reading our essays from these perspectives would help us see in a new light what’s working in this draft and what isn’t. Below, the four peers I chose and my predictions for each of their points-of-view:

  1. Emily Kramer: Emily was the director of the team on which I interned this past summer. Next week, I am interviewing at the new agency she works at. Emily works primarily with numbers, and her work is quite strategic. I think formatting my essay as an outsider looking at my work will make it easy for a reader unfamiliar with writing assignments at the University of Michigan to follow along. However, she doesn’t know anything about the Minor in Writing program or my major, so that may be something I would want to explain better.
  2. Hannah Schiff: Hannah is a trusted friend as well as one of my peers in the Capstone course. I trust her constructive criticism. I think out of all the potential audiences listed, Hannah would be most welcome into my work and understand my motivations best. However, I think she also would buy into it the least. She has experiences in many of the same classes as me, so I know she would be looking for clear, honest analysis of my academic writing.
  3. Joey Schuman: Joey, my little brother, is a freshman at U of M. He also writes for the Daily and is an amazing writer. Joey and I struggle with different elements of our writing. I think that they elements of my writing that I pick out to analyze wouldn’t be ones he would pick out on his own, but that he would understand them with my explanation. I bet he would suggest that I clarify the structure and format of my essay.
  4. Frances Hinkamp: Fran is one of my best friends from high school. She’s a great writer, but she’s pre-med and hasn’t done a lot of writing in college. She also would be very unfamiliar with the courses I took and assignments I completed for those courses. We talk a lot about how the curriculum differs tremendously between the small university she attends and U of M. She also has trouble getting out of her own head when she writes, so I think she could sympathize with that aspect.

Conclusions: My findings through this exercise are fairly similar to what I wrote about in my writer’s note for my Evolutionary Essay rough draft. My main concern is that the way I structured my piece and my reasons for doing so are confusing. This exercise supported those concerns. If I have doubts that Emily, Joey, and Fran, my three trusted peers who are unfamiliar with the minor in writing, will be confused by my approach, then I have to consider making some clarifying changes. I am thinking about explicitly stating who is “reading” these past works of mine and why their objective opinion is important. I also want to clearly mark the transition between my first-person voice and a third-person perspective. Also, I need to do some brainstorming on why I chose to approach analyzing my work this way and synthesize my ideas so they would be understandable for someone less familiar with the assignment than me.

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Draft Development: Do we ever really know what we’re doing?

For my draft development excercise, I chose Option 4, which was to pick a sentence from our first project draft and expand on it in 500 words. I wasn’t sure where this would take me, but I think I ended up with a pretty solid rough draft of a project conclusion:

 

“Essentially, college is a time when expectations are disrupted, questions are posed, and nobody really knows what they’re doing.”

 For four years I’ve lived in a bubble of a college town, where I have the luxury of being surrounded by people similar to me, people different from me, and wifi pretty much everywhere I go. I’ve had the freedom to complain about things like professors and group projects, when I never really had any real problems of my own. After graduating, I’ll have to fend for myself, as my professors become bosses and group projects become everyday work. I’m shuttering at the thought.

 

A few weeks before graduation, one of the most common phrases you’ll hear around campus is “Oh my god, I am not ready for the real world.” These words have escaped my own mouth on multiple occasions, as I contemplate very “adult” decisions such as, “where can I get a job?,” “what’s a 401k?” and “what even constitutes ‘business casual’?” I’m not ready.

 

But maybe we’re never ready. At every transition point in our lives, from high school to college, from college to “adulthood,” and from wearing leggings and sweatshirts every day to having to buy actual clothes, we would rarely face these without at least an ounce of hesitation. Four years ago, possibly to this day, I was probably sitting on my bed sifting through the massive college course guide, thinking about how scary the classes looked and how I’d rather just stay at home and eat my mom’s tuna casserole forever. Still, I drove into Ann Arbor that fall and learned it as I went. When it comes to life’s turning points, maybe we all just need to relax, and start before we’re ready.

 

Earlier, I talked about how college is a time when nobody really knows what they’re doing. But, looking to the future, if there ever a point in our lives when we actually know what we’re doing? Sure, we can strap on a tie or a pair of matte black heels and call ourselves “professionals,” but maybe the answer isn’t as simple as that. I have no idea where I’ll be in ten years, but know that, regardless, I’ll probably still be a little confused, questioning if I made the right decisions, and making Ramen out of my microwave at least a couple of times a month. Safety and comfort are great, but too often these overlap with the mundane. If there comes a point in my life when I get trapped in a pit of repetition and same-ness, I hope I have the courage to start before I’m ready and try something new. Because we shouldn’t always know what we’re doing.

 

Life is unpredictable.

 

That’s what I learned in college.