My Last Time

It’s crazy to think my time here at Michigan is 10 days from over. I’ve always been worried that come this time, I’d be overly nostalgic and sentimental and think of everything I do as “my last time [insert activity here]”. I would then become terribly sad and my thoughts would be clouded by the fact that I never want to leave, and it would be a really bittersweet ending.

Fortunately, this has not been the case. Yes, this may be “my last time posting on the Sweetland Minor in Writing Blog”, but that, and the various other “lasts” I’ll do over the next 10 days have been satisfying, not somber. My four years at Michigan have been incredible and I’m relieved that my last hurrah will be marked first and foremost by triumph and happiness.

So yeah, I’ll never post on here again, which means I’m no longer in college, which means I’m now entering the real world, but I’ve never felt more prepared and excited to do so.

My portfolio: http://maxblind.wix.com/captstonemax

ePort Image of Myself

It seems standard for MIW folks to include at least one image of themselves in their ePortfolios. In my gateway ePort, I did not include an image of myself and, up until recently, I was planning on doing the same in my Capstone ePort. My Capstone project is all about the plight of full-time, poverty-wage workers and, to the best of my efforts, it is not about myself. Truthfully, though, a big part of the ePort, as an assignment, is to feature my own writings, so it does seem sensible, then, to include more autobiographical information than just my name. In fact, a picture might make sense, perhaps–if it is the right picture. This is after all, my ePortfolio. I still struggle with this, though, because to include any snippet about myself is to detract from the focus of this entire semester’s work, which the importance of the labor movement, a movement that I play only a small role in. But that’s an important nuance. I do play some role in the movement, so maybe I should include myself more, but I can’t just use any image of me; I need to use an image that solidifies my position as a firm member of the labor movement.

Me-FF15

I think this image pretty much hits the nail on the head. It confirms my ethos as someone who’s involved in the movement; I’m not just someone who knows about the movement. Also, I am not alone in the image. This is important. One of the most crucial messages I want to get across is that joining the Fight for 15 is all about working together for a living wage and the large volume of people in the image with me underlines that message. My only concern is that, because of the way the image is framed, it looks as though I am leading the march. In reality, there was a large mass of folks ahead of me. I was just another body in a massive march. I do not want it to appear as though I am some sort of leader in the movement. I am no more than a humble organizer, a cog in the machine of labor activism. I shouldn’t present myself as something I am clearly not.

As of right now, I have this image featured on the ‘About Me’ tab of my ePort: the only tab that features information about myself. I think, overall, the image sets up my ethos well and, more likely than not, it will stay where it is; however, I think it is helpful to talk through why it works and why it doesn’t work. That discussion can help me customize how I present the image, so that it creates the intended effect.

 

Visual Illustrations

In a prompt for a revision exercise, our class was encouraged to do the following:

Read through your work and identify places where you are either already using an illustration, have the impulse to use an illustration, or where you’d like to challenge yourself to use an illustration. For each, ask yourself: “Why do I need [this/an] image? How [does it/could it] aid the reader’s understanding? [Does it/would it] supplement rather than duplicate what is already in the text?” Write a brief reflection in which you discuss what images you’ve decided to use (or not) and why.

Despite the fact that this prompt is geared towards projects involving the written word, I found this exercise useful for my video project. Every page of script is meant to become an illustration, so instead I worked with single shots, specific scenes, and asked how they helped the narrative function of my work. I also paid attention to how the sequences were addressing my investigation into the the marketing of secondary education, the function of a liberal arts education, and what it means to be one of the “Leaders and Best” at the University of Michigan within those framings.

For example, my video includes a parody of the typical college recruitment video. I use the same powerful, beautiful images that are meant to evoke an emotional response from prospective students and their influential parents:

LawQuad

Instead of the usual “Top Ten Law School”, my video will feature an over the top exaggeration about Michigan: “The most Frisbee Friendly Campus in the United States.” This is based on the Kuleshov effect, but instead of a preceding image changing the meaning of the following image, it will be a preceding narration.

Another image from the script I really like is my news anchor sitting in a library study space. He starts by acting as if he is doing some real nose to the ground, investigative work: “as you can see, there are a sea of students behind me” before giving up the charade: “No, actually, we thought we were getting a studio, but with so many students doing projects last minute, we couldn’t book it.” This gives context to the image and comments on the project as a whole. Plus, there is something funny about my news anchor trying to look professional in what is clearly a college setting.

ugli

After talking through the script with various people, several commented that the script was slow to start. Since I featured one news anchor introducing my subject and then throwing it to another reporter for the specifics, it felt like I was wasting illustration space on these static subjects when I could make it just one reporter doing the whole report. This, after all, reflects my experience trying to create this. The two news anchor were fused into one, with new space for illustrations.

I think this activity really helped to refocus my project, as a way to look at how individual components affect a synthesis.

Illustrations: To Use or Not to Use

Lately, I have been attempting to revise my e-portfolio into an increased simplistic nature. By revising, I mean taking my janky and overall obnoxious gateway portfolio and ultimately repurposing it for a much more sophisticated look. This revamp has included many choices in design, aesthetics, and you named it: illustrations.

My gateway eportfolio was busy. There were photos and design aspects flooding the page, and I wanted to eliminate that clutter for my revised eport. The overall theme of my capstone eport is the reflect myself as a writer and an individual, so I wanted to keep the focus on one theme: me. Originally on the landing page of my eport, I had a photo of a laptop accompanied by a follow. I altered this photo into a black and white form, fitting the overall design aspects of the rest of my eport–greys, whites, and blacks. While it look aesthetically pleasing, once I took my eport into class for peer review, the insignificance of the photo was brought to my attention. While on my previous eport the follow had matched my purple color scheme and had tied into the theme, as a reflection of myself, the photo wasn’t doing much. Yet, I liked the way it fit on the page and separated text from illustration: so what to do?

I thought about my peers’ suggestions and was torn at first. I felt as if the page needed some kind of illustration, and leaving solely text on the page would be boring. Personally, I’m not a big fan of text heavy pages, and even though there in minimal text on the landing page, I was afraid of it looking too bare. Now, I had to think about purpose.

Since the theme of the eport is overall myself as a writer, it astonished me that I never actually thought of portraying a sole picture of myself on the page. While I had photos of myself on my previous eport, I never left it as the only photo, and usually made it a small sector of the page itself. Yet, the best way to reflect on yourself is to portray yourself. I found a photo that I found fitting of my personality, which also ties into the visual elements of my theme. I allowed for the picture to be in color, offering soothing blues and beiges to the page, to contrast the white and black color scheme throughout.

When looking at the image, it gives off a sense of purpose–an identity to the eport, rather than a random laptop that isn’t even mine. As I further revise my eport, I’ve been myself eliminating much unnecessary design elements that clearly don’t have a significant purpose (and many of the images to keep the attention on the purpose of writing, rather than looking around). I don’t want my eport to be filled with Google images, I want it to be filled with significance. When scrolling through the pages, there shouldn’t be question on why something it there–my goal is to make these ideas clear.

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Are You My Audience?

This weekend, I was in Basement Art’s annual production of “Night of Fights.” Though the production came at a very hectic time, what with me about to head out to New York and LA for my acting showcase (ahh!) and trying to get all of my work submitted before graduation (blah), after our first performance we were “stoked.” The production is usually a compilation of scenes and fights but this year, one of my classmates wrote a full play to go along with the stage combat choreography, allowing “Night of Fights” to reach whole new heights and take the audience completely by surprise. The audience was chanting and heckling the whole time, which added an exciting element to the show that really riled up our performances, and afterwards the reaction from the audience was overwhelming. I had a bunch of my non-theatre friends there, and they felt that this was their favorite performance they had seen, which made me laugh a little. When I told this to my director, however, he wasn’t surprised.

“Yeah!” he said, “That’s because this show is FUN. It’s a play for the audience.”

And don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun too. Despite the bruises all over my body from months of rolling on the floor and whacking weapons around, I had a lot of fun. But typically, an actors dream role consists of a lot of “self-serving” monologues and deep character analysis found in the works of authors such as Chekhov or Miller. Miller even said once that he writes great characters for actors; characters to sink their teeth into. But this show was particularly rewarding when we finally got in front of an audience because it was somewhat theirs, too. It was funny, quick, and full of gut wrenching stage combat. The kind of show you can just watch, without thinking too much. Because of this, the audience just had a lot of fun, which is exactly what we wanted.

On Sunday, the roles were reversed and I went to see the University production of “The Imaginary Invalid,” by Moliere. The show was quite a feat for the actors, running around 2 and a half hours. It was colorful and silly in the name of restoration comedy, though immensely different from “Night of Fights.” The play used politics and ethics to make the audience think, despite all of the potty jokes, and by the end I was both entertained and exhausted from the stimuli. This play was meant to make the audience think about modern medicine and technology, and the dangers of interfering with natural human life. “Night of Fights” was meant to make you wonder if that blood was real.

So as I ponder who my evolution essay is geared towards, I ponder what I want my audience to think about. From what I have so far I have narrowed it down to these three topics: 1. Passion.  2. The Authentic Self. 3. Not Giving a Shit. Thinking along these lines, I would write this for my professor of my English 425 class. I would write this for him because I am aiming towards achieving the “So what,” of this assignment, something we stressed so much in that Immersion Journalism class. I want to write this not only to fulfill a class, or for myself, but so others can read it and apply it to themselves.

In the minor, I would write this for my blog group who has listened to my project progression all semester, and who would understand my background in this course. Outside of the minor, I would write this for my mom, who knows me very well and would know if this essay seemed authentic enough to me. I would also write this for my roommates who are pursuing completely different careers (i.e. engineering and business) to see if they would be able to relate to the core of what I am saying.

This essay outlines my career as a writer and references my work in the minor, but as I continue to write it I must make sure to give it a life and meaning outside of my own and this class.

Project Revision: Who Are You Writing To

It might seem a little late to do a redefining mini assignment, but an assignment that requires us to look at audience helps make sure the project has stayed true the people it is supposed to address. For this particular drafting exercise, we were asked to think of four people who we would be addressing. We were then asked to consider: how welcome would this person be in the conversation, how much would they understand, and would they buy into your work?

The first person we had to think of was a topic expert in our field, or someone I would like to impress. I chose Jordan Klepper, a correspondent for The Daily Show and the Best Fucking News Team. He would definitely understand the project, as he and others for the Daily Show make their living via satirical looks at problems in American society.  I think the major selling point for him would be the humor, so revision would involve punching up jokes. Here is an example of a piece on sexual assault Klepper worked on.

The Daily Show

The second was close peers in the Minors. I would choose my blog group, just because they have such an extensive background with my project. I have explained what I want to do, how I want to execute the videos, and the topics I want to cover. As college students, they will recognize the problems I address.

For a peer outside the minor, I would choose my housemates. They are pretty harsh judges of comedy, and I know that if I am able to make them laugh, I will be able to reach even the most stoic of audiences.

The fourth person would be someone who is not an expert in my field. I chose the Dean of LSA, Andrew Martin. This would be the most interesting reaction of the 3, because the video is meant for administrators as well. I would be interested in finding out if he knows of student complaints or can identify with the conversation I am trying to start.

 

 

Reflection on Reflection

As I re-read my evolution essay, I realized that I was not in as bad of shape as I thought. I actually like what I wrote! Reflecting upon what I feel the four real people (who will not be named) would think of my paper I feel confident that all four parties would at least enjoy what I wrote. It incorporates a lot of style, and person anecdotes, but also includes the required references for the evolutionary essay.
I think all of my four audience members will always feel welcome in my work, since I think most people have experienced feeling burned out. That’s an easy feeling to buy into in my opinion, especially for other college students, or professionals.
One of my main concern stems from the fact that this TOO casual and honest, and a little rambling. It’s far from a 5-paragraph essay form and it incorporates a lot of informal language this is honest, but not necessarily professional. Perhaps an expert in my field would feel turned off by the liberality of my writing style.
I am slightly concerned that someone reading it might not see “the point.” It’s a personal narrative of my experience becoming a writer, and me reflecting upon how I feel about my writing today in contrast to my freshman year of college.
In spite of this, I feel like I want to keep the essay the way that it is. Yeah, it is my honest feelings spewed onto a page, but at least the reader gets an accurate depiction of who I am as a person, and as a writer: I push back, I challenge boundaries, and I question things. This essay is more “in your face” in that aspect. In my other writing, I am usually more of a subtle rebel.

Who I Am Writing To

I recently scrapped my tentative draft for the Evolution Essay. Originally, I planned to craft a relatively generic narrative about my growth as I writer. I was going to use examples from my previous writings as evidence to back up generalizations, which best fit the narrative arch I was trying to achieve. The problem with this plan is more complex than simply being too boring–though it is, no doubt, boring. As I began drafting the essay, I quickly lost inspiration. The greatest problem, however, with this narrative, about my change as a writer, is that it detracts from my work in the rest of the Capstone course, as well as my work in a Psych class, in which I investigate stress among college workers, and my work within the the Gateway class, in which I argued for the priceless importance of skilled labor. That is all to say that this egocentric essay would take away from the importance of my labor-directed work. Additionally, placing an essay solely about myself and my writing amidst an ePortfolio designed to help poverty-wage folks has the potential to push away my target audience–those less educated and privileged than myself, those who don’t have the time nor interest to read about my writing experience in college. I need to create an Evolution Essay that–somehow–pertains to the importance of labor activism.

The solution I came to is complicated, but it can be done. I will write a how-to guide for joining a movement and planning an action. Now, this solves the problems of detracting from my labor-oriented work and pushing away my target audience; however, I am creating this ePortfolio (and associated Evolution Essay) for my fellow peers and faculty in the Minor in Writing. Talking about writing is important and that is what this assignment was designed for. Nonetheless, I believe I can incorporate my writing growth amidst a how-to guide about planing an action. In fact, I have already begun experimenting with moderate success. Furthermore, I believe this current, seemingly convoluted plan for my Evolution Essay will serve as a worthy adversary for my final writing project within the Minor in Writing and, as it turns out, my final writing endeavor in all of my undergraduate college career. The art is creating a single affective, coherent piece out two seemingly uncorrelated projects.

My audience has always been low wage workers. I have cared deeply about the rights of low wage workers for years and the Capstone course was always meant to be a forum in which I could create pieces that might help them. These folks have been the guiding light for multiple projects across a small handful of classes this semester and prior. I am thrilled to create multiple pieces in different genres and modes of production all for a single audience, which I care so deeply for. My audience stands to gain a lot from the projects I am creating–assuming, of course, I can pull off my ambitious plans.

Identifying Audiences: The Evolution Essay

Thinking about my evolution essay, there’s a list of four individuals that I would target:

  1. Susan Noyes—founder of Make It Better Magazine
  2. The individuals within my specific writing 420 section
  3. My close friends and roommates—such as Kylie Davis, Claire, Dijak, Jenny Veith, Danielle Shindler, Maggie Campbell, and Caroline Saca
  4. My parents, who aren’t experts in writing or the journalism/media industries

Reading my work, I feel as though many of the individuals that I’m targeting would be able to relate to this piece. I believe the piece shows the story of my growth through process, as my ideologies regarding writing processes have completed been altered since beginning the minor in writing program. I definitely think that the most relatable aspect of this is the power of story—since everyone can envision a story, whether you’re familiar with writing or not.

Although I think that a wide audience would understand the story, I worry about the structure and overall read of it. While the relatable aspect is there, I find it a bit boring. Within my writing, I hope to incorporate a strong voice and overall engage a reader, which I feel as this piece as is isn’t doing. For revisions, I’d like to restructure the essay so it’s broken up into separate subsections, or even stories, to break up the text. Right now, it appears text-heavy, and I find it hard to believe individuals would have the motivation to read straight through. My challenge for revision with this piece is to still show my evolution as a writer, but in a way that’s both unique and engaging to a reader. After seeing the draft as is, I know that I definitely need to approach this structural aspect and insert a creative, new element—now what that is, I still need to figure out.

 

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Admitting Defeat to Achieve Victory

This week, one main obstacle has been troubling my progress – the issue of admitting failure to achieve my initial goals in such a way that it appears that I am still victorious (in whatever capacity is appropriate for this project). Victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan, but like Raymond said, whatever makes the project impossible creates the best content – struggle is more interesting. This makes the process of admittance that much harder, and “wordsmithing” is becoming a struggle. Beyond vocabulary I am having trouble formulating the logic of my rehabilitation section. My meeting with Raymond, however, shed some light on how to break the ice.

Whether it is in my final reflection or in another section, discussing my before and after definitions of both composition and rehabilitation can help me achieve victory. Entering a project that has been so over my head has an obvious genesis in naiveté. I was ignorant to the process of composition and rehab and set unrealistic goals for myself, which was, speaking frankly, an ignorant yet good decision. Avoiding the attempts to do exactly what I used to do as good as I used to be able to do it would have been an injustice to myself. Not only would I have always wondered what the possibilities could have been, I would have cheated myself of vital wisdom – wisdom that will give my project more truth and quality. Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them (thanks, Einstein). Perhaps this very passage will be the way I convey this to my readers.

I’d love to hear how others have achieved similar issues, opinions on what I’ve said, or any advice on how to pull this off.