Confessions from a Flake

I’m a lot of things. Loving son. Yellow-lab enthusiast. List-maker. But unfortunately, I’m also a flake. Every squad has at least one. I’m sure you’re picturing your flake right now. Now, the traditional usage of flake is someone that dips out of plans right before they happen. Now, there are many flavors of flake. I wouldn’t say that I’m one that flakes out of plans with friends (I am, but I’m not going to say it). I’m a self-flake. I’m the kind of guy that will make a big declaration, and then do nothing about it. I’m gonna start watching T.V. in Spanish, I’m gonna try listening to KPop. I’m gonna practice writing with my left hand so I can become ambidextrous. The end result: nada. This isn’t a hard and fast law with me, but it’s definitely an alarming trend that has scientists puzzled.

Thus, when I planned on making a rap song for my semester project, a betting man would’ve called this a flake-in-the-making. Well, that betting man is gonna have to tell his family he lost a lot of money, because I actually followed through! The project is completed and out on my EPortfolio (Click the link to check it out. Please, I need traffic so I can start putting ads). This project has honestly helped me understand how to take a project from start to finish. I think part of the reason I flake out on stuff is because the initial planning stage is usually so rose-colored that when the hard work kicks in it feels like the worst kind of grind. Realism is definitely a helpful tool for a writer, and hopefully I can carry that to my future projects.

My last big takeaway from this semester I that writing can actually be a hobby, and not just schoolwork. I know that there are plenty of people that write for fun, but I never really thought of myself as one. When I wrote, I wrote essays. Some were good, some were bad, but all were grindy. Writing lyrics for this song were completely different. It was engaging and extremely rewarding without even resembling work. I’m gonna try and recreate that energy in my future pieces, and I know that my readers will be able to feel it.

Painting EPortfolio

This semester i’ve learned how to better analyze and share my artwork through a written lens. I created a website to host a mix of paintings and pieces of writing from the semester including a podcast about titling artwork.Writing about my artwork helped me think through changes I wanted to make and inspired me to move forward professionally in the art world.

This course increased my awareness for rhetorical situation and took me out of the bubble of essay writing. I’m looking forward to continue experimenting writing in different genres during the capstone.

https://evaantebilerman.wixsite.com/oils

Introducing My Gateway E-portfolio

At 6:02 PM, December 15th, 2017, I hit the “Publish” button on Wix. Wow. This is a bit anticlimactic. I feel like I’ve gained so much from this course that the final embodiment of my work, the site, is simply a place that houses the progress I’ve already made-in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Throughout this semester, I’ve learned so much about writing and the possibilities of writing. But by far the biggest way I’ve grown is that I’ve begun to learn how to accept failure and the art of making mistakes. I used to be physically pained by mistakes. One misspelling would irk me for days. Now, I understand the value of mistakes and that not everything can be 100% perfect. If there are textbooks that have been reviewed by multiple editors with typos, I think I can handle making small mistakes without obsessing over them.

Besides making mistakes, I’ve discovered an excitement for audio and visual forms of writing. I believe that people perform best when they are doing something they actually enjoy doing. I hope to continue to use multimodal writing, inside and outside of my writing classes to continue to explore and build upon the skills I’ve gained from now until the capstone and beyond. I will never stop writing-because technically everything is writing.

But for now, here’s my site: https://amyzhang4.wixsite.com/eportfolio

Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.

Best,

Ashley

Multimodality in Everyday Texts

After reading Chapter 1 of Writer/Designer, I began to pay more attention to the modes used in texts I encounter in my everyday life. The 5 modes discussed in the chapter are: linguistic, aural, visual, spatial, and gestural. As I focused more on the texts I saw, I started to notice the use of these modes everywhere:

  • Gmail: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy (Youtube): Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Facebook: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • LinkedIn: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Handshake: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • The Forest and the Trees: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Graphic T-shirt: Linguistic, Visual Spatial
  • Rowing Poster: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Pleasantville (Movie): Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Canvas: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Google Calendar: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Philanthropy Video: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Sociology Powerpoints: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Psychology Articles: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Soymilk Container: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Menu at Angelo’s: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Michigan Agenda: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Internship Applications: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Instagram: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Snapchat: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Flier in Ross: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial

While I may not have caught all the multimodal texts in my environment, I definitely noticed a lot more than I would have before reading this chapter. Looking at the list above, it’s easy to see that all of the texts I have encountered use linguistic, visual, and spatial modes. I attempted to look for texts that only used one mode, but it was impossible—multimodality is present in every text, the modes are just used in different ways and with varying degrees.

7/20 of these texts contained all 5 modes. Upon closer observation, I realized that all the texts I saw with all 5 modes are social media sites and videos, forms of entertainment. It is no surprise to me that forms of entertainment utilize all 5 modes, as their deliberate usage increases audience engagement. While social media sites and videos are comparatively new, forms of entertainment have always used these 5 modes, proving their effectiveness through the ages.

Perhaps the two most different texts were an internship application and Pleasantville, a movie. As you can see from one page of the application shown, Cisco only utilized linguistic, visual and spatial modes. The usage of the linguistic mode can be seen through the simple word choices, as well as the organization of the words into questions and answer choices. The visual mode contributes to the layout of the application as well as the black and white color scheme. The spatial mode accounts for the organization of the application in different “steps” as well as the arrangement of the questions. These modes are effectively used to create a simple and intuitive job application that doesn’t look to “busy”. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Pleasantville uses the linguistic, aural, visual, spatial and gestural modes. The trailer for the movie can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSDm62Hmbf4. The linguistic mode is evidenced by the word choice as well as the delivery of the movie script. Music, sound effects, tone of voice, volume, and emphasis are heard through the aural mode. The organization and proximity between people/objects of each scene is arranged through the spatial mode. The gestural mode applies to every movement—on the face, hands, body—of all the actors in the movie. These modes are used to increase the entertainment value of the movie, capturing the attention of audience members by providing constant stimuli. The difference in the use of modes definitely contributes to how different these two texts are. It is extremely interesting to see how these modes work in different types of texts, catering to the various functions of the texts.

Writer to Writer Experience

As writers we constantly put ourselves out there. Everything we write can be interpreted in so many different ways, and we take that risk knowing that idea. Although I was not able to attend Writer to Writer at Literati last week, I listened to the podcast to hear Dr. Howard Markel’s thoughts.

He highlighted many important points, but one that particularly resonated with me was the importance of reading. With the craziness of college, it is hard to read in our free time. I have been making it a point to read more in my free time. He discussed that reading is important primarily since it constantly keeps you inspired. Being constantly inspired is often the hardest thing when writing. As a writer, I know that there are so many ideas I want to write about, but the ones that I do write about are the ones that have inspired me or ones I hope to inspire others with. Inspiration can strike at any time. So pick up a book, and you never know what could happen next.

Additionally, Markel discussed how to improve your writing by gradually increasing how much you write each day. This is something that I did last summer, and I saw improvements in my writing even though I was only writing for myself through journaling. He highlighted the importance of revising work, but doing so intelligently. Taking breaks is super important as well – do not rush the process!

Overall, I think this was an interesting conversation. Dr. Howard Markel discussed his background in medicine and writing, illustrating how he was able to combine both interests and write medical history books. Even one type of writing is not for you, that does not mean you can’t be writer. Writing is for anyone who is trying simply to tell a story, whether it is their own or not.

Writer to Writer: Howard Markel

On Tuesday, November 21st, I attended the Writer to Writer Series featuring the accomplished medical history writer, Howard Markel. The event, moderated by the brilliant, feared Shelley Manis, began with an introduction of Howard Markel, followed by a series of questions on his current work and writing processes. The event ended with a few rapid fire questions (which writers would you like to bring to a writing retreat?, etc.) and a Q/A session with the audience.

Howard Markel is downright impressive. Next to him, calling myself a writer doesn’t feel appropriate. After majoring in English as an undergraduate, he went on to receive an M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School and then a Ph.D. at the John Hopkins University. Beyond the 10+ years in school, his writing accomplishments include self-authoring or coauthoring ten books, 12 years of writing for the New York Times, monthly medical history writings for NPR and the American Journal of Public Health. On top of his “1000 words” he writes daily, he teaches at the University of Michigan. Fun fact, as a teenager, he was paid $5 per joke he wrote for The Detroit News.

He had much to say on the topic of today’s writers and what it means to be a flexible rhetor. Howard prefers to complete his daily writing in his pajamas whilst listening to Mozart– Beethoven is “too intellectual.” When asked what’s wrong with today’s writing, he mentioned the need writers feel to solicit themselves in their work. Respectfully, I disagree Howard, but that’s irrelevant. At the end of the session, he made a statement that made the entire event worthwhile…”Regardless of how bad the times are or how frustrated we are with something, we have the opportunity to write about it.” This statement deserves its own space on a plaque or maybe a feature on some avant garde film. Either way, I’m skeptical that he was the first one to say it.

Howard was delightful to listen to and seemed to understand his audience perfectly–a learning objective for the minor in writing students. He discussed his experiences of writing for an audience of nine people versus a million. The audience he writes for shapes the genre and style of writing he produces. Howard’s consciousness of his own writing lends itself to a variety of intended outcomes that other writers may never achieve.

Becoming a lyricist!

lyr·i·cist

ˈlirəsəst/

noun

to be on top of the rap game, providing unequalled wordplay and ill skills

 

In the hip-hop world they say that the best rappers aren’t just rappers, they’re lyricists. They spit their rhymes to tell a story that flows. They use metaphors and similes to play with their words. They demand your attention with lyrics that not only entertain, but tell a story that is so compelling it feels like you’re experiencing it in real time.

 

Tupac’s Brenda’s Got a Baby tells the story of a 12-year-old girl in the hood whose pregnancy forces her into prostitution and the drug game.

 

Eminem’s Stan tells the story of an obsessive fan who kills himself and his girlfriend after not receiving a reply from his favorite rapper Eminem.

 

Ludacris’s Runaway Love tells the story of multiple young girls who are the victims of rape, domestic violence, drugs, and other horrifying realities that attack Black communities.

 

All of these tell stories that do a lot more than just rhyme to a beat.

 

————————————————————–

 

If you want to be a lyricist the first thing that you need to know is that it isn’t about rhyme scheme or beats. It’s about imagery, metaphors, essentiality, and intentionality. Nothing a lyricist does is unintentional.

  1. Every rap starts with a story; it’s the most important part. The song is just the medium for expressing the story, but the most important part of the song is that the reader feels as if they are there and connected to the narrative thus, some of the most common conventions of raps (rhyme schemes, choruses, hooks, etc.) may be broken in order to prioritize the story.
  2. After the story comes the style. What makes rappers unique is that everyone’s style is different. Every piece of the song must be carefully constructed to drive home the purpose of the story, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be chronological or even grammatically correct.  Some artists choose to preview the end of the story to capture the listens’ attention while others tend to build up their reader’s anticipation. This is your chance to be YOU. Take risks. Be adventurous. Allow your creativity to shine.
  3.  After the story comes the chorus. The key is to make it short and sweet, so that it doesn’t take away from the narrative. Even still the chorus must be catchy enough to grasp the listener (yes, it’s as difficult as it sounds).

If you need more help becoming a lyricist check out what listener’s of rap say about what it takes.

As unartistic as I am, I plan to make a rap using these three easy steps. The easy part is that I already have my memoir from experiment 1, which I will convert to a rap in order to attract the same audience and hopefully broaden it. Educational research shows rap music as an effective way to reinforce learning therefore, I hope that my rap song will serve as way to reiterate the lessons taught in my memoir and in the end, encourage youth who’ve endured a lot to look past their struggles. I hope that with my story being in the form of a song it will broaden my audience and in turn, attract students who do not enjoy reading.

Looking Out For Yourself

During my sophomore year at Ross, we were forced to go to 10 guest speakers during the first semester. It was a hassle to say the least, and some of the speeches were even quite dry. However, somewhere in the middle was a man named Marcus Collins. He was able to captivate an audience like I have never seen before. His story was incredible and his physical delivery was impeccable. To this day, whenever I give a speech I try to speak with the confidence and energy that he portrayed. Following in this inspiration, I have decided that the genre that I will be working with for experiment three is speeches; specifically speeches that are framed as Ted Talks, the way Marcus’ was.

Pictured Above: Marcus Collins.

After evaluating multiple speeches, one of which being Marcus’, I have come to decide that this way of giving speeches is by far the most effective to hit the audience I am trying to hit (high school and college age students). There were very large discrepancies between the “Ted Talk” speech and the commencement speeches that I evaluated. The former being infinitely more lively as the speaker worked his way across the stage, towards and back from the audience, and utilized emotion to have so much more of an effect than the commencement speakers. I feel that this is a direct result of the setting in which the speeches occurred as Denzel Washington and J.K. Rowling (two of the commencement speakers) are nothing short of spectacular people, they just seemingly had to tame themselves in the situation.

 

I hope that the following “How To Give an Engaging Speech” guide will benefit you and lead you in a way that helps you to captivate audiences.

  1. Find Your Passion
  • What do you want to talk about? This is not a guide to give a classroom speech, for this guide to be effective, you need to have a passion for what you are discussing.
  1. Know Your Passion Inside, Outside, and In Between
  • In order to have flow and to be able to use the next step, it is critical to know your topic inside and out. Knowing as much as possible about your topic allows you to just get up there and talk. I know that sounds easier than it is, but if you think about your favorite thing in the world (say… football) you can get up there and just talk football. That’s because you know football, you know teams, you know players, you know stadiums, you know the rules, you know everything.
  1. Create a Minimalist Script
  • Most people assume that to give a good speech, you need a thorough script. However, I disagree, I believe that taking a minimalist mindset when preparing a script for a speech is a much more beneficial strategy. Writing out just the main ideas that you want to cover will afford you the ability to be yourself and show your true self when speaking. It also creates better flow as you aren’t struggling to remember all of a potentially hour long speech.
  1. Practice!
  • How do you practice a speech that doesn’t have a script? You just talk, the same way you’ll just talk when you’re on stage. You know the main points, you know the order of those main points, and you know as much as there is to know about your topic. So…. Just go talk about it! To your friends, your family, anyone who will listen.

 

 

Now, I know there is more to giving a good speech than that but that’s the beauty of this kind of speech…. It’s your speech and it’s your passion. In this subsection of speeches, there is no right way, your way is the right way because this “Ted Talk” is yours and if you are lively and engaging and you know your topic, it will be successful.

 

 

With my “Ted Talk” speech, I hope to reach an audience of high school and college aged students. For them I hope to pose and begin to answer the question, “What does it mean to look out for yourself?” Within this question I will be exploring the selfish/selflessness involved in the situation (specifically, considering when it is time to let some of your friends go that may be holding you back from your true potential – similar to Gordie Lachance in “The Body”). This is a great genre to enter this conversation as a lively discussion is one of, if not the best, way to engage and communicate to high school and college students. It far surpasses a long article or an essay, and a blog post just won’t do it justice. This conversation is one that needs to be had face to face and with the spoken word.

Documentaries are for dweebs

In the digital media family, the mockumentary is known as the much cooler cousin of the documentary. The mockumentary uses the conventions of a documentary to recount fictional events (rather than real ones); so, it’s often meant to be comedic.

While allowing for a wider array of creative expression than a documentary would, the mockumentary is limited by how entertaining it is. The more entertaining, the larger the audience, regardless of the quality of the social commentary that the mockumentary has to offer. A funny mockumentary on bread could have more of a following than a more serious mockumentary on the opiod epidemic.

A line from the TV mockumentary, “The Office.”

But how do you write a mockumentary?

  1. Determine the discrepancy. The mockumentary, despite its unrealistic nature, is based on the discrepancy between the reality and stereotype of a given subject. The mockumentary is relatable by being rooted in reality. By determining the discrepancy, you begin to develop a sense of what it is that makes the chosen topic relatable.
  2. Characterize the comedy. What kind of humor will your mockumentary apply? Will it be sarcastic undertones, as seen in “The Gods Must be Crazy” ?
    Will it be the straight-forward, subtle humor that characterizes “The Office” ?
    (Pro Tip: click the mockumentary titles for a clip!)
    The type of comedy you choose to employ should be reflective of the audience you have in mind. If you’re trying to appeal to suburban whites, then the sarcastic, simple-mindedness with which “The Gods Must be Crazy” portrays the villagers upholds the expected stereotypes of that demographic. As a result, the movie exaggerates the misconceptions of suburban whites in order to capitalize on the comedic value of said misconceptions.

    In “The Gods Must be Crazy,” a white pilot throws a Coca Cola glass bottle out of a plane. Xi and his village begin to make use of it, after being initially confused by what it was.

     

  3. Plan the plot. Now that you have a topic and you’ve decided what kind of comedy to employ, you’ve got to come up with a story.What is the setting? Who are the characters? What is the goal? Just like any (good) TV show or movie, and mockumentary has to have a plot or purpose.
  4. Script the scenes. I chose to make this a separate point from the one above because operationalizing the plot is very different from the plot itself. Coming up with the plot is the easy part; scripting it, however, is a different story. This is where much artistic privilege and creative license can be applied: details from the facial expression of a character to the number of extras in a scene must all be considered with varying levels of dexterity. If this step were fully realized, it can (and does) take over a year to complete.

This may come as a shocker, but for experiment 3, I’ve chosen to re-work my original piece in the genre of mockumentaries. I wanted my experiment 3 to be drastically different from my previous two experiments, and given that this is a genre I didn’t know existed two weeks ago, I’d say I’ve fulfilled that requirement. However, I also chose to work in this genre because I hope to continue the theme of realistic realization that I began with experiment 2. Experiment 2 transformed my original piece of creative nonfiction into a real, tangible protest song. In experiment 3, I hope to transform my original piece into a mockumentary, in order to continue to make my piece more tangible and applicable to real life.

Just as a refresher, my original piece was a fairytale-like chapter that examined the effects of linguistic hegemony imposed by a Troll on the People. There is a word dealer in the chapter that acts to bridge these two parties; but, in reality, the world dealer lacks a sense of belonging to either party. Experiment 3 will convert the fairytale from my original piece into a mockumentary about the current opioid epidemic. I hope to examine the features of the opioid epidemic that mimic my fairytale. These features include the role of the drug dealers (as the word dealer) as well as that of power dynamics between addicts (the people) and  the systems/institutions that subjugate them (the troll). These institutions/systems of power, such as the legal or health systems, are maintained by average people, and yet, they too are complicit in this crisis.

Heroin.

The pilot episode of “Grimm,” while not a mockumentary, inspired me to look at the realism that subtly finds its way into fairytales.The crimes committed in “Grimm” are based on the fairytales by the Brothers Grimm. “Grimm” details the stories of how normal, inconspicuous people could really be monsters. I hope to elaborate on this point in my mockumentary. In terms of the conventions of the mockumentary, however, I hope to draw upon “The Gods Must be Crazy” and “The Office,” both of which employ a sense of humor I hope to emulate.

“Grimm,” the TV show about how humans can be monsters.

The mockumentary grants me access to a wider audience, as its entertainment value appeals to those who its topic might not appeal to alone. While I am still able to enter the discussion of systematic oppression, it is no longer in the realm of linguistic hegemony. However, I still believe I am entering the same, larger conversation about systematic control via dependance (i.e. on drugs or words). As a result, I will use this genre to communicate this idea to a US audience concerned about the opioid epidemic, or looking to be entertained. I will use a documentary on the opiod epidemic as a starting point, and use its content as a basis to my mockumentary.