Hello Babies, Welcome to the MIW!

I am not quite sure what happened, but apparently I either dreamed about writing this advice post and it never actually happened or I somehow forgot to click post after constructing it… who knows? Either way, I still have advice to give! Better late than never, right? Here it goes:

  1. Keep a calendar: As exemplified from my error of late blog-posting, it is so important to keep a calendar of all due dates! Not only that, but make sure to take the advice of making a project plan seriously. Project II and III will sneak up on you, especially since they are made almost entirely on your own time. You will need to be on top of it so as to avoid as much stress as possible. I suggest lots of planning and actual time-tracking. There is a lot going on, and it is helpful to stay disciplined in this respect.
  2. Have fun with it: … but don’t be too disciplined. Because you really should have fun with this class. It is more about taking chances and exploring media and methods you may not have tried before. Experiment. Have fun. Take chances you would never dream of taking in any other U of M class. This gateway course is special for a lot of reasons, but I think the main one is that the environment is so encouraging. You have a tight-knit group of writers ready to offer constructive criticism and support at all times. Take advantage of it. Don’t let the freedom intimidate you; see it as an opportunity to play.
  3. Be respectful: In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” You are going to get close to your classmates, so be kind from the start and all the way through. Sharing writing can be extremely personal, so be respectful and make sure you say whatever you have to say with the best of intentions.
  4. Meet outside of class: whether is be with your professor or with other students in the class, take the time to meet outside of scheduled class time. The writing minor is a community, truly. Meet with others to chat about writing, life, and otherwise. It is all relevant to what we do. We are writers, and writing is communication. So communicate! Chat! Make this more than just another course and meet outside of class.

Best of luck writer! You got this.


See Me on the Big Screen

… okay maybe just on your laptop screen. But still! My EPortfolio is up and running, and you can find it here: http://dhtond.wix.com/eportfolio

While I hope that anyone viewing my Eportfolio enjoys my writing, I more so hope that anyone visiting my eportfolio will come away with an understanding as me as an individual.

This project primarily began as a way to showcase my writing, and even though that is still the principle purpose of this portfolio, I feel like it holds so much more than that now. Throughout the website, you will find a list of some of my favorite quotes, authors/books, poems; essays explaining aspects of my life that even some of my closest friends are not aware of; email exchanges between an instructor and me that truly altered the course of my life due said instructor’s constructive criticism and kind words of encouragement; and so on. You see, after the “Why I Write” project, I realized just how personal writing is to me. As a result, I wanted to present myself not only in an academic, professional manner on my EPortfolio but also in a personal one. Looking at the final product (well, ignoring the fact that I may choose to add more work later on), I can honestly say that this portfolio presents a snapshot of me—certainly as a writer but also as a person. Hope you enjoy!

Debacles at the Dude

Project III is well under way. I got my group of sciencey students together on sunday evening in order to record the podcast. It was a night filled with technological trials and tribulations, but the debate went well. I had four students come up with me, but one of them said near nothing during the debate. It was quite discouraging, but I was able to edit her out of the talk so it is almost like she was never there (sorry Astrid lol).

Can I just say how cool the Duderstat (aka The Dude) is? I was in the coolest room ever. It was a personal podcast studio, and I may or may not have felt like a superstar reporter or someone super important or something. You know, no big deal.

Like I said, there were many difficulties nonetheless. With great technology comes great responsibility. Well, more like great frustration. After I had recorded everything, it took me almost two hours just to cut out the parts I did not want.

So that is where I am at right now: I have a rough cut.

I plan to work on the final, trying my best to figure out the tech enough so as to incorporate some sort of background music and sounds and fade-ins and outs and all of that jazz. Wish me luck. It is going to be struggle-some I am sure.

Little Balls of Margarine

All afternoon I have been conducting interviews for this pre-law organization (since some friends of mine apparently think I am qualified to be Vice President of said organization, ppfftt okay guys). Anyways, it is odd. But I am running with it. So one of the questions we have been asking the interviewees is what they consider their spirit animal to be… 4/5 people so far have said Lion… LIKE WHAT. WE CANNOT ALL BE LIONS. I am unusually upset about this widespread, generic answer.

But I also am mildly happy about it because it got me thinking. I mean it really got the good ol’ gears turning. What I would say my spirit animal is anyways? Someone once told me I seem like a white Siberian tiger, which I found oddly specific yet reasonable, I suppose. But then like isn’t tiger pretty generic as well? I used to think that was fitting for me: elusive, intimidating, chill until someone (or something) really ticks them off. Ya know they get down to business when they gotta but otherwise they are fairly under the radar. Sounds like me. But what about some of the more eccentric animals? Also, isn’t this whole idea of having a spirit animal odd in itself? We are animals, technically. I wonder if any animals consider what their spirit animals would be… Jk that is pretty damn unlikely. But is is? How do we know what animals think? Well, we don’t, I guess.

Last night, in the delirium that is 3am, my roommate turned to me and proclaimed that we are all basically bacteria. With a look of disbelief, I disagreed. I think we can agree that, in a physiological (or biological or what have you) sense, we certainly are not bacteria. But with respect to how small we are in this universe, I suppose we are like bacteria in a way. We are all animals, or all bacteria, in this very small world in this very large universe. Now I am getting all like WHOAAAA MAN WHAT ARE WE?!?!? One time, last year, I was having a mini-meltdown about society and culture and the structure of our reality and at the end I proclaimed that “for all we know we could just be ‘little balls of margarine'”… I have moved slightly away from this earlier stance but I mean, now I am not so sure. I think we just might be margarine after all. Or something like that.

Why Are Writers So Cool?

I loved looking at everyone’s eportfolios from the past. No two were even close to the same, and this made me weirdly ecstatic. What I realized while going through the eporfolios was that what really matters here is to showcase some personality. Of course there were some that were easier to navigate than others, but on the whole they were all pretty straightforward, simple, easy to navigate. The ones I particularly liked, however, had a certain look to them. I am hesitant to say that any of them were “better” because they really were just all different. Though, I particularly liked the work done by Cameron Fattahi, Logan Hanson, and Nina Sternberg.

I like simple. Backgrounds that are one solid color, usually white, and clear, clean content.

Here is a breakdown, highlighting what I believe to be the strong points of these portfolios:

CAMERON FATTAHI – The way in which he formatted his “Writing Homepage”, which has a dropdown menu with all of the projects of Writing 220 is near exact to how I want mine to appear. It is easy to see all of the documents, is not too text-heavy, and yet it somehow holds the reader’s interest. Well done with the actual project presentation.

LOGAN HANSEN – His “Other Works” page is perfection. It is creative, using quite literally a timeline to show the work he has done throughout his time here at U of M. I really admired the creativity he showcased without being overly complicated. Seriously impressed, I may use this idea in one way or another on my portfolio. Hope you don’t mind Logan! Lol.

NINA STEINBERG- The homepage picture was bold. It immediately caught my interest, stating: “These Are the Souls.” Overall, this was not one of the strongest portfolios I saw, but it had some of the most personality. Seeing this portfolio made me want to know Nina. I want to learn about her as a human, and I think that is pretty powerful for a webpage to be able to do that. Nina where you at? Let’s be friends. You seem cool.

If I had to describe these eportfolios, I would say that they are all simple and professional yet also do a wonderful job of displaying the writers personality. Now I know that this is what I am aiming for with my own portfolio. Thanks for the inspiration Fall of 2014 cohort!

Either a Bad Joke or a Great Beginning

An anthropology, biology, and philosophy major are sitting in a bar… Just kidding. They are sitting in my living room, with our eclectic miss-mosh of decorations scattered about (i.e.: the antique wheelchair in the corner we use for extra seating, since it was brought by the pre-med biology major in this very room and we figured it ought not go unused; or the near life-sized poster of Beyonce that is so cherished by the anthropology major and her cultural obsessions). Needless to say, this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.

But it isn’t. Actually, it is the beginning of my Project III. My plan for this project is to expand upon my academic article on science and objectivity by talking with other college students who are majoring in either the sciences or certain humanities. What I ultimately hope to accomplish is to ask similar questions I asked in my paper all the while getting differing perspectives on these inquiries. I want to see if the scientists have a different view on all of this than I do, or if we might oddly agree. Moreover, I want to consider what this could mean for the work of Philip Kitcher that I critiqued for Project II and for science as a practice in itself.

The basic idea is to chat. To get my peers’ opinions, to simply have a discussion about the issues at hand. And, overall, to show how there really is overlap between the hard sciences and the humanities, no matter how much people would like to believe that there is not. It is all entangled. How will I show this? My prediction is that it will appear, prevalent and pervasive, in these podcasts with my peers. We’ll see. Worst comes to worst, we’ll have some solid conversations whilst sitting in a wheelchair, Beyonce overseeing the debate, smoldering.

Ohh the Wonders of Project II

So this whole project II thing is turning out to be much more difficult than I initially anticipated. When revisiting my original source, being an old philosophy final paper, I realized just how much work I have to do. Below I have copy and pasted my GSI’s concluding commentary on the paper:

“I’ll open with some criticism: I think this paper involves problems with both content and structure. There are places, flagged above, at which I think you misinterpret or misconstrue Kitcher’s points. And somewhere in the middle of the paper, your rather clear goal of arguing that WOS depends on a worked out account of purity and unity, seems to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, you find yourself arguing about the special importance of the tyranny of the ignorant.

However, this paper was ambitious, creative, and showed the sort of excited engagement with the content on which the very best philosophy depends. It was fun and refreshing to see someone try to bring some novel criticism to bear on the content of the course, rather than to read another paper that just regurgitated the same old stuff we’ve talked through in class. Good work. Of all the papers I received, this is the only one I think has enough meat to it to bother revising any further. I think if you wanted to make a project of it, you could refine this paper into something publishable in one of the many undergraduate journals of philosophy out there. There are, as I noted above, some serious problems here. But you also do original, substantive, creative work. That’s such a rarity. Well done.”

So here’s the thing. I focused on the second paragraph, naturally, because that is the more positive praise. Which ultimately meant that I took this all to mean I am brilliant and can just expand on my brilliance. However, he was really, really serious when he said that the paper involves “problems with both content and structure.” My brain was all over the place in this paper. The ideas were there, but they were not entirely argued for as I had hoped, leaving me with much more work to be done than I thought. I was under the impression that most of my work to be done would be expansive rather than some serious editorial and investigative work. In sum, I better get seriously started. Off to work! Hope all of you are having a tad more luck than I am.

Time to Research for Real

For my Project II I will be revamping an old philosophy paper into a substantive work I hope to publish in one of the many undergraduate journals of philosophy nationwide. While I had done some research for the initial paper, it is time for me to research for real, considering my aim is to turn this 8 page paper into about 20.

Thus far I have stumbled upon a variety of sources I think may help me. First, I decided to look more into what the genre conventions for undergraduate philosophy journals are. I looked to The Dualist, Stanford’s journal, as well as a few others. General knowledge gained from this research included typical page length, citation style, and other formatting normalities. After noting all of this, I decided to begin finding source material for the body of the paper itself.

My paper is going to be discussing Science, Truth, and Democracy by Philip Kitcher. In short, this book is a look into science and objectivity, proposing that moral and social values are in fact intrinsic to the sciences opposed to popular belief that science is completely value-free. Kitcher then proposes a notion of “Well-Ordered Science” (WOS) as he calls it, which is ultimately a model for scientists to follow so as to follow the best possible method of scientific inquiry. All of this sounds great, right? Well, there are some problems. Kitcher begins his book by disposing of the possibility of scientific unity and purity. He claims that there are no such things. However, his notion of WOS later depends on notions of scientific unity and purity, or so I will argue.

In order to successfully break-down Kitcher’s argument and formulate my own, I will need ample support from outside sources. While my brain has the basics worked out, I wouldn’t be opposed to some help. So, I found a few articles that present similar objections to Kitcher’s view, namely one by the well known philosopher of science Helen E. Longino. The article, “Science and the Common Good: Thoughts on Philip Kitcher’s Science, Truth, and Democracy,” presents possible problems in Kitcher’s view as well as praise for it. I found the article to be a great piece of literature that I hope can help me better hone my view and support it. If anyone is interested, I have attached it below, though it is fairly dense and requires some background knowledge in the subject, such as of Kitcher’s book, so I do not expect anyone to really read it. If you’d like to give it a skim, however, here it is!


Elusive Elena Ferrante Finally Interviewed

I chose to read the Elena Ferrante interview due to T’s comment about Ferrante being “quite a mystery.” She was right. This interview absolutely altered the way I perceive author’s intentions. Until this interview on the Paris Review page, Ferrante had refused to give any interviews both in person as well as even over the telephone. At first, I figured this was due to her own desire to be alone, to not be bothered by the press. But towards the end of the interview, she is asked about the reoccurring theme of “disappearance” in both her novels as well as in her own life, to which she responded, “there are many reasons to disappear… the extraordinary thing about the written word is that by nature it can do without your presence and also, in many respects, without your intentions. The voice is part of your body, it needs your presence. You speak, you have a dialogue, you correct, you give further explanations. Writing, on the other hand, only needs a reader. It doesn’t need you.”

It is important to note that Ferrante adamantly holds herself to the standard of no self-censoring. In fact, she even wrote for a long time without the intention of publishing or having anyone else read her work so as to train her not to censor myself. This fascinates me, making me think I ought to write completely uncensored as well—for I feel few of us do, especially since we know we will be sharing much of what we write be it in the classroom, on a blog, or to friends and family elsewhere. Ferrante could not be more accurate in her claim that “if the writing is inadequate, it can falsify the most honest biographical truths. Literary truth is not the truth of the biographer or the reporter… it reanimates, revives…”

This resonates with me mainly due to my experiences as a reader, as someone being moved so deeply by my voice silently reading the thoughts of another. I would, however, like to feel as if I could connect to this as a writer as well. In some ways I can, yet not fully, not whole-heartedly.

In her words, Ferrante’s motive to “publish [is to] to be read.” Yet at the same time she states that she does not think “the reader should be indulged as a consumer, because he isn’t one.” In fact, in her eyes “literature that indulges the tastes of the reader is a degraded literature.” I agree. Beyond any amount of doubt. Moreover, my goal as a writer can be summed up just as Ferrante’s is: “to disappoint the usual expectations and inspire new ones.”