Ad Hoc Annotation

The most recent thing I had read was an actual source I’m thinking of using for my Writer’s Evolution.  Is this cheating?

I wrote a blog post 3 years ago.  Someone commented on it with a question, and I think my comment in response was (looking back) pretty stupid, so that’s why I want to include it. But here is my ad hoc from yesterday anyways:

Annotating my own blog comment about phenomenology.

  • This comment is in direct relation to the question posed by one of my classmates. I didn’t look at the question he asked – I just remember this comment as being particularly hard to get through.  The intent of the posted comment, therefore, was simply to answer his question, and to further the ideas in the original blog post, which was something about phenomenological theory as it relates to book history & the purposes of studying book history.
  • My comment, however, does a rather poor job of answering the question. I can tell without even looking at the question because my own words are over-complex and hinder the understanding of the actual ideas.  There is one point where I wrote the same idea in two differently worded sentences, both overly complex – instead of going for simple language to convey my ideas in a way that was easily digestible, I went for complex language, hard to disentangle and very hard to digest.  It’s also annoying to read.
  • I could use this as a demonstration of my writing process when I’m self-editing while I write – the sensation of censoring my words even before I put the words on a page. It could be used as a good demonstration of my writing process, in which my own fears/anxieties inhibit my ability to write anything coherent at all.  It is also a good example of being afraid of others’ perceptions of me (effect of a public forum for writing), and feeling intimidated by the older students in my class to such an extent that I had to use over-inflated language.  It is useful in that, in a form that others would argue is very low-stakes (blog comments are not exactly known for their literary astuteness), I was still unable to let myself relax.  I could also use this to inform the fact that, at the time of my writing this, I thought I was being really smart; now I have come to a better understanding of myself as a writer enough to know my mistakes, but still unable to fix them.  Perhaps I could bolster this idea with evidence further in my paper – and later, chronologically – about how identifying my unhealthy habits is not enough to fix them.


Going No Where Fast: Zeno and His Pair ‘o docks

I wouldn’t be lying to you when I said I’ve been thinking about Zeno’s Paradox all weekend. To be fair, I don’t know what that say about my personal/social life as a college junior, but I can say that it has gleaned me more questions than answers. During the U-M/Illinois football game, I found my mind wandering to the odd concept we had discussed in class on a touchdown drive. Specifically when our 3rd in goal on the 1 yard line was “halved” due to a Illinois foul. We had then, technically increased our distance to the goal line. But if we only kept moving half the distance to the goal line, the game would be the longest in history.

With a mind reeling from the enormity of infinity (and probably a little from the hard spiced cider I had had before the game), I realized that when you’re playing the game, you don’t think about that. You don’t think about how far away the goal line is. You just move.

So I guess that’s where I’ve ended up. It’s easy to sit back and think about how the journey anywhere could be impossibly long. Infinitely long even. But we aren’t thinking about that. We are thinking about where we are now, how we need to get there, and ultimately, the end point. We just move through all those halves until we reach the whole of our destination.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ended up somewhere at all. But, I’m at the end point, so I’m going to stop thinking about it now before my brain explodes.

Ad Hoc Annotation: We Are All The Same by Jim Wooten

Jim Wooten attempts to bring awareness to the continued struggle of AIDS in South Africa through telling the story of a young and influential victim during the early 2000s. The book does a good job telling the boy, Nkosi’s story from start to finish, including aspects of the the past that played into the boys upbringing, and important aspects of the current economic, social, and political context in which the boy and his new family navigates throughout his life. Wooten uses the boy’s story to highlight the challenges faced by AIDS victims even as medicine exists, and how political ignorance and the economic remnants of Apartheid has exacerbated these challenges — even in 2004, 8 years after the triple antiretroviral cocktail first came out.

Wooten does well to hook the reader to the charismatic and intelligent Nkosi, albeit balancing the tightrope between objective journalism and subjective storytelling; he offers a holistic view of the modern AIDS epidemic in South Africa, but his love for the boy is undeniable in this portrayal — something that is not necessarily bad for the story but at points threatens to undermine his journalistic integrity. This presents itself when at the end of the book he very nearly villainizes the boy’s original family — his grandmother and sister — but then chooses to step back from delving too deep into the family drama and the economic, social and political divide that characterizes their relationship to Nkosi’s new family.

I could use this for its journalistic long form prose, as well as its ability to tackle the complexities of a current sociopolitical issue in another part of the world, while effectively humanizing the issue for those who might not otherwise be interested.

ad hoc annotation

Season 1 of Archer perfects the art of turning a formula into consistently hilarious and notably discernible television. Each episode, despite following roughly the exact same path as the previous, is shrouded by new locations, colorful antagonists, and circulating jokes unique to each episode until its easy to recall each episode as a unique entity, despite the structural similarities throughout the season. Producing each episode as a standalone work of art is a hallmark of a successful show, particularly if the basis under which they are constructed is so uniform.

Granted, to consider the first season of Archer a successful television project requires a very particular taste in humor. It is certainly darker, quirkier, and more nuanced than its successors, which broaden in comedy and appeal (while ironically diminishing my own enjoyment) with each year. My enjoyment of it has been particularly enhanced by my own knowledge of spy/heist/’60s movie tropes, and thusly a lot of the more subtle elements that nevertheless characterize the very core structure to which I spoke – from the Bond villain stereotypes to the character types from which the protagonists are derived – may go over the head of some viewers and lessen the show’s overall appeal. And despite its nature as an animated comedy, the very power of this first season – the way in which each episode presents a self-contained narrative, complete with some callbacks to previous episodes and some contained within itself – likely appeals more to prestige TV buffs than to fans of Family Guy. But regardless, to this target audience, Archer does achieve its goal, or at least a goal, in creating a encapsulated product both in its individual episodes and in the overall season.


The season opener of The Walking Dead attempted to satisfy millions of viewers’ six month long hunger for a satisfactory resolution to the cliff hanger at the end of last season. It had one job: show us who Negan kills and make us feel something besides utterly duped. This season opener was supposed to be a turning point for the show; it upped the ante on the savagery of man in the Walker universe and could have sent a message to the audience: no one, not even your fan favorites are safe. If vieweres are comfortable sitting through essentially twenty minutes of narrative foreplay, their approach may have been effective. Blood pressures may have slowly risen the more Negan monologued and the more Rick looked weak and distressed, but for the tolerant and the patient, the tension would have all been worth it with the first whack of Lucille against Abraham’s ginger head. Did they go big enough? Abraham may have not quite been a big enough blow to the Ricktator squad, leaving fans somewhat unsatisfied, but it set up an effective red herring and misdirect to the most painful blow of the night, Glenn. Of course then they had to push it too far and muddle both deaths in the confusion of a hypothetical series of blows to the rest of the gang. The writers did not leave viewers with enough space to grieve- and other than the two deaths, nothing really happened.

ADHOC Annotation

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is intended to do just what the title implies: update its viewers on the current events of the past week. Currently in the throws of election season it’s 27th episode left me wanting a little more. The first ten minutes were set aside for what almost every episode of the past two months has been, Donald Trump and the cloud of crazy that follows him everywhere. At this point I’m under the assumption that Last Week Tonight has already lost all of its radical and not so radical republican viewership. So this portion of the show has kind of devolved into a “you’re preaching to the choir” bit that is just making everyone close their eyes and pray for election day to come and go.


I just really like that word. And that place. It’s a fun little hipster bubble of intellect and imagination. Anyhow, the staff suggestions, the memoirs, the pages and pages of topics smashed together in new and inventive ways. I think the most common theme I saw was a “dry” or intellectual topic embedded in a series of somewhat narcissistic anecdotes on the part of the authors. That comes off as a criticism; it’s not necessarily- I saw An Unquiet Mind (read it this summer for my book club, loved it) on the shelf and immediately understood why it was there. It was a really effective memoir about the author’s experience with bipolar disorder that was also incredibly informative. The book, Bonk stood out to me as something that seemed to effectively get at what we’re looking to do with this project- its tagline proclaimed it as a nonfiction tale of science and sex. It seemed to marry a clinical subject with a provocative topic in a way that at least drew a reader to the back cover. Patton Oswalt’s new book, Silver Screen Fiend called to the cinephile in me, and I expected it to be a cut and dry discussion of modern films; but the staff pick description made it sound funny and accessible and rooted in Mr. Oswalt’s own stories. That seems to be the big running theme- something universal with something niche. It could be an effective tool for these projects, especially if we’re really interested in exploring something kind of niche or content-specific. It would be very hard to do it well though I think. It would be very easy for that sort of thing to go badly and to root the entire success of the project in the gimmick of smashing two concepts together. The reason it seemed that these were all effective at this technique is that they were really aware of the reader. All the staff pick descriptions applauded how much the staff connected with these books, how relevant these books seemed to their lives. I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind as well. I couldn’t help but notice that all the books that I saw in the sections I looked at were primarily first person and somewhat autobiographical. This seems like another literary tool to connect more to a reader. I am interested to see how we can translate some of this to our capstone projects.

Literati and My Worst Nightmare

I went to Literati today. There is just something about independent bookstores that helps me justify spending an inordinate amount of money on something I could get on amazon for a third of the price. As my grandmother would say, “We like to support the local community.”

So I’m standing there looking at the memoirs, books on writing, ect. and I hear a voice I recognize. I turn around and sure enough my supervisor for my internship last summer is at the counter. I should preface that this woman made me miserable and was impossible to please. So I did what any good comedy has taught me to do, I pulled out a book from the shelf and pretended to be engrossed in it and deliberately hid my face. I swear to you, next thing I know this women who I despise is standing six inches away from me looking at the same shelf I am. Unlike a movie however my disguise worked and thankfully there was no awkward encounter but it was to close for comfort.

Anyway the assignment.

Surrounded by books with titles like Changing the SubjectBad Feminist and I Think You’re Totally Wrong, I found myself thinking this is it. If I were to ever write a book this is the type of book I would want it to be. One that highlights the voice of the author and the subject doesn’t even matter. I picked up lots of the books and flipped through them and almost every one that I stopped to read made me want to buy it so I could finish reading it.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about since I left (besides the regret I have about not buying more of the books) is why are there so many books beautifully written about writing? Is it as simple as writers are writers and thats what they know and therefore are good at it? Part of me hopes that’s not the case. But how come there are no beautifully written book about putting engines together? Is it audience? Do mechanics not want to be told poetically how to attach a muffler?

Another thing I found compelling about this side of the book store is how many of the books didn’t solely contain writing. They let form help steer the reader and narrative. There was this really interesting book called In Other Words. The narrative described this woman’s overwhelming urge to learn Italian and is this beautiful love letter to Italy. What’s cool about the book is that one side is written in Italian and the other in English. I thought that was a unique way to let form also be a participant in the story telling.

In the end, I left with two new books in my bag and 37 fewer dollars in my pocket.

Many Stories

The first and most important thing I’ll say in this blog post is that Literati is pretty cool and I will definitely be going back there. So underrated!

Upon finishing summer school and my internship this summer, I promptly made it a goal to actually read novels recreationally and to finish a couple before school started. I finished a couple exactly (Limitless by Alan Gwyn and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett) and I loved them both. I even started on a third (Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler). What I love about these books and what I loved about the short stories and the personal essays I browsed through while at Literati was the use of storytelling to create philosophical questions, achieve somewhat complicated (or maybe simple) conclusions, or to just generally reach out to the reader with a story they can connect to and whose lessons they can profit from.

At Literati, stories were told through different frames, categories, lenses:

  • There were autobiographies, and also biographies
  • Fictional stories reflective of personal experiences
  • Diaries, journal entries, and more carefully constructed letters
  • Satirical pieces
  • Straight up nonfictional accounts of events or things, but also personal accounts of people who had lived those events or things
  • Comedies, tragedies
  • Etc.

I read some Rebecca Solnit. I read from a book called “Sex and Death” (not by Rebecca Solnit) which featured a collection of submitted stories about sex and, yes, death — two themes the curators of the book found to be universally important to our lives on earth, no matter our backgrounds.  Each essay would open up into a scene and then a conflict, painting a picture for the reader and then hooking them with the issue to be solved. I love that. I think that if I am going to write about myself and publish it, it is not enough to assume that anyone will find it interesting! I have to personalize my story (in this case, my evolution as a writer) but I also have to universalize it in some way so that my readers, whoever they are or will be, can find their own personal value through reading my piece. That was my most important takeaway from my visit to Literati (and an idea that I really came to understand last semester during English 325). I think the content will come as I continue to look through artifacts I will use and as I reflect on the last few years in relation to the writing I have done. For now, I have an idea of the form I will try to emulate — or the forms I will hybridize to create my wonderful, lasting, relatable “Frankenstein.”

Trying to think beyond categories

Going to Literati and looking through the essays/memoirs/nonfiction section was an interesting experiment in getting more used to thinking beyond the genres/categories/labels that I’ve grown up learning about.  It was even worth the weird looks I got as I knelt in front of the bookshelf with an index card and a pen, writing down what I saw.  The technique I used was to look at the staff recommendation cards, check out the description at the back of the book, look through the book reviews quoted on the book’s cover, and to quickly scan the pages myself.  I was looking for labels.  Here is what I found:

Essays/collections of essays.

Case studies.  I found one book called The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.  The author used medical case studies within her prose.  She also used transcripts from tape recordings.  Interesting elements outside what one would normally think of as the essay genre.

Imaginings.  Not really sure what this means, but saw one book described as a series of imaginings.

A history.  For example, On Immunity by Eula Biss was described as a history of immunization.  On the back of the book, the LA Times was quoted as saying that it “occupies a space between research and reflection.”  So I guess reflections makes up another label.  The NY Times said it draws on science, mythology and literature.

MemoirLiterary biography.


DiariesThe Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits was described on the back cover as a series of confessions.

Portrait of a…



Quite the list I compiled after only a half hour of skimming through books.  My next challenge is to figure out how to break and fuse together labels like these to make a more interesting capstone project…