Category Archives: Daily thought(s)

Successful class is successful (and I’m copying your stuff)

We shared some of our posters in class today. This was the first time we’ve met in a month. On a side note, it was wonderful to finally see everyone in person again and not in blogs! The posters were fantastic. There were some really great ideas! On top of that, I’m really inspired by all of you guys’ (and gals’) work. My own project is finally falling together thanks to discussion I had with the wonderful people in class. And on that note, I’m copying your ideas. I’m using some ideas for courses brought up by various people. I hope you’ll take the side of Girl Talk and not sue me. :p

In all seriousness though, I just wanted to say that you people are fantastic and (as much as we’ve all been struggling) I think it’s really all coming together so well! We made a learning community, and we’re taking it with us. Isn’t that wonderful? 😀

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Math and English (a lot closer than you think)

Recently this summer I talked to a friend, who is enrolled in a math course. He was talking about the kinds of group work they do in class. This struck me as odd; I know I never did group work when I was taking math classes (though that was many moons ago in this English major’s life). What the professor did was go over a particular kind of problem to explain it. Then he would put the class in groups and let them work through an example problem together. Afterward, he polled the class to see how the different groups did the problems and the students could comment on each others’ work and offer how to better work the problem, or just talk their way through it together.

This was so cool! If you stretch your brain and consider math problems as a kind of sentence writing for math, then these students were doing group writing and revision. In a math class! How cool is that? I’ve never considered that peer revision could be used outside of a writing class certainly not math. WAC and WID are everywhere even when we don’t know it. This professor was having his students collaboratively learn their way through the problems and in the process also made it fun for them because they were in groups and could try to outdo the other groups. Things I’ve always considered as “englishy” things being used to effectively teach a math course. I was shocked and awed.

 

🙂

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I’m Flannery O’Connor and my characters hate me

I’ve really noticed a trend in my journals: my scribbled thoughts and characters are overwhelmingly in unpleasant situations. However, there is usually some kind of grace to be found in their suffering. Consider this quote by Flannery O’Connor, “All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.” Unlike Flannery’s characters, my characters usually embrace that grace offered to them, I think. But, as O’Connor says, my characters’ stories are not hopeless or brutal because of the situations. They are simply people in pain that have a silver lining around them. And I can’t change that pain. Let me explain –

I’m not a sadist. I don’t enjoy hurting characters. Yes, there are some characters I work to create: they come out of an emotion or a thought or an idea. However, some come out of thin air, from a place outside of me. They are like some floating concept looking for someone to share them and I am a camera showing what I see or feel. These characters are more than my imagination.  They have stories, and by changing those stories I would only be lying. I write their stories how I feel they are and I’m obligated to not change them.

The snippet of a story I found in one of my journals that prompted this essay is about an old man. He is finishing the hardwood flooring project in his home that he and his wife started. She has since died. The old man is alone and remembering the parts of life that the floor is linked to. It’s heartbreaking. I want to save the man. I want to write him a wife and a family, but I can’t. He exists now at the later part of his life. The story came to me here at the end. I cannot change its past. And I hate that. I feel for this man. I grieve for this man. But he is what he is.

Maybe that sounds weird to you; maybe you can’t understand why or how I can’t change this story. I wouldn’t blame you. It’s complicated for me too. That’s how it is though. I can’t take this man’s pain away. Though, he is hopeful. He is sad, yes, but he is also proud to have the floor finished. To have completed a long project that has lasted through the bulk of his life. I find a lot of characters like this: broken but alive and hopeful. And this makes them real. It is their imperfections, their pain, their faults, that allow us to believe them. We’re all broken. A perfect character is fanciful but never realistic. My characters are hurt, yes, but I’m no sadist, honest. I’m simply a realist with a pen.  Me and Flannery’s characters might not be the happiest people you’ll ever find, but they’re enlightening and, hopefully, inspiring.  And maybe you can associate with these characters’ hurts and find hope within yourself too. It’s the realest you’ll ever feel.

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Jonathem Lethem and other misc (probably thought of before) thoughts

Similar to RiP: A Remix Manifesto, Jonathan Lethem’s article “The Ecstasy of Influence” discusses the issues of copyright and copyleft in our ever-growing society. After reading a lot of you all’s posts about this article, I won’t bother you with the background details of Lethem’s argument. Instead, I’d rather bring up two quotes that really got my mind going when I read this essay and see what you all have to say about them.

Number one.

“Artists and their surrogates who fall into the trap of seeking recompense for every second use end up attacking their own best audience members for the crime of exalting and enshrining their work.”

This was the first quote that really struck me. Now, the topic of this statement is people who recreate an artist’s work. This is not about people downloading a song and putting it on their mp3 player. More so a person who makes a music video collage for his favorite song, or a person who parodies a song, or a person who remixes a song. The song/video is then uploaded online perhaps. And then, perhaps the music label of that artist requests that the person remove the file from online because it illegally uses their material. These people are just, as Lethem puts it, “exalting and enshrining” these songs. By alienating fans from using art a second time, Lethem argues that it takes the artistic merit out of the work. Lethem argues that “art” can be defined by the act of giving. Art is given to people. Something that is made to be sold may not be considered art. There’s a large grey area here of artists having to sell their art (or be patronized) to live, but that’s an aside point for my discussion here. I’m concerned with how the art industries are alienating their patrons (the fans, who purchase paintings, songs, albums, what have you) by telling them what they can and cannot do with the things they have purchased.

 

Consider this: producers of Shakespeare plays commonly revamp the scripts by changing the setting or time of the plot. Romeo and Juliet in current day Manhattan as children of mob-bosses. Othello and Iago as business men. Etc, etc. We don’t consider these adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays as copyright infringements. I think it would be safe to say that most people consider them artist trial and errors, or at least as ways to reinterpret and offer Shakespeare’s plots (which are taken from older plots anyway. But that’s another post). What is so different about someone remixing a song?

Number two.

“If we devalue and obscure the gift-economy function of our art practices, we turn our works into nothing more than advertisements for themselves”

I think this is really where the art industry is taking us, and it loving the journey. I stated in an earlier post that now-a-days you don’t necessarily just buy an album of music. Instead, you buy a brand, an image, a gimmick, a cool factor. Essentially, you buy an advertisement for the record label. The sad thing is that corporations and companies are more than happy to turn art into ads in order to make a dollar for themselves. Why do you think music labels fight so hard against an artist when they want to release a free album. That promotes a change in the industry the labels don’t want.

 

This is turning into a very long post so I’ll cut it here. To make my long post short, I loved Lethem’s article, and I’m totally on board with the copyleft movement! 😀

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Shakespeare would have failed Creative Writing 0350

A fellow classmate of mine (wacrant2011) made an intriguing post a few days ago. He was shining some light on plagiarism, the dreaded enemy of academia it seems. We in academia have preached about plagiarism for years. “You will fail if you plagiarize”, “Do not copy others works without citing”, and “Plagiarism will result in an immediate ‘F’ or a ‘0’ ” are all common things heard on campuses. Here’s the problem though: most great poets are plagiarists. For example, many of Shakespeare’s plays are based on other authors works or older legends For example, have a look at the plot sections of these articles on Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and King Leer. They’re all based on someone’s work. That’s right people. If William Shakespeare were in college today, he would fail Creative Writing for plagiarizing.

However, we don’t discredit Shakespeare for this. We herald him for the way he took older texts and revamped them; he made them true masterpieces. So, if Shakespeare took older works and added to them, he remixed them. Much the way music artists today remix music. Though I don’t think any of the Italian poets Shakespeare copied would have been ready to sue him into submission. You see, traditional poetry has a history of copying, adding to, and recycling texts. Traditional poets were expected to write their own version of classical stories. How well the poet remixed it displayed his skill. We’ve lost that kind of sharing in our culture today. We make a song and it is ours. No one elses. Not even the song notes. RiP: A Remix Manifesto discusses this issue of copyrighting and legal rights among the movie/music industry. Have a look at the film (you can watch it for free) and see what you think. I think Shakespeare had the right idea. If William Shakespeare can remix a story into a time-honored masterpiece then why can’t musicians. It’s the same thing. I’m going to leave you all with some songs to listen to and consider if it’s plagiarism or creating anew from old.

 

Compare:

with

 

Annnnd compare:

with

 

Plagiarism? Reinvention? Rock and Hiphop!?

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Friends, troubles,horses, and Cool Hand Luke.

To make a long, and personal story, short: I’ve really been feeling overwhelmed and battered this week (battered in an emotional/spiritual way, not in the “my wife beats me” way :P). My friend, colleague, and mentor  (WACATTACKAUM) said something in her blog that I’d like to hit on. She says the following in her blog post about Cool Hand Luke and writing courses:

  • “You know this: you have to want to write. I can’t make students do it; you can’t make other people do it; if you teach, you can’t make your students do it. You can assign it, but students may or may not do it. Sure, they might do it, but they might not put their hearts into it. That’s the like the subtle difference between heartbreak and defeat. “

I’ve been heartbroken lately, but I haven’t been defeated. And that part about having to want to write: absolutely true. I’m a creative writer (that’s been on a looooong dry spell admittedly) and let me tell you, there are days when you don’t feel like it. You just don’t want to worry with it. But when there’s a story in your heart or your head that wants to get out: you just write. It sucks. You want to go walking, or jogging, or just surfing youtube. But when it’s all said and done and there’s some text in front of you, something you created, you’re proud.

I’m not saying everyone can sympathize with that; I know some of you, heck, most of you, aren’t creative writers. But, it’s the idea of just having to have dogged determination and stubbornness that gets me. When negativity and bad things get you down, you dust yourself off and keep going. Writing makes me feel like that sometimes My soul has been sore lately and maybe I just needed to get off my woe-is-me horse and get back onto the saddle of my life-won’t-keep-me-down horse. 🙂

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Sir Ken Robinson and Roy Wood Jr. : Society needs diversity

Isn’t Roy Wood Jr. a comedian? And isn’t Sir Ken Robinson some author/speaker guy?

Yes. And yes. I know they don’t exactly sound like the best comparison in the world but hear me out. As usual, I do have a conclusion that I’m getting to. Though I’ll ramble a bit. 😛 Let’s start here:in class we’ve been watching videos about various things like creativity, educational reform, and open-source resources. Sir Ken’s TED.com talk was among one of those videos. Here’s the video to watch if you’d like:

https://ted.com/talks/view/id/865

The entire talk is fantastic, but if you’re like me and just want to get to the meat of the thing listen to 9:08-10:59 of the video. Sir Ken states at the end of this section, “Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent.” That’s very true. Societies need people from the bottom of the job market all the way to the top. Sir Ken was speaking about not everyone being meant for college. This made me think of a dear Alabama-born comedian, Roy Wood Jr., and a comment he made in one of his skits. Watch the video below (you’ll thank me).

Now, obviously, I’m not advocating stripping or anything. But Roy’s satire makes a point: you have to do what you like. If you watched all of Sir Ken’s talk then you’ll know he also mentioned that people should do what they love. Not everyone is supposed to go to college and be a business man. My cousin is a firefighter and he loves it. He also had people in his highschool life tell him “he could do more with his life” but if he enjoys it, isn’t that as much as he can do with his life? Sure, firefighters might not be international superstars, but they’re important. And so are mechanics, garbage men, and custodians. I always say, “Might as well do what you love, you’ll probably do it for the rest of your life” (Job changes aside. You know what I mean here). Our educational model needs a reform. We need to stop trying to standardize-test people into college and enable people’s talents and dreams. I would much rather see a world of happy people doing what makes them happy and do OK than a world of bored, depressed white-collar workers.

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