Challenge Blog Four: Genre

Genre has been a huge focal point for our in-class workshops and it was one of the major concerns I had going into my Capstone project. When I initially had the idea for a music website, I was playing around with too many ideas. It was going to be an anti-gossip column, it was going to be Skimm-like news site about the music industry, and it was also supposed to incorporate album reviews. I had tons of exciting concepts, because I love music and have interned in the industry for two years. But I had to let that go somehow. Admittedly, it was great at first to have a plethora of options. However, I knew that my project would lack quality if it was bogged down by quantity.

writing-meme

There have been times in the past when I started too broad with a writing assignment. One instance that comes to mind is my first semester of freshman year, when I had to write a comparative literature paper using Maya Angelou’s work. I was far too overzealous with my thesis and ended up making a wild claim by the end of the paper about female writers’ representation in America. I used several outside sources that I did not need and it was utter chaos. It’s one of those papers that was a mess from the start and I tried to claim more than I needed to in the five pages I had.

That experience gives me pause now, because I can remember to collect my thoughts and narrow my focus. I was helpful to look back on an assignment like that one and use it as motivation to choose one thing for this Capstone. Now, I have settled on doing a digestible news site for music technology. I most definitely want to take stab at a longer op-ed piece, but it will remain in line with the shorter articles. It will be informative and up-to-date. That is my goal.

Challenge Blog Three: First Year Writing 2.0

I am taking a First Year Writing Requirement as a second-semester senior. This was entirely by accident. I only decided to enroll because the course is focused on pop culture and music. So obviously it looked interesting! As a MiW, I have taken plenty of argumentative essay courses. Then why am I having trouble starting this first paper? It is a 4-5 page rhetorical analysis that unpacks an interview with Blondie (well, just Debbie Harry and Chris Stein). This should be right up my alley, right? But I just can’t pin down the exact problem, because I think it’s two-fold. First, my professor provided some incredibly confusing guidelines for the paper-writing process that I am not used to. She is almost guiding us too much! For example, she gives us concepts to consider for each text we want to close-read and then we are meant to answer a set of questions of our classmates creation. I feel like I do this process (asking questions of the text) in my own natural way as I start a paper. So, her guidelines may be too constraining. Secondly, I feel pressured to write an interesting and revealing paper in just four or five pages. I have been writing longer papers since my last FYWR, so I simply feel stuck right now and can’t jump in.

im out

What did I do when I felt this way in my other writing courses? The upper-level requirements were definitely more challenging, but they had incredibly open-ended prompts. I don’t enjoy feeling like I have to answer a specific question, so I may approach this paper in a similarly flexible way (while still acknowledging her guidelines). I would like to reveal new perspectives on this interview rather than arriving at any solid answer. Because this Blondie interview is complicated! I won’t forgo the assignment guidelines altogether, but I think I have to just start this paper knowing I will arrive at multiple answers (and finagle a way so that I am not too bogged down by rules). Is that too rebellious? I don’t know. But I am a senior in a freshman writing class and feel like I can be more creative with a rhetorical analysis.

Challenge Blog Two: Similes and Metaphors

I am currently doing poetry exercises for another class and have run into a serious wall with similes and metaphors. The challenge is to write a poem at the end of each section of The Poet’s Companion, hoping that the chapter prompts from the book will offer some inspiration. Unfortunately, the metaphor chapter is giving me some difficulties, because I feel that what I am writing is, for lack of a better word, pretty lame. My metaphors are weak and cliché. I don’t want to force anything. However, for evidence that this is not the end of the world (and that there may be a solution), I will draw upon my memories as a young girl writing poetry with my grandparents.

Imagine a ten-year-old girl sitting atop a roof with a silver bucket of watermelon slices and a notebook. Seems really dangerous, right? Well, do not worry. My grandparents sat right beside me, pointing out plants and animals from our two-story perch (it was a weird tradition, I know). Anyway, we wrote small poems all day on that roof in Colorado. Some were silly and others very introspective, considering life and death. I remember one line going something like this: “Frigid like a lonely night in the mountain air.”

Whilst writing, we’d snack on watermelon and spit the seeds off the roof and into the gully. Since I was not yet a teenager, embarrassment was hardly apart of my vocabulary at the time. I imagined the wackiest worlds and wrote it all down, never holding back. I didn’t overthink a thing or fear that it was “lame.” I wrote everything down, spitting words out like the watermelon seeds.

I think that’s the mentality I have to re-associate myself with, reverting back to that version of me, writing poetry on a roof. Those metaphors definitely started off rough, but they got better in time. If I get out of my head and stop feeling embarrassed, I could come up with something great for this poetry assignment. Maybe all I need is some watermelon.

Challenge Blog One: Rituals

I never considered myself to be a woman of ritual. On time, particular, and possibly OCD? Maybe. But the act of arranging materials just right on the table or grabbing the perfect snack before I actually start a paper are moments that have usually felt more routine. However, rituals are routines that have become special and essential. Sometimes they can be positive, but in today’s case I will talk about my ritual of writing at home and how it has been problematic.

Last semester, I wrote just about every paper at my dining room table. I love being home. I enjoy my roommates’ chit-chat and the smell of everyone’s cooking. It’s warm and inviting. Since we all enjoy doing homework at the table together, it has also always felt like a great work environment. However, I was pretty disappointed with one paper I wrote last semester for American Culture in The Sixties. The whole process took place in my bedroom and at that dining room table. I interviewed my grandfather sitting in bed and did late night research downstairs. The overall product was messy and the analysis was sadly quite thin. Not all of my writing assignments ended up that way, but this particular project could have been better had I considered moving outside of my comfort zone.

My new goal is to combat my home-body attitude. It was clearly a challenge for me and I want to make sure I end my last semester of college with some great writing. With that being said, I will make treks to cool coffee shops and comfortable study areas when I need to start a new paper. This will hopefully get creative juices flowing, give me a new setting with different sounds and smells, and maybe it will be a fun ritual that I didn’t know I needed.

 

Boilerplate Problemos

A prime example of a boilerplate is a press release, where family members or PR representatives make statements after a huge media whirlwind. For example, I found Khloe Kardashian’s first released statement to the press about Lamar Odom’s overdose. Here is a small snippet:

“‘The past week has been incredibly difficult,’ Khloe wrote on her website. ‘I am so thankful to family, friends, and fans, who have sent nothing but prayers and well wishes to Lamar. I also want to take a moment to thank everyone…'” (http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/khloe-kardashian-releases-first-official-statement-about-lamar-odom-20152010).

Blah, blah, blah. It is definitely in the boilerplate model because of her general statements that are always seen in press releases. It is a formula that people can understand, but it also is not really saying anything at the same time. A press release such as this could easily replace the names of those involved with another set of names, and then it’s just yet another press release about a different chaotic event in Hollywood.

I am going to use this press release as an example for a cliché as well, because Khloe ends the statement with “God is great!!!” Although not a typical cliché like “absence makes the heart grows fonder,” the phrase she says at the end is still a great cliché that people use in times of strife or heartache. This press release is riddled with boilerplate and cliché problems that one simply cannot fix for the genre. It is the very existence of these two problems that makes press releases so easily constructed and spread over media. They need to be constructed as such.

What Do You Mean?

I was having some difficulty thinking of a solid word or phrase that was as dynamic and confusing as “basic” when in reference to the English language. After reading Lainey’s post about strong arguments, I immediately thought of the term ” having a strong voice.” Teachers, writers, and audiences alike can describe the voice of a writer as “strong,” when that adjective could mean many different things. It reveals how intriguing or interesting the tone of a piece is, while also concealing what kind of tone that even is. Is strong funny or serious? Is it quite literally loud or could it still be strong if it was a modest tone? Does it sometimes mean to conceal the fact that it’s not “good” writing, but to save face the reader notes that it’s still a “strong voice”? To me, this parallels the word “creative,” a word I think people choose a lot to disguise their true feelings about a piece’s quality, or lack there of, as well.

Do I Know Why I Write?

What I find potentially interesting about me as a writer isn’t what I know, but what I don’t know and how I admit I’m just figuring it all out as it goes. Unlike Orwell, I am not established as a writer nor do I think I have a permanent resounding voice. In his “Why I Write,” I must admit his voice is a little dry. That may be an indicator of his time or maybe he grew into that kind of writing as he aged. If he was immortal and could see the writing world today, maybe his voice would be different. Maybe mine will change too. I don’t even know that for a fact. Since I don’t know a lot, I admit I am a total amateur, and to write about that process of finding a voice I’m comfortable with as a late-adolescent could be intriguing for a reflective piece. Title: Writing Total Chaos.

As an only child, I had to create my own chaos. Life was boring with zero siblings and a boring cat for a pet. I was always the eye of my self-destructive hurricanes; I talked back, day-dreamed a lot, and always saw myself on an equal plane with my parents. That background fostered some crazy diary entries and interesting plots for short stories. I was a mess of a pre-teen and am a mess of a twenty-year-old now. My writing process is, as many writers have attested to, messy as well. I go from writing a story in a casual voice, cursing and describing a sex scene, to describing the beauty of love with airy words and leaving any trace of comedy behind. I don’t ever know what I’m doing when I’m writing, and that has made me believe I am not a good writer. I like to make sense of my world through the written word, though, and I push through anyways. I may never be published– I sure as hell never see myself writing a novel– but I’m not just a leisure writer either. The best thing I can offer at this point in time is that I don’t know. I write now for a different reason I will write in twenty years. I have talked about law school, writing deals that will sign bands to a label because I am so in love with the idea of the music industry. Contracts have no voice, though, so am I destined to write all this time in order to find a voice just to settle for not having one? Or am going to write on the side for no one else but myself like my mom does now (she deals with contracts too– what a surprise!). My answer: I don’t know. And like Orwell, I am doing little to answer the question “why do you write?” and am offering up more background to who I am in relation to the act of writing.

 

Three Remediation Possibilities

Since I am exploring the Greek diaspora, which has resulted in a Greek-American limbo, which I experience myself, I would like to remediate my piece in a very visual, colorful, and emotional way. I want my readers to feel something from me, so I think a very visual stimulating remediation would be perfect.

Option 1: I could search for old photographs of my family in Greece. I’m talking way back when photos were hard to come by. I know for a fact I have images of my family and I in the same places, which could be a cool remediation project to have them positioned side-by-side. For instance, I have a picture in front of the sign that says you are entering my mother’s village of Alepoxori, and I have seen older images of my mother’s parents standing at that same sign in the 1940s.

Option 2: A mini-doc of interviews with other first generation kids like myself. Maybe not of Greek heritage, but other heritages where they find the same phenomenon/paradox of identity taking shape.

Option 3: An online photo album of photos from Greece and photos from Greektown (Astoria, Queens) or Greektown in Chicago. A BuzzFeed-like format about the best places to go in each place could be cool.

 

A Weekend of Browsing Habits

Following the assignment to clear our recent history and see what happened over the weekend, I noted that my internet access (1) lacks variety and (2) is more boring than I thought. I don’t know if I subconsciously stayed off of my computer because of this assignment, but this weekend I spent a substantially smaller amount of time typing away on my little MacBook than per usual.

Friday: I mostly spent time on my gmail, sifting through emails and sending reminders out to my sorority to keep ordering the apparel I designed. I created a Prezi account for my Media and Globalization class, researching street art and spray can art for the presentation. After checking my homework on Canvas, doing some work on Word, as well as simultaneously iMessaging people, I looked up the Sadako menu to order dinner with my little. I hung out at her apartment and didn’t get on the internet again that night. I definitely used apps on my phone that evening though, which included Snapchat and Instagram.

Saturday: My history from today was way more extensive, which was probably due to the fact that I laid in bed for the majority of the day. I looked up how to empty cache on a computer and did it so my computer could load faster. This was primarily so I could load all the pictures I had taken on my SLR camera from the night before. Naturally, I uploaded them to Facebook and spent most of my time Saturday tagging my friends and re-stalking the photos to make sure they were properly edited. So, a lot of my search history involved stalking people on Facebook (as well as myself). I was led to a video on that my friend had posted to her wall, and from there I watched a few more stupid things on Youtube. I checked my email and found myself scrolling through a site similar to Buzzfeed that had an article about an artist who sketched book characters from their descriptions, then compared them to the actors that were cast for the movies. I also tried looking up some articles about Greek-Americans while online shopping as well. I used a Greek to English translator for some Modern Greek homework and posted something to my class’s Greek blog on Blogger. I also tried finding this Lifetime show about Charlie Manson online, but it hadn’t aired on TV yet, so I got off of my computer and watched Entourage all night with my roommates.

Sunday: I was on Prezi trying to start my Global Brands presentation while also trying to login to Word Press to write this blog post. I had forgotten my password, so I spent more time than I wanted fetching a new password. I sat in Starbucks doing some homework and checking things on Canvas, while searching for the most commonly asked interview questions online. I have a phone interview on Monday, so I have been preparing for that.

The rest of my history follows these patterns and there is little to no variation from them. Maybe if I followed my habits for more time, then there would be more to look at. As of now, this is all I got and it’s not that exciting.

Making My E-Portfolio Cool

This winter break, my mother and I were walking in my neighborhood of downtown Manhattan, trying to waste time before our dinner reservations. As we window shopped and drooled over dresses that would make us go bankrupt, my mother stopped and dragged me into a colorful store called Taschen. Books of all sizes lined the walls, every color imaginable, lighting up the entire space. I felt like I was in a candy store. Taschen, an art book publisher, is by far my mother’s favorite publishing company, which I found out that night as she played through the little halls of the store. I was immediately drawn to a massive book, larger than my torso, opened atop a pedestal at the front of the store. It was an entire book about David Bowie, and his rise and fall as Ziggy, all as a collection of photographs and quotes by his official photographer of 1972-1973, Mick Rock. I stood there for a very long time, flipping through every page, which were splashed with beautiful images and quotes by both the photographer and the musical sensation. I moved from Rebel. Rebel. to another opened book called Unclassifiable Rheims, which kept my attention until my mom gathered me for dinner. It was so hard to be pulled away, and I will probably remember that visit for a very long time.

I set you up with this image of me standing at the helm of such giant books, in probably the most aesthetically pleasing space comparable to a library possible, because that is what I would like to model my e-portfolio after. Each and every art book that Taschen has published is beautifully assembled and rich with content. I was curious to search for their website as well, which is equally as pleasing to the eye as all of their books are. I found that I could spend an incredible amount of time on their site, browsing through images of their books, and reading the little snippets about each one. If my own website could draw the eye like Taschen’s does, then I would feel content.

In other news, while browsing http://www.taschen.com the other day, I found the David Bowie book, and guess how much it’s going for? $4,000.