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Punctuation Extravaganza!

So you've got a blob of unpunctuated text in front of you that you didn't even write and you have to make sense of it. Good luck. Read through it once sans punctuation then make sense of it by subordinating and coordinating all of the grammatical goodness within. If you're not so great with punctuation and you still haven't done anything about it, check out this site: Grammar Book and then if you want some entertainment, check out this little ditty on semicolons:The Oatmeal. 

This punctuation extravaganza should only take 10-15 minutes. The rest of the time is free for you to use however you need to use it (eh, hem, for this class).


A Style Study: David Sedaris

In case you wish to view it again, view the ending we didn't have time for or share it with family and friends because it's hysterical and makes some interesting commentary on our strange santa-worshiping traditions and on holidays becoming increasingly commercialized.

In reading/listening/watching several works by the same author: "Me Talk Pretty One Day" "Six-to-Eight Black Men" and "The Santaland Diaries" (via "Crumpet the Elf" the above video) one begins to recognize the patterns and tendencies and quirks of the author. Simply put, this is style. Sedaris is funny, but style is more complex than that. Stand-up comics are funny (sometimes) but in writing, that humor tends to be subtle. Sedaris uses interesting diction (don't all effective writers?) but he has a way of incorporating unexpected or odd details that lend themselves to the creation of a humorous scene. He also favors a sardonic tone as he criticizes and mocks certain practices and beliefs and people -- on that note, he relies heavily on stereotypes to present his arguments. But what makes humor successful, as a rule, is that the author or speaker includes themselves in the mockery or admits to their own shortcomings. Sedaris isn't afraid of being seen as ridiculous, shallow, aloof, or bitter and this, strangely enough, endears him to the audience. As he mocks and criticizes others, he is mocking and criticizing himself as well. Ethos, ethos, ethos.


On Writing & Things

You have learned something. That always feels at first as though you have lost something.
H. G. Wells

Why does anyone write? Why does Orwell write about writing? About why he writes? About the motives authors have for writing? About how it's this terribly difficult and often disappointing process because we frequently question ourselves? Why do William Zinsser and Joan Didion and Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg--all these amazing writers--write about writing? Because it's messy and it's hard and once we break through our resistances, we realize that writing becomes this powerful thing and was worth all the sacrifice and risk and labor that went into writing it. Speaking of risk, read Ms. Prokott's post about having something at stake (risk) when writing. She put it very well and I would just steal it but it's very much about her experience with writing, so I can't. Oh, right, and it's wrong. Go, read it. Consider this an assignment. While you're at it, you should also read this post.

She's right about risking something when you write though, if you risk nothing, there's nothing to gain. Nothing for you and nothing for the reader. It's just a flat lump of text on a page, it doesn't really say anything. Ultimately, risk in writing is about being invested in what you write. Not being attached to it via some strange umbilicus, where everything that is said about your piece makes you flinch because you feel it as an extension of yourself -- this just got pretty metaphysical and that wasn't really my goal, sorry if your head exploded -- but connected in the sense that you recognize in it some truth about yourself, or about people, or the human condition, etc. Think of the essays we've read that have spoken to you (Okay, fine, Mr. Poopy Pants, if none of them have, then think about something in your life that you've read that does "speak to you." If there's nothing, then you have no soul.) and then think about why and how it does, because everything is still about why and how. We read and study essays and authors to figure out what they were thinking and how what they wrote expresses what they were thinking and how they were thinking about it and why they were thinking about it in the first place, and especially in that way! It's fascinating and hard stuff, but, oh, so very worthwhile. 

Didion explains that she writes to find out what she's thinking -- knowing ourselves is at once tremendously difficult and tremendously important so that's part of it: write to find out what you're thinking. Why did you choose to write about this topic? What do you think about it? What do you have to add to the conversation about it? Why does it matter? What does it say about you? About people? About humanity? Sure, it's about bowling, superficially, but it's more about how uncomfortable you are with performing publicly, all eyes on you, and when you describe how stupid your feet look in those hideous shoes what you're really saying is that you are self-conscious -- people are self-conscious -- and that every time we step up to the invisible line we're at the precipice of very public success or failure, praise or mocking, glory or humiliation. This is what matters. This is what you're essay is really about. The detestable act of bowling was just a means for you to capture something much deeper, much more significant; and that something is about you but it's also about people. I can recognize some of my own awkward adolescent experiences in Bernard Cooper's rendering of his. No I did not personally have a gay boyhood that I could write about (like he had) but adolescence is recognized as a universally miserable time for people. 

You see, writing requires psychology. You're digging around in that minefield of your memory, trying to make sense of it, trying to figure it out; to essay means to try. So you are revising your power writing "trials" (your attempts at a topic) into a new big and beautiful attempt to make sense of something that matters. I want to see that you're thinking. I want to see that you're making connections. I want to see that you're writing with sincerity and precision and voice -- writers do all of this because they care, they are invested. Don't misunderstand me and think that as long as you care about something the writing will magically be good. It doesn't work that way (wouldn't it be nice if it did?) so you still have to be prepared to muddle through those initial drafts that make no sense or sound cliche or superficial. We all have those drafts. The good news is that we can replace those drafts with better ones. Remember Anne Lamott's essay?

I'm handing you the reins for this essay in both topic and form. Show me what you've learned. Show me what you know. Show me what you care about. You can do this. Use your resources. Invest.


Visual Argument for Digital Writing

I made this video for a few colleagues as an example of what Animoto does. They were impressed (with Animoto, not me; well, maybe with me, but I cannot speak to that). It's also, conveniently, an argument (albeit a soft one) for digital writing -- the kind of assignment I'm making you do. So, here, enjoy. Note: I use more text than you're allowed to use. Neener-neener.

So this is an example of what Animoto does when you upload the images you want and put them in the order you want and select a soundtrack you want (from their library or your own). It's easy to use and the product is always polished and interesting. It's more user-friendly than iMovie (unless you've already got mad skills there) and far more interesting visually than Power Point. Prezi is fun but it's more like Power Point and it also induces vertigo. I'm not familiar with Windows Movie Maker, but I hear that would work too (if you have it). Or you could use something else. But basically I'm saying make your life easier and use Animoto.

More. I put Animoto first on the assignment sheet because I think you should use Animoto, but I can't make you because it's only free for 30 second videos -- and while 30 second videos with only, what, 12 pictures could be long enough, it is limiting and students usually want to do a little more. It's not expensive to pay for a subscription -- $5 I think, for a month of unlimited video-making -- and you can cancel any time. Maybe you could pool your resources and create a joint account with a few classmates so you all chip in a buck and have a month of unlimited video-creation power. Or maybe that's not possible or maybe that grates on your conscience. It's sort of in an ethically gray area.

Again, you do not have to use this, it's just a cool and easy-to-use tool, and 30 seconds could very well be enough. Length and impact are sometimes inversely related. Think about some of the most powerful image sequences: They're fast. They're short. Your process analysis is where you explain the different components and how they all work together (you do a rhetorical analysis of your video, basically) so don't stress about the length of your video. Of course, having said that, now I need to qualify that statement: Your video should be between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. There is no inherent grade-impacting benefit in making your video 2 minutes instead of 30 seconds.

So. If you end up using good ol' Microsoft Power Point, it needs to undergo some mutation in order to be embedded on your blog. Essentially, you need to upload it to You Tube and then embed the html code for the video on your blog. That probably sounds more complicated than it really is...or maybe it will be more complicated, which always seems to be the case, doesn't it? Oh, hey, guess what Animoto does? It makes it SUPER EASY to embed the video on your blog. I'm just saying.


Passages: "Notes of a Native Speaker"

Why do I need to have these?
Because you just do. Trust me.

Block 1
(This is all I received. Also, some groups did not follow directions and select 1-3 sentence passages, but instead chose entire paragraphs.)

Section 1 (we heard them all)

Section 2
p. 257 paragraph 20 "I was...did it not?"
p. 258 paragraph 26 "My possess them."

Section 3
p. 261 paragraph 34 "I looked...pigeonholed." (evidently the whole paragraph)
p. 262 paragraph 39 "As...jocular" (the other group says the whole paragraph)
p. 262 paragraph 39 "As I had with the swift." (again, whole paragraph)

Section 4
p. 264 paragraph 50 "For here I am now, standing in a new..." (they selected a HUGE chunk)
p. 265 paragraph 52 "I may have been born a Chinese baby...for me to have remained Chinese."

Block 2

Section 1
p. 252 paragraph 2 "Some are born white...thrust upon them."
p. 252 paragraph 4 "The meaning of 'American' has...fixed in whiteness."
p. 253 paragraph 7 "Who made their way..."
p. 254 paragraph 8 "Slap! I was out of the womb and sprinting...eyes forward, never backward."

Section 2
p. 255 paragraph 13 "No one had warned me...the great labors of fitting in."
p. 255 paragraph 13 "Suddenly I could no longer...private concept of self."
p. 256 paragraph 14-15 "It was essential...suffice as explanation."
p. 258 paragraph 24 "Chinese families...beside the point."

Section 3
p. 260 paragraph 26 "I recently dug up a photograph...tucked the wrong way into the wrong slacks."
p. 261 paragraph 36 "Nor did it ever occur..."
p. 263 paragraph 46 "It has taken me until now...not always necessary." 
p. 264 paragraph 48 "By the time I left Yale..."

Section 4
p. 265 paragraph 50 "I can speak some Mandarin...claim to be Chinese at the core."
p. 266 paragraph 53 "This, we must remember... something new is emerging from the torrent..."
p. 266 paragraph 53 "America is white no longer..." (2x)


Wayzata Idol

So um, I've been at Wayzata for five years now and I'd never been to Wayzata Idol until tonight, when I had the honor of judging and I can't even begin to explain how ridiculously talented y'all are. Doing something you love seems easy enough but getting up on stage and singing in front of peers is actually the hardest thing to do and I'm so very impressed. (See, look, I used very: a word I hate. You know I mean it.)

Shout out to Shreya. It takes some serious skill and courage to sing a song that difficult and it takes some serious soul to make it genuine. You nailed it. I might have teared up a little, but don't tell anyone. I can write that on my blog because only like five people read it so my heartless, ice-queen image can remain unscathed. Just kidding (sort of).  But back to the winner. Enjoy this feeling, and let it carry you at other times when you may need a pick-me-up. This is where it would be apropos to talk about running free or something symbolic like that, but I'm still at a loss for words. Such a great song. I'm gonna go listen to it and pretend that I can sing it half as well as you did.

Everyone else who performed or was backstage or backup band or vocals, your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Outstanding work all around. I'm impressed. Me--ice queen--I'm impressed. Have I said that I'm impressed? Because I am.


Gah. Late Start Advisory Days!

These days are so short! I had big plans to do other things in addition to what we did, but that's okay. You did a nice job with your small group discussions, statement-writing, and collective annotating. Aren't some of those ads crazy?

What we were going to do in addition to what we did, was read a couple interesting articles that we'll now read tomorrow. No big deal. And we were also going to look at this website: The Image Deconstructed. specifically the Ants, Art, and Ashtrays one that chronicles the process of creating an ad. Snoop around this site on your own, there's much to learn.

It's true, you have no homework tonight. Take this opportunity to acquaint or reacquaint yourself with the blog you found and followed (or maybe go find a better one if you've discovered that the original one you chose is boring or inconsistent or never updated). We'll be talking more about what you'll eventually be doing with this blog pretty soon, but remember that end product isn't due until the very end of the semester. Something that will be coming up a little sooner (but still not immediately) is a visual essay. It's cool, I promise. I mean, it's going to take work, but hopefully it's work that you'll enjoy. That will be due after winter break. You'll get the details of that next week.

Also, I love this image: