General Thoughts, Preoccupations, and Anxieties

What’s in my #1 spot right now is a host of anxieties and preoccupations that have been with me my four years, but I’ve never been able to fully address. This specifically has to do with how what I like to read, influences how I want to write.

I love to read about flawed characters – the more specifically messed up the better, because the words on the page then feel like an act of vulnerability, which is something I deeply admire. This kind of vulnerability also feels like a kind of honesty which is something that I aspire to cultivate in both my life in general but also in my writing. Because of this I think, I’m drawn to memoir. Writing about my life has helped me understand my life – and doing so feels like a way to be honest with both myself and whomever is reading it.

But I’m often not the only character in the personal essays I write and I’ve been thinking more and more about how each person I choose to represent in some way or another becomes collateral damage for my own selfish wants. The two things that I value most right now are honesty and relationships, but in a memoir, or an investigation piece these seem to be mutually exclusive. I could write about a person, fangs and all, and I’d love to do it, but even if that writing is smart and nuanced and handled much better than I’m likely currently able to handle it, does it justify the potential of a lost relationship? And if it doesn’t, than how much do I really value honesty? Or if I’m more than willing to do it, as long as the person never reads it, than how much do I really value either?

The main assumption that I also keep bumping my head up against is “that I actually know what I’m talking about – that I see these people in ways that they’re incapable of seeing themselves  and therefore my version of them equals truth, which I have a interest in capturing and a responsibility to capture accurately.” And I know that’s arrogant, and likely impossible but I keep doing it anyway.

Is there a way for me to ‘safely’ tread this line? (The main assumption here being that I want to, or should want to ‘safely’ write) And if not, then how can I be the most ethical while also being nuanced and interesting. Is there a way to do that without compromising what I believe is valuable and or losing a relationship

I don’t really know if this is a topic – or how this would manifest itself so any suggestions/thoughts would be more than welcomed.

Another random thing that I’m kind of interested in is I bought a hand lettering tutorial last summer because I wanted to learn how to create beautiful and elegant letter forms. But as part of that, I get these emails from Sean (that’s the guy’s name) twice weekly with all kinds of advice about chasing your dreams and ways to align your passion with your work etc. etc. with podcasts and everything. They their own folder in my email because I love that stuff and at some point I would really like to read/listen to all of them. But I’m also kind of baffled by him and the emails all at the same time. 1) how does he constantly feel like he has a revelation he needs to share with the world 2) what makes him so confident the world wants to hear it and 3) why does this kind of writing seem more and more common place. I think in one he explicitly says that this part of his work – and even though he’s giving it out for free (I only paid once for all of the tutorials) is crucial to his success, but I still don’t understand how that’s possible. I signed up to learn how to do art, not necessarily to hear platitudes. So there’s a potential angle of blog culture and why so many small businesses see it as essential.

It’s kind of dark down there…

I’d never ventured upon this site, and I must admit, after being a student at the University of Michigan for quite sometime, I was rather embarrassed. It seems that I’ve neglected an invaluable resource for discovering relevant resources within the library system.

That being said, I took itupon myself to delve deeply into this exercise, and to enhance the likelihood that I’d find it useful, I clicked on “Art,” for to create it is, perhaps, the reason I exist.

The subcategories under the “Art” subject were both vague and niche – and I quickly surmised that, while this system would have been extremely viable this side of ten years ago, currently I could find whatever information I wanted in 10 seconds flat with a search engine on the internet.

For example, why would I want to make the effort to look up the options for books on music composition, travel to the library, take the stairs (or opt for the elevator as it supports point I’m trying to make), scale the aisles with my piece of parchment and pencil scribbles of the ever-so archaic Dewey decimal identification number, barely perceptible in the dim light of the wax candle in my hand…

Okay, perhaps I’m being hyperbolichere, but the point is, there are probably ten current sites that I’d rather (Scholar.)Google from the comfort of my own laptop, sitting next to my keyboard, before I go to the library to look up music composition resources.

Am I proud of this? No. I’m the kind of person who eschews Kindle and iBook and Nook and whatever other cute, little epithet the modern-day man has fashioned for anything other than print on paper.

Am I old-fashioned at heart? Yes. Butam I willing to work that much harder to stay old-fashioned? Absolutely not… not even when it comes to research for academia.

Into the Rabbit Hole: Another Form of Fiction

I have to admit that this may not have brought me any closer to a succinct idea but I do feel a bit more bold in potentially experimenting with things. I was immediately drawn to the Arts and Humanities sections because I wasn’t familiar with the “research” side of them. Surprisingly, I had no idea of the depth of available research in the Arts and Humanities sections.  

“Comic Books and Graphic Novels” was a guide that was incredibly interesting. I had always pictured this genre as mostly containing Marvel/DC superheroes, Manga and Archie comics. Other types of novels seemed to be a small subset. But, I guess, Betty, Veronica and Batman don’t even begin to cover this genre. There are so many different forms and stories that a comic book/graphic novel could take. There were different denominations (eg. independent, mini comics, etc).  I quickly realized that comic books/graphic novels could be portrayed differently, written differently and speak different message to different audiences.

I discovered the Expresso Book Machine. Did you know you could actually print books? You can actually get published (not officially, but at least have a print copy of a book). This is a great opportunity for anyone to print a project in book from. 

The other subject area that I was intrigued by was “Theater/Drama”. I had never read or seen too many plays. I visited the resource“Theater in Video” which had fantastic recordings of original performances from plays but also contained productions on “non-artsy” topics like Rehabilitation history and Dentistry. The definition of theatre is defined differently from what I expected. 

From a project perspective, this exercise broadened my view of the different forms that my writing could take. This semester, I wanted to explore more of my ability in writing fiction. However, rather than simply typing words as a story, I now see that this project could take different forms. I could create a comic book. I could write a play or create a video/film depicting some sort of story. It’ll be interesting to see what form of fiction I’ll end up with. 

On the humanities, espresso and prairie dogs

Rabbit Hole

A couple questions I had before going down this “Rabbit Hole.”

  • Can a human really fit into a rabbit hole? How big does this bunny have to be?
  • Why would you choose to climb down? What’s wrong with getting a drill to find whatever is at the bottom?
  • Why does it have to be a rabbit? Why can’t we chase after a groundhog? Or a prairie dog? Let’s chase after one of those.

Anyway. I went through with the exercise after looking up rabbit holes and began by diving into the humanities portion. I figured it would be most similar to the work in communication studies or journalism, but it’s also because I had no interest in the other topics.

The humanities are broad and they provide a great deal of opportunities for research. Which is why now feels like a great time to get some of these clichés out of the way before I continue.

  • Boy, there sure are a lot of resources at the library.
  • My mind is opened up to new areas.
  • I’m disappointed I didn’t use this more.

I took humanities path, scrolled down until I saw the Espresso Book Machine. It’s completely unrelated, but I enjoy books and coffee so I had to check it out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make coffee. But it does create books to read in print, which is pretty sweet. But surely there must be an explanation for why it’s named after Espresso. So I followed a link to an article from Independent Publisher on the machine. The article says it gets its name from EspressNet, which was a bit of a letdown as I searched for the name. But I did find a quote, likening the machine to an Espresso, so I was satisfied.

“The machine is a high speed printer with a finishing unit that prints, trims, and binds a book in minutes. It truly operates like an espresso: producing quantities of one at a very low cost and with almost no human intermediary.”

I didn’t really come away any more confident about my subject idea or where I’ll head with this capstone project. Which is why I decided to look up Prairie dogs.

A Very Fine Rabbit Hole

As I skimmed the titles of hundreds of research projects, occasionally clicking to a subsequent page or backtracking to the previous when I hit a dead end, I tried to find an actual trend in what it was that piqued my interest. My eyes flashed over thousands of words–some of which sparked a pang of curiosity within me, others which made me feel actively annoyed, and many more that my brain seemed to process with no emotion attached whatsoever.

It’s kind of a strange thing, when you think about it to an exhausting point. The words I read were no more than lines on a computer screen, but still they could make me feel such an interesting range of emotions. Words by themselves mean nothing, but attach to them the cultural construct of meaning and they can transform into the most powerful tool known to man, capable themselves of transforming individuals and even whole societies.

Throughout my 21 years of life, I have constantly been defining myself by using (or purposely excluding) certain words; the right combination of them, I’ve hoped, would attach the type of meaning to my person that I sought after. While there’s always some flux in terms of the particular words used for this purpose, it seems that a select few must be preserved throughout my life in order to truly develop a consistent identity–a characteristic which appears to be essential to lead a fulfilling life. When I eventually pick a topic for the Capstone Project (a project which will represent the culmination of my work as an undergraduate student and which I hope to be able to have with me throughout the rest of my life), I want to ensure that it is focused on one of these core ideas that I will choose to base my lifetime values on. Discovering what exactly the bank of values I have to work with to achieve this end, however, may be much more difficult than can be put into words.

I almost cried in the Dude… a story by Elizabeth McLaughlin

I hadn’t been to the Dude (the North Campus library for you freshman Markley kids) in over 2 years. So when a friend asked if I wanted to study there Sunday night, I jumped at the opportunity. The dude!? What a magical place. I can’t wait.

I had planned to spend my Sunday evening working on a paper for another class, but as I opened my laptop to begin work, my capstone project website was on the screen.

“Come see my capstone project!” I told my friend. I was so excited to show him my hard work.

But a funny little thing happened. As I went to click on the various pages, some of the text and photos weren’t loading, and my pages were white, blank, nothing-ness. I clicked refresh patiently. Maybe the Dude has bad wifi? But nothing changed. I logged out of Wix to reload the site entirely. Nothing.

I start to panic.

I refresh again. Log out again. Try opening Chrome again. Nothing.

“It’s gone,” I say to my friend.

I search my computer for a Word doc. Maybe I kept the written portion of the website in a Word doc. Maybe this was an easy fix.

Nothing.

I feel myself start to do that thing where you’re about to cry.

I can’t cry in the Dude. That’s so embarrassing.

My friend tells me to get it together. Shit happens, and I will just have to redo it.

He’s really supportive.

Now I’m really about to cry. I start frantically Googling ways to restore a Wix page. I HAD JUST WORKED ON THE SITE EARLIER IN THE DAY AND SAVED IT. WHY WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME. I ALWAYS SAVE MY WORK. My heart is racing. I can’t see the damn laptop screen because I’m ABOUT TO CRY IN THE DUDE.

But wait. What is this? A way to look at SITE HISTORY!? I follow the steps of “help” post. All of a sudden I can breathe again. My site had made a copy of itself on November 7. I can see what was on the screen. I haven’t lost all my prose, all my research. It’s going to be okay.

My friend tells me to calm down and get some work done. I want to hit him. He has no idea what this capstone project means. But you guys do.

Long story short, I’m going to have to re-input all the photos, but I won’t have to rewrite hundreds of words. The moral of the story is don’t go to the Dude. I think the wifi is weird. Maybe the library was angry I hadn’t visited in a while.

Oh, and also save your work.

Stumbling…

I decided to drift a bit from the blog posts regarding our work…you know, like our redrafting and portfolio maps and all of that shenanigans that we have to complete in about a month…

 

because, well, I was stumbling. You see, I used to go on StumbleUpon all the time (definitely not in the middle of a boring lecture, no no. I never did that…   ;D   ) But I realized I haven’t just “stumbled” for the sake of it in forever. So why not take a break from the stressful homework and unleash the creativity…see where my Interests take me on StumbleUpon today.

And man, did I discover the coolest artist ever. I really felt the need to share this someone…anyone…so I figured, why not share it with the wittiest, craftiest minds I know? My fellow minors, of course!

25 Thought-Provoking Pieces From A Prize-Winning Polish Cartoonist: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1zhmLJ/:1B4.E8V2e:Z1oO7knB/www.filmsforaction.org/articles/25-thoughtprovoking-pieces-from-a-prizewinning-polish-cartoonist/

If you have any free time, this is DEFINITELY worth checking out. Each of this guy’s works are blowing my mind, one after the other. They really make you sit there and think about what the artist is trying to say…what is he telling us about society? And he NAILS it. His pieces reveal the stark truth about reality and our world…and what is becoming of it.

 

My favorite pieces are #4 (using the Facebook symbol – the man looking out into the world from inside a sealed room), #21 (the men staring at the paint rather than the victim), and all of the pieces that involve children in it. There are just so many subliminal messages…it’s baffling!

So, if you do check it out, which is your favorite piece and why? Just curious…

The UM bucket list continues! HELP!

Alright friends. This weekend, I’m accomplishing two more bucket list items:

1. My first UM hockey game (Friday 7:30PM at Yost)

2. Running across the North Campus “wave field”

I know I want to capture the hockey game through sound (of the crowd and the players) and possibly video. However, I’m a little stuck on how to capture the wave field experience. I’ve done a lot of photos with my other bucket list items: adventuring along the Huron River, painting the rock, and eating hippie hash at the Fleetwood Diner. Any suggestions as to how to approach the wave field? Are there cool photo or video apps that would allow me to capture the event in a unique way? For example, I played around with a time lapse app when I was on a run, and I got some cool effects, so I want to use that video on the “home” page that describes the list.

I’ve also considered using Youtube videos about the wave field as a way of supplementing my experience. I could also capture the entire journey up to North Campus (not just being on the wave field). Thoughts? Thank you!

Capstone Project Struggles

For my capstone project, I’m writing a short story. Fiction is not my forte, and I’ve conducted some preliminary research to learn different brainstorming and writing techniques (Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway & What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays). Though these sources are extremely helpful, they don’t address some more personal problems that I’m facing.

In my story, I’m writing from multiple points of view. In order to achieve a distinct voice for each character, I’ve used somebody I know as a model. For example, I thought to myself, “what would so-and-so think in this situation? How would he/she react in this circumstance?” While my story is entirely fiction, my characters are very identifiable as people in my life. And in order to make the story realistic and interesting, I have exposed some of their greatest flaws. The average reader might not recognize this, but for those who are close to me, they will immediately know who I’ve used as for my character models.

My problem is this: I’m scared to show my story to those who I’ve modeled characters after. I’m nervous that they will be offended that I have portrayed them in a way that exposes their shortcomings. I fear that they will be mad at me for writing about personal situations, even though I’ve changed enough details to call the piece fiction.

What do I do? Should I show them my story? Since I’m posting it on a public website (my capstone e-Portfolio) I’m sure they’ll eventually stumble upon it. All advice is welcome.

Thanks!