Lizard King

I Can’t Think of a Title

            I presume I will receive a fitting grade because I put genuine effort into composing essays incapable of leading one directly into a R.E.M. cycle.  Reading my peer’s essays often left me pondering Super Grover and why David Hasselhoff drifted into alcoholism.  I was bored—not that my essays should be printed internationally—but, most who made it past the first paragraph laughed.  And, this is really true, with the exception of the lone pothead in my group—I don’t think he actually read them, but he usually verbalized something in favor of minor changes.

It was usually this simple:  “Dude, maybe you should like…I don’t know, like…maybe use another word here or draw a lizard in the margin.”  Thank you, descendent of Jim Morrison, I will surely consider that input.

I am not a reader and I am generally under the impression that most of my classmates are only actively reading required texts.  So, I try to write essays that appeal to my wit and make me laugh, in hopes they too will laugh.  Even if the reader thinks my perspective is idiotic, I feel successful if they find humor in a portion of it.  I suppose I sometimes alienate potential readers, but I seriously am not targeting an older audience—so, I’m going to use phrases like “desperate, old cougar” often.  I apologize, Jeff.  I just love the word cougar entirely too much.

I think I’m slightly more refined than I was in the beginning of semester—I still ramble, I have always rambled.  It’s like a disease; I cannot escape writing in a way that is like a stream of conversation.  I curse.  I curse a lot.  I still always hesitate before injecting expletives into my academic writing.  But, I felt safe in doing that in this classroom.  I know I should accept that it just downright offends some, but I stand by my opinion that if inserted properly, a word like “shithead” can enhance any writing.  Some people have told me that it sounds unintelligible, or conveys something along those lines.  I certainly don’t feel unintelligible, so I’m not really concerned with being perceived in such a way.

I just aim to be engaging.  In complete honesty, my translation essay sucked.  I just didn’t know how to make it work and it surely was not engaging.  I just don’t like acknowledging Ebonics in the first place so I was obviously doomed.  Needless to say, I hope I never do another translation again.  In contrast, I love doing personal essays and I received great feedback from everyone.  I’m writing about personal experiences, things I like or don’t like, and exploring my own beliefs—concepts like these, I can make interesting.  Still, I recognize the realization that I cannot always write about what I want, so I’m learning how to alleviate that problem.

Regarding revisions for my writing portfolio, I am in complete agreement with Stephen King that these kinds of things need to be put away for a year and then re-examined.  I hadn’t looked at my initial essay since it was handed back to me.  I saw perfect spots for comments and elaborations that I had not seen months ago.  I was told to remove my “toolbox” section.  This aggravated me at first, because it was something I really wanted to leave in the final paper.  I think that some of the readers didn’t think it necessarily fit with the first section (and I’m not sure exactly how much it does), but there was something that just made me keep it.  Jeff told me it was preachy (I’m not disagreeing).  So, I even sub-titled the section (Or, just me being Preachy) in a way that would let the reader know I’m making fun of myself.  I guess I won’t change anyone’s mind, but I just wanted the stupid piece in there, so there it remains.  I have to say that I just don’t think multi-genre writing is for me either.  It’s so damn jumpy and not fluid.  I found it really challenging to write from multiple perspectives and I probably could have done a better job, but I know it wasn’t me, so that’s why you’re not going to see that piece in this portfolio.

I’m sure everyone who caught a glimpse of my writing noticed the fact that I like writing in opposition.  Maybe that makes me less versatile, but it’s just what I like.  I could try to attempt to work on versatility next semester, but that’s really a huge lie and I likely will not.  I’m not sure I corrected every flaw or perfected each paper to the extreme, but I am submitting them in what I think are pretty damn good states for each one.  I’m comfortable with them and I think that’s somewhat valid.  Thank you, Jeff.

 

Kristen Peraset

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Dingy Hospital

Kristen Peraset

Evaluating Writing

Writing Assignment 4

Fiction Assessment

Anton Chekhov’s Ward Six parallels a dingy hospital ward for the insane alongside the turbulent social climate (in all its injustices) in which Chekhov was writing.  Ward Six is fiction, but in a greater social realm, every word—every instance of holding a mad man against his will, every disbelief that a warm, dry couch is a better place than a damp cell, every crime that seeks to silence humanity—is true.

In order to evaluate the literary completeness of War Six, I referred to several of Stein’s major story components:  characterization, the crucible, plot, scene, tension, show versus tell, and credibility.  Sol Stein asks us to consider what we remember about our favorite characters.  In Stein on Writing, he claims “The characters engage us first and are remembered most.  The plots of individual books are chapters in their lives.”  The method he refers to, regarding character creation, is utilized right up-front in the first few pages of Ward Six.  We come to know and live with Chekhov’s characters through his brilliant imagery and exhaustive physical descriptions.  In introducing the guard, Nikita, Chekhov writes, “He has a grim haggard face, a red nose and bushy eyebrows that make him look like a Russian sheep dog.”  Such descriptions help shape how we picture the character, making him human and familiar to us.  Chekhov’s comparison of Nikita to a sheep dog tells us everything he didn’t have to write down.  For instance, he could have told us Nikita was excessively hairy or covered with eyebrow hair.  But, since we’re told he resembles a sheep dog, we already have all the physical detail we need.

Stein also talks about characterizing through an action—“We individualize by seeing characters doing things and saying things, not by the author telling us about them.”  In Ward Six, Chekhov does exactly this when he attempts to characterize Ivan Dmitrich Gromov:  “He either lies curled up in bed or paces back and forth as if taking exercise, but seldom sits down.”  Chekhov also clues us in to crucial character ticks that we come to expect throughout the story:  “When anyone drops a button or a spoon, he leaps from his bed and picks it up.”  The same kind of attention is given to particularizing Dr. Andrei Yefimych Ragin—“His stern face is covered with blue veins, the eyes small, the nose red.  Being tall and broad-shouldered, with huge hands and feet, he looks as if one blow of his fist would knock the daylights out of a man.”  Stein describes markers as “easily identified signals that to a majority of readers will reveal a character’s cultural and social background.”  Uniquely, this doctor is rather shabby.

We gain lots of insight into Andrei Yefimych’s mental process from how Chekhov illustrates his behavior towards visiting patients:  When he has to open a baby’s mouth to look at his throat and the child cries and defends himself with his little fists, the noise makes his head spin and tears come to his eyes.  He hastily writes a prescription and motions the mother to take the child away.”  Stein says that one of the five main types of characterization is through “physiological attributes and mannerisms.”  I think we see a great deal of this technique used in illuminating the nature of the doctor.  Interestingly, we come to know Ivan Dmitrich even more so through dialogue.  We are given a sense of his intellect through his vast vocabulary and seething articulation.  But, from his conversations with the doctor, we also see that he has given into confinement—he eventually becomes paranoid of the doctor’s motivations and seals himself off from further communication until the end of the story.  From Ivan Dmitrich, we get lots of hostility toward his captors—“Leave me alone, why the hell do you persist?”  His paranoia and need for solitude is demonstrated consistently:  “In the first place, I am not your friend […], you are wasting your time:  you won’t get a single word out of me.”  One of the most publishable trademarks of this book is its overtly neurotic, intense dialogue.  It’s the kind of dialogue that makes me feel uneasy, because I can feel the tension and utter disgust permeating through the ward.  If Chekhov didn’t sit the reader down in a cot next to Moiseika, the realistic, emotional element would be lost.

Stein says that “Characters caught in a crucible won’t declare a truce and quit […], the keys to the crucible is that the motivation of the characters to continue opposing each other is greater than their motivation to run away.”  In Ward Six, the crucible is the inescapable hospital ward.  And, I also believe a secondary mental crucible exists—that is to say, the inherent (also, inescapable) madness all the male characters suffer from.  They are all bound together by a unified insanity, which makes them all mad; and, makes them all the same by the end of the story.  We are provided with a physical image of the crucible—“The roof is rusty, the chimney half caved in, the porch steps rotted and overgrown with grass, and only a few traces of stucco are left on the walls.”  We know the status of the emotional crucible is grim and silences immediately by Nikita, but above the physical guard, is silenced by the unwavering hand of society.

Andrei Yefimych also suggests life at this time in Russia is the overarching crucible, in which the most futile battle exists.  He says, “Life is a miserable trap.  As soon as a thinking man reaches maturity and becomes capable of conscious thought, he cannot help feeling that he is in a trap from which there is no escape.”  The doctor’s whole identity arises from his belief that “There is no difference between a warm comfortable study and this ward [and], Peace and contentment do not lie outside a man, but within him.”  But, still, his overwhelming thought is that man battles life from the time he is born, against his will.  Essentially, he, like the other patients, is forced into a crucible they can never leave.

How skillfully Chekhov devised the rules, regulations, and participants of his crucible is what maintains suspense.  The reader becomes immersed, almost drowned, in Andrei Yefimych’s turmoil.  But, the fast-paced, volatile discussions with Ivan Dmitrich are what arouse interest and concern.  I think Chekhov, somehow, makes us aware that the doctor would never prescribe himself his own medicine; he can’t even examine a child without shuddering.  When he proposes psychological garbage—“You will realize how insignificant the external things whichs agitate us really are”—we know he can’t possibly buy into it.  He’s a shaky character from the beginning, and we know his comprehension of life is weak and will be made to erupt by his own field of work.

I don’t know how Stein would assess Chekhov’s implementation of scene; we feel included directly from the beginning (with all the foul explication) and then it significantly drops off.  I kind of like it that way—I have already pictured the ward in my head, so each time we transition back to it, I don’t feel the need to be reminded of where I’m going.  I thought the scenes from the stagecoach ride, to the train, and to the hotel were weak and unnecessary.  But, I didn’t write the book; maybe the doctor’s pent-up disgust of surrounding humans wouldn’t have been as well-crafted, had we not envisioned Andrei Yefimych holding his furious head in his hands as he lay on the hotel sofa.

Regarding tension, Stein says, “Our job is […] to create tension and not dispel it immediately.”  So, to say tension is present in Ward Six would be an understatement, especially because there is no resolution for the patients’ tension, let alone the doctor’s plot situation.  Again, Chekhov’s most pronounced means of affecting the reader is through dialogue.  As the story reaches the most drastic series of events, the dialogue is what allows the change to naturally unfold.  The doctor shouts, “I don’t want your friendship—nor your medicine, you blockhead!  The vulgarity—sickening!”  Come on.  The doctor called his counterpart a blockhead; of course that’s going to spark some suspense.  Chekhov succeeds in developing selective language that moves us toward the climax.

Interwoven with his characterization is Chekhov’s ability to show rather than tell.  For example:  we see the doctor coming loose at the seams, we see Ivan Dmitrich’s madness and rage, and we even see Nikita “jumping to attention.”  Instead of stating that he was amused, Chekhov shows us Ivan Dmitrich’s reaction to seeing Andrei Yefimych in the ward for the first time as a patient.  “Just then Ivan Dmitrich woke up.  He sat up, his cheeks propped on his fists.  He spat.  Glancing apathetically at the doctor, for a moment he appeard not to understand, then the expression on his sleepy face became mocking and spiteful.”  Throughout Ward Six, we almost always see Ivan Dmitrich.  However, in order to introduce us to these complex characters, Chekhov tells us quite a bit about them in the initial chapters.  I don’t find it bothersome or dangerous (as Stein suggests), because Chekhov’s specificity is rampant.  Even though we’re told about his origins, Ivan Dmitrich is never perceived as a dull, abstract character.  Chekhov says, “Of women and love he spoke with ardent enthusiasm, but he had never in his life been in love.”  Stein may not always condone flashbacks, but we know Ivan Dmitrich because of Chekhov’s introduction to him.

Stein tells us that “The advantage of first-person point-of-view is that it establishes the greatest immediate intimacy with the reader.”  I think third-person omniscient narration is what keeps Ward Six moving so fluidly.  I also don’t sense the disadvantage of distance Stein refers to.  For instance, if the story was told by Andrei Yefimych, we’d be bombarded with too many of his internal thoughts, and the element of irony we see at the end would be ruined and pointless.  I think this story is more about character convolutions than plot and there must be a sustainable distance, especially from the doctor.

If Ward Six was written from a first-person perspective, we would expect a protagonistic affect from the narrator.  What’s intriguing about the story is that I don’t see any protagonists in the hospital setting.  To me, everyone is a crazed defeatist who thinks they grasp humanity.  Stein also points out that “The omniscient point-of-view allows the author to speak in his own voice to say things that would be inappropriate for any of his characters to say.”  Consider the mental facets of Ivan Dmitrich and Andrei Yefimych—they’re both too nuts to tell a story about a hospital cell.  With Chekhov’s third-person approach, the scope is broad enough to see the toxic effects the hospital has on all the characters, while it is narrow enough, at any given time, to not lose the reader.

Chekhov works to excite the senses immediately, typically relying on heinous sights and vile smells.  Often, we get a dose of both at once:  “Whole mountains of hospital rubbish are piled against the walls and stove.  Mattresses, old tattered dressing gowns, underdrawers, blue-striped shirts, utterly useless worn-out boots and shoes—all this litter lying in jumbled, raddled, moldering heeps and giving off a stifling odor.”  Chekhov makes no attempt to stop at a minimum of chronicling the grit.  In fact, most accounts are excessive.  But, that’s how he invites us into the world in which he was writing.  How can we comprehend the suspicious state of Ivan Dmitrich if we don’t see what he sees and what he smells.  Chekhov exposes us to endless smells:  “The place stinks of sauerkraut, smoldering wicks, bedbugs, and ammonia.

I think this story’s selling-point will always remain Chekhov’s credibility.  Regarding invented characters, Stein says, “What happens to them […] must be believable.”  Ward Six is undeniably a social statement intended to speak of the times.  He plants and explores the characters in a way that destines them all to a collective death and failure.  For example, it’s believable that Andrei Yefimych ultimately is admitted to his own hospital because he didn’t even want to be a doctor.  The narrator also has a habit of waving red flags.  In the beginning, we read, “There is nothing on earth so fine that its origin is without foulness.”  I think we realize, at some point, every character in Ward Six will begin to decay.  Chekhov sets up the doctor’s instability:  “He is utterly incapable of commanding, forbidding, insisting.  It almost seems as if he had taken a vow never to raise his voice or to use the imperative mood.”  The reader discerns this man simply can’t assert his place in the world—which is why we accept his transition from doctor to patient (especially because Chekhov makes him crumble slowly).

I think the irony of Ward Six has probably been repeated since its publication.  I also am unaware of how much appeal it would have in a society that seems generally removed from late 1800’s Russia.  But, I think it would be considered for publication because of the philosophy it oozes.  Doctors can’t fully comprehend the mad, because they’re mad themselves.  The notion that an external variable, like a cold cell, can’t deter a man from finding complete satisfaction and comprehension is nonsense.  It’s nonsense that is preached by those fearing, with every fiber in them, that they could become an Ivan Dmitrich.  Ward Six is about silencing all those who we’re capable of silencing and trying to convince them it’s for their own good.

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Plausible Insanity

Plausible  Insanity

            I can only theorize as to how we always manage to get here—how we consistently battle each other.  And, we enter these battles willingly.  We enter these battles armed and without any reluctance to state the unforgivable.  Go ahead; lay down your suppressive fire.  I can stand in the rain if you can.

Things get bad.  Acidic tears rolled down my face; there was a mixture of mucous and mascara collecting beneath my swollen eyes.  It burned and only intensified the crying.  I was scrunched up into a sad ball against the bed’s wicker headboard, my knees tight against my shaking chest.  My thin shirt felt damp on my skin from cold sweat; the escaping salt scorched the surface flesh and reabsorbed.

Things get worse.  He sat on the very edge of the bed as if it was pricking him with hundreds of needles.  His hands and face were still and maroon, filled with thick, angry blood.  I glanced through the cracks between the fingers belonging to the hands shielding my eyes—my own—but, if you asked me whose hands they were, I’m unsure if I would have been able to tell you.  My fingers framed his face.  His eyes were steady on me.  Unblinking.  Unyielding.  I pretended not to notice, but I’m not good at pretending.

There is a sheepskin slipper lying upside-down in the doorway, where it landed after he ripped it from my little, blue foot and demanded I was stupid.   I was curious how many functioning neurons it took to launch a shoe.  It was a modest attempt for a man who generally throws more fits than footballs.  It soared several feet past the television; I’ll give it an eight.  Matching slipper has yet to be found.

He shot up like a fierce flame and headed towards the door.  A whine escaped from my lips, but it was more like a vibration he didn’t feel.

“Uhh…ugggh.”

“I’m done,” was all he said, struggling to zip-up his faded cardigan.  The door awkwardly shut, like it was resisting.  It’s one of those doors that expands in surging humidity, but the only dampness found was streaming from my bright eyes.  Sometimes, when we fight and I’m afraid, my mind drifts to things I know—how to draw a non-dimensional house with two crooked windows, the periodic table, and which months have thirty days.  Other times, my fear forces me to consider everything that eludes me—the diameter across the sun and quantum mechanics.

My explanation is simple.  Every spring, the tulips produce too many quantums which threaten the carrot turnout.  The fattest bunnies lie on their backs on cool, wispy grass just eating quantums, all day.  The carrots are saved.  Equilibrium is restored.

            My eye begins to swell.  Not because he hit me.  Oh, God no.  My eyes just do that when I’ve been wailing, sometimes for two days.  For two entire days faces are cloudy, depths of near corners and sharp edges are obscured and the world appears dusted with some sickening kind of sugar, at least around the grim edges.

I couldn’t shatter my frozen existence—even to trail the only man capable of bringing me back from the hell he put me in.  He’d bring me back on a single shoulder.  But, I remained in bed, rigid, unable to lift a limb.  The crying clogged my nose with a solution of foul fluids, compacting because I couldn’t reach the tissues.  The shallow intake of air through my mouth fought the exhales of agony and more air, desperately trying to make its way to my lungs.  The sound was pathetic.  If you’ve ever watched a fish die, you’ve imagined the little sounds you can’t hear he must be making.  His once graceful, translucent fins are flailing erratically through crystal, chemically-altered water, trying to strike up five more minutes of life.  You have then seen me.  My arms were at my sides and my feet were still planted on the sheets.  In fact, I’d been this way so long it hurt.  I tried to remember how I got here.

Two years before, I met him on some grimy steps outside a depressing bar while keeping my chain-smoking friends safe from strangers.  This is how one maintains friendships, you know.  The sky looked like unimpassioned pavement, the leafless trees were without hope, and the February wind sent crumpled up newspapers, discarded fast food cartons, and the last remains of Newport Lights down a certain path to a storm drain already at capacity.  Breathing in the evening air left me feeling coated with expired chicken fat, decayed egg roll, and genuinely rotten lo mein.  The dumpster that belonged to the neighboring Chinese place led a double-life as a green, scaly monster who came alive after closing time and spewed bits of noodle and garbage at all the dejected souls taking up space in the parking lot.

I was fanning myself from the cloud of smoke.  There was a circle of young men in dark coats and sideburns in need of re-thinking smoking to our left.  I felt misplaced at a longshoremen’s convention.  I had been kicking my strappy Mary Janes to free them of the ash landing on them.  Then he stumbled over in his black coat—drunk as a mother fucker—complete with coarse, black hair, black beady eyes and black, scuffed boots.

Oh, God, this is not happening to me.  Yes, it is.  And, it did.

Fast-forward two years; I heard the hum of a small car in the drive.  The unsatisfactory becomes extraordinary.  Somehow, by the determination of all the fibers in me working together, I made it to the screen door, but did not open it.  I just stared blankly at the fat raindrops pinging against the metal bird-feeders and the hood of the running car.  Leave without me was all I could think.  But, from inside, I saw him open the passenger-side door and I watched the empty seat.  I thought about the first time I ever hesitated to get in; I was burned badly before and he must have known it.  I didn’t know if it was painted on my face, revealed by my unwillingness to hold his hand, or if an acquaintance rambled on one night about my list of priors like an arrest sheet.  I used to imagine him sitting at a cruddy bar with an unshaven jackass I once nodded to.

Yeah, I don’t know all the details, but I heard she’s just not all there.  Like a basket-case or something.  I don’t recall how he finally lured me in.  It may have been the warmth in his plea—come on, I waited all week to see you, we have to quit this once a week on Saturday night with your friends kind of thing.  Or, it could have been the way I forgot to breathe when his fingers brushed my collarbone.  Or, maybe I just put every ounce of my trust in whatever his eyes conveyed.

So, here I am, in my final fit of tears and rage screaming:

You’re worse than me because I only say what I feel and you search for what makes me bleed.  Your really search.  You search our entire history for the artifact that causes the worst wound.  You scan you’re brain for the sharpest blade in your dwindling drawer—dwindling because you’ve already used the best of the worst.  But, dwindling, not empty because there’s always one more.  Each time you pull one out, you replace it with another piece of astringent critique.  Someone please press pause on my insanity.

I said it.  I shouted it, really.  But, not to him.  For some reason, it was enough for me and only me to hear it.  The rumbling mayhem in my tired stomach quieted.  Instead of fighting to hold in the air, I could let some out.  A breath following utter exhaustion is always more appreciated.  I pushed past the screen and felt the icy droplets bounce off my forehead, wet my hair, and run inside the coils of my ears.  I stepped out into the muddy drive, wiped an eye with one hand and pulled the handle of the door he had left open for me.

His head was heavy on my frail shoulder.  Invariably, the weak support the strong.  I don’t care about what’s right, as much as I care that he is here next to me.  The thunder and lightening in my head clears, my exhaling slows, and a pocket of heat grows between us again.

 

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Assessment Does Not Equal Evaluation

Kristen Peraset

Evaluating Writing

January 28, 2009

Writing Response 1

Assessment Does Not Equal Evaluation

Wolcott examines some of the fighting points surrounding education, primarily writing assessment and, on page fifteen, she describes assessment (for this purpose) as “used interchangeably with the terms testing and evaluation.”  She does mention that the pedagogical uses and apparent definitions for these terms are debated, but she doesn’t actually clarify the debate.  The chapter lends the impression that assessment and evaluation are synonymous and that evaluation is formative and summative.

In a Curriculum and Assessment class, I can recall the professor claiming no such interchangeability.  One of our major requirements was to apply both assessment and evaluation techniques in appropriate contexts.  Wolcott touches on the uses of the findings, regarding classroom (internal) and external testing, but does not critically dissect the two.  On page seventeen, Wolcott explains that “formative evaluation […] is ongoing and ‘proactive’ in the sense that it allows for changes to be made.”  As a student of elementary education, I’m sensitive to the flexibility she assigns to the term evaluation, because if this mistake was made in one of my previous classes, I’d be writing “assessment does not equal evaluation” on the board for a week.

Assessment, from my own memory, is always ongoing, meaning it’s formative in nature and provides teachers with information necessary to augment teaching.  There is a sense of finality given to evaluation; its product is summative and concentrates on measurements and benchmarks—let’s say, the NJ ASK given in fourth grade.

Another way to look at assessment is to picture it as observing what’s being learned in your classroom.  Conversely, evaluation strictly is what has been learned.  With assessment, there is room to improve and it’s sometimes viewed as an outlet to practice objectives.  When a student is evaluated, what they have learned is measured, or gauged, or whichever politically correct educational phrase you prefer.  In my prior coursework, I have known assessment to typically correspond to the internal testing Wolcott analyzes; and, evaluation, in my eyes, is consistently external.  I just don’t agree with her perception of summative assessment/evaluation stressing such accountability; summative evaluation makes more sense.  Even in a writing discipline, I believe the distinction must be made.

These commotions over terminologies and political intricacies are probably contributing factors to the downfall of American education.  We can’t just teach!  Every writing lesson must be in alignment with the trend or content standard of the week.  Without a doubt, there is a need for assessment and evaluation, but as a future educator, I’m hesitant to have an opinion, because what I’ve spent five years studying will likely be out-of-date by the time I get a classroom.  The whole educational machine contradicts itself, however, because educational researchers press the issue of needing highly qualified teachers and more performance-based assessments in the classroom—where is my performance-based assessment?  I am required to demonstrate my knowledge of teaching through a computerized form of summative evaluation known as the Praxis.

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Dad Declines Caldecott Winner

They say one of a baby’s first non-verbal forms of communication is pointing.  Clicking must be somewhere just after that.  -Annonymous

I miss crayons—the really fat crayons from kindergarten.  Some of my neatest and most legible writing probably originated with the crayon.  Despite epochs of time designated to coloring in the finest of coloring books, my fine motor skills never progressed.  Even though I liked to color Pooh and Piglet obnoxious colors and write “butthead” over their likenesses, I still thought I managed to turn out some pretty nice pictures.  But, my handwriting still suffers.  Unfortunately, Rowan University isn’t really aligned or in touch with expressing one’s self through Crayola.  So, these days I insist they give me my laptop or give me death!

As I mentioned, my journey (if you will) through writing began with crayons.  I used to like to draw on paper (obviously), walls, and in books that did not belong to me.  My favorite canvas was perhaps my sister’s sticker book; I sabotaged it with soap-scented blue crayons.  Her sticker collection was significantly altered after I was finished with it.  I wrote “butthead” on the particle board backing of her desk about fifty times.  But, I believe that was with a red crayon.  Markers were really never my thing—there’s this sort of harsh permanence about markers.  Of course, crayon isn’t easily erased, but markers are messier.  You don’t see too many kids walking around with crayon markings on their hands.  I always did enjoy using a nice new Sharpie, right out of the box.  Sharpie has this professional connotation.  When I’m writing with a Sharpie, it’s like I’m doing something official!

I hate pencils.  Pencils smear on your nice lined paper.  Pencils break in the middle of the state-mandated assessment you’re taking.  Pencils need sharpening.  And, don’t tell me I could just use one of those silly mechanical pencils either.  Those are the worst kind.  Do I really feel like buying replacement graphite?  The last time I attempted this I bought the stuff thinking maybe it would work out, but quickly realized there is this absurd point system.  There is point seven something graphite; hey, there is even point five whatever graphite.  Is that supposed to be in millimeters?  I don’t even know.  I remember when I was in grade school and we were learning how to write our letters on that yellowish, awful paper and that was where all my problems began.

I never seemed to hold a writing utensil correctly.  I have two fingers on top of the pencil, not enough fingers behind the pencil and I’m probably not angling it right either.  That was essentially my teachers’ diagnosis throughout my years of penmanship.  Learning cursive was even worse.  Cursive causes an unknown loss of one of my synapses every time I see it.  Why does a “q” look like the number two in cursive?  I couldn’t manage to make my print uniform enough to meet guidelines and standards, now I have to learn an alternate form of ruining the letters as if I don’t already know how to?

I was the student who always received warnings on their papers for illegibility.  My teachers would say, “If this isn’t written clearly, next time you’re getting a ZERO!”  So, after years of some teachers telling me to print, some telling me to produce cursive, and some requesting hieroglyphics, I seemed to merge my writing styles.  This led to what I write in now (when forced), which resembles the mysterious half print and half cursive creature.  Cursigoreas is a horrid, six-headed sea creature who terrorized children in Greek mythology—and so, I digress.

God bless the word-processor and Bill Gates and PC’s and even the My Documents Folder.  Now, that I’m in college and I don’t actually have to show professors that pre-writing crap we had to do in high school, I do all of my composition on my computer.  I have abolished the use of pre-writing.  Why do I need to draw a stupid web or outline when I have a backspace button?  I always thought outlines took away from writing anyway; the formality required leaves students just filling in spaces with worthless information so their pre-writing looks complete.  I liked to write stories when I was little, but I could often never read them because I would have no idea in hell what I had written.  In attempts to try to solve that problem, my parents purchased me a kid-friendly typewriter.  Usually, it never worked or somehow ink would end up on our kitchen counter and my dad would tell me I no longer needed to worry about writing my Caldecott winner.

My sister had one of those word-processors with the scary green pixilation.  The sticker book incident must have resonated with her, because I was never allowed to use the word-processor.  Oh, well.  I was in sixth grade when we got our first computer; it was fairly massive compared to the HP notebook I have now.  So, I’ve spent a number of years typing.  And, I think carpal tunnel is for pansies.  I got more calluses from a darn pencil than any sort of pain from typing.  These days, I sit in bed at three in the morning with a cup of coffee and make Microsoft Word do all the work for me.  Word has even allowed me to take my procrastination to a whole new level, since now I can type several pages in an hour or so.  I don’t need to even start my work until the night before they’re due!

Honestly, I do think writing on my computer has made me a better writer.  I can constantly scroll up or down and check out my progress and make changes without it being a major ordeal.  I hardly even do drafts anymore.  I sit down, frequently save and edit my work, then re-save and print it out to be turned in.  I find it amusing when parents and educators claim children today are far too engrained in turning to the computer rather than writing in a traditional matter.  My writing was horrible when it was on paper.  Using programs like Microsoft Word gave me the cohesiveness I was missing and helped me to really write some good material.  Like just a second ago, I wrote the word “stuff” to conclude the prior sentence.  Then, I thought to myself that professors probably don’t much care for the word “stuff,” so I changed it.  Ha.  I am thankful for my time spent with the crayon and I even can say I embrace markers and pens.  But, pencils get no respect from me.  Kids never stand in line to sharpen a laptop, do they?  If I tried to narrate my history of writing with a pencil, I’d be on the third sentence right about now.

Just think about it.  Artificial Intelligence usually beats natural stupidity.  –Annonymous.

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College Injustice

Kristen Peraset

The Writer’s Mind

4:45-6:00

Writing a la King

 

Who Says I have to Write?

(College Injustice and Beyond)

            College Composition I irritated me and College Composition II irritated me more.  I can and will elaborate, but first, I have something else to get out of the way.  High school writing was crap for me; most of my time was spent drafting five paragraph responses to questions that followed dissection of British literature—the kind you spend hours deciphering.  The kind that makes me want to drink heavily.  I did what was necessary to receive A’s, but after I received a graded paper, its content, purpose, and entire existence left my mind—permanently.  I think this whole “purpose” thing was what eluded me for so long.  I, personally, am not a medievalist so I did not and still do not have much of a perspective on the Protestant Reformation, the Ostrogoths or the god-damn Carolingian Renaissance.  If I was writing to appease a teacher’s perspective that I thought belonged in the trash, I never put effort into it; I gave him a well-written formal, dull essay.  And, teachers praised me, rewarded me with comments in blue ink, not the red “what were you thinking” ink—they told me I had fair comprehension, decent syntax, and a somewhat organized writing process.  And so, I did this until I passed all the federal, state, alien-nation, and fascist requirements up to the twelfth grade; and, it was nauseating.  This entire period was really an “I hate writing phase” for me; I refused to read Hamlet, couldn’t tolerate the movie any more and ultimately decided I had no need to write an analysis about it.  Usually, I was drawing my English teachers in a fashion that left them resembling the Minotaur.

I hope I didn’t disgruntle you, my cherished reader, by using the word “crap” in what I hope comes across as a solid first installation of my writing experiences.  Through my numerous “stages” of growing as a “writer,” (haha) I have valued one fundamental more than any other—I say what I mean and mean what I say.  I am not practicing litigation here.  Words, I think, are very aesthetic; “crap” is hardly pleasing, (it’s no “heretofore” or “recalcitrant” but it conveys a clarity I doubt a more polite synonym could instill.  I love harsh words, I love verbalizing them and I love writing them onto paper (especially academic papers) because I love to be defiant.  Toward the end of high school, but more so in my introductory composition classes in college, I began saying what I meant.  When the professor asked me to map out a persuasive topic, I decided to write “Stop Infringing My Second Amendment.”  The next day, I came in with a sub-par political rant and the professor (who smelled of pipe smoke, mahogany, and leather-bound books) asked me if I really wanted people running the streets with assault weapons.  I looked at him and told him he was a bottom-feeder.  No, I’m kidding, I only thought it.  I’m not that defiant—after I receive my degree, I will be that defiant.  He didn’t smell like mahogany either, he smelled like Newports.  I just have this imagery of many of my former professors wearing tweed and wandering their libraries searching endlessly for literature on croquet.

I still managed to write within my own boundaries.  I was able to articulate in a way that basically said what I wanted to say, but met guidelines and expectations and all that nonsense too.

So, that was College Composition I, College Composition II was more of an endurance test.  I read short stories and poetry (poetry I simply cannot relate to, I’m sorry, it’s just not  my thing) and constructed generic essays about underlying themes, character traits, and well, that “moral of the story” kind of thing.    If I could recall the titles of half of those stories, I would gladly share, but I sold that textbook back to the bookstore as soon as I was home free from that class.  I do think I enjoyed Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.  I wrote a paper about Nora deceiving Torvald and ultimately walking out on the relationship (at least I think that’s what it was about) and I got an A.  I ripped apart the entire Nora character and I think I made the professor laugh a little on the inside.  So, I wrote an abundance of these “response” type essays and then the dreaded poetry section protruded its elitist self.

“Ugggh,” was really all I had to say.  I just don’t get anything out of poetry; Frost I can at least respect.  Kerouac, on the other hand I could not read.  And, I despised the fact that I had to purchase an overpriced textbook that was seventy-percent Allen Ginsberg who was a vile commie.  Cliff notes version—we were told to pick a poet, any poet, and analyze, line by line, a poem.  I expressed little interest (why should I) and singled out one of the first selections Google so kindly presented to me.  Again, I cannot recall her name or her poem or what I was thinking, but she was one of those feminist chicks.

“Triple ugggggh,” was once more all that came to mind.  I dislike “she-power” or “feminazi” literature, but was far too lazy to try again.  And, the poem was brief.  So, I did what I was called upon to do—I analyzed, hypothesized about what her intentions were all about, and added my own judgment.  Mind you, this particular professor was a hardcore jackass and it upset him to hand out A’s.  Well, I enjoyed him, I suppose that doesn’t say much about myself, but he was mean and I admired it (he often exploited our own carefully crafted sentences on the board by scoffing and then going to town on our atrocities of the English language).  He used red ink.  Why would he use anything else?  Nothing a student wrote was ever acceptable or matched his level of expertise.  There was one occasion where he found fault with the frequent occurrences of em dashes in my essay, just so he could have something concrete in his own mind to bitch about. Only, the red ink on my essay didn’t suggest, “what were you thinking you imbecile?”  Instead, he wrote: “well done and witty, much like the author herself.”

Post my unexpected poetry A grade, I became a little more confident and a little more willing to take time and put thought into my writing.  I even proofread and did revisions for classmates.  Nick, my first “college friend” constantly emailed me appalling first drafts of response/critical thinking/stupid task essays.  Nick was a notorious D essay composer.  His grammar usage sucked and he couldn’t construct complex sentences to save his life.  Eager to help out a friend, rather than complete quadratic equations I would never solve anyway, I gave Nick suggestions and via Microsoft Word, inserted indentations, capitalizations, semi-colons, and endless commas.  Commas tended to be problematic.  And, the absence of one vital comma sent your grade cascading toward a big old C.  So, Nick incorporated some of my suggestions into his work.  And, you know what?  His unavoidable D was now a B (personally, I stand by my belief that if the fool had implemented all of the changes, he would have gotten an A).  That still resonates with me.  So, maybe it’s unjust to say I hated or was irritated by the often tedious College Composition classes, I just found some of the material to be reminiscent of something a hippie smoked during an anti-war demonstration.  Why was the other end of the political spectrum never once represented?  But, that’s beyond the scope of what’s being explored in this writing—maybe next time?  In the end, I profited by becoming a less afraid, more antagonistic writer.  I like to antagonize, even when I’m not writing.  I learned that maybe, quite possibly my talent was hidden in the ability to write intelligent opposition (whether it be regarding profound literature which I hated to read or popular belief from which I dissented).  As I mentioned, I had an English professor who professed more on the evil of firearms than the importance of an introduction, body, and conclusion of an essay.  I cannot express to my reader how agitating it is to be lectured on why the Constitution is out-dated and no longer applies to today’s societal atmosphere.  Considering the circumstantial evidence, I am confident in saying he was a vile commie, as well.

I was thrilled with the idea of aggravating someone with beliefs I could express in written form.  And, if I did it coherently and met expectations, how could they not give me a good grade?  I have been proven wrong, however.  I once wrote a ten page paper detailing the multiple mental illnesses affecting Joseph Stalin—yes, I used up ten pieces of tree to confirm to my audience of one that Stalin was bat-shit retarded.  The conclusion—I was given a B because I took a “radical approach.”  Oh well, he was not only a history professor, but an avid theatrical performer; that in itself is an argument of one’s sanity.  Still, I persist, I write what I want.  There are always restrictions: if I’m assigned to write an essay about my perspective on compulsory school uniforms, I cannot go ahead and turn it into a tale of my hatred of senior-citizen drivers.  The worst guidelines are those requiring you to include three or more cheesy metaphorical usages or similes.  I dislike adding “colorful” literary tools to my writing.  Actually, I think it assigns a futile demise of sorts.  Stuff like that detracts from a style like mine; it’s a fabrication and a lie, not something that would ever leave my mouth.  Now, tell me to inject three or more expletives in a piece (totally more my forte) and I’ll have Tipper Gore attacking me like E. coli on room temperature cow parts.  Did you like that?  See, I know how to use colorful literary tools; I just choose not to.  I never liked summarizing an essay with the pathetically overused “in conclusion.”  It’s as if you’ve abruptly ended your address to the nation from your bed as you type on your laptop—all a result of your battery failing.  I see nothing wrong with composing in bed; I do it all the time.  But, I won’t say “in conclusion” out of desperation.  I passed my high school assessments and you can’t make me write like that anymore!  I’m saying “you” like I’m actually blaming you (the present reader) for my disliking of a common writing technique.  If it makes you feel better, you are more of an amalgamation of caustic theories, professors, criticisms and whatever the hell I feel like including, that I have endured throughout my academic writing.

The moral of my story is (or, if you insist, IN CONCLUSION blah blah blah) that I was forced to write a lot of narratives, expositions, persuasive substance, and junk that I would never just sit down and decide to write on my own accord.  I struggled, complained (am still complaining), wrote the stuff and realized what my strengths and weaknesses were.  I believe my opinionated carry ons and enraged rants are where my honest creative wit makes a name for itself and my inability to relate to the classics, poetry, or tree-hugging conventions undoubtedly hurt me; oh, that kills me.  Sometimes, I just can’t find purpose when the task at hand bores me—so, my purpose becomes examining what’s wrong with the task.  Ask me my thoughts on contemporary poetry and I will take sudden interest in my shoes.  I would rather give you five pages on the New York Giants offensive line.  But, when I have the opportunity to combat all that is wrong with contemporary poetry, I think I can produce something worth reading.

 

Box o’ Tools

(Or Me Just Being Preachy)

            I don’t have a tool box.  I have a messy desk drawer filled with pens with no caps, crumpled up paper, and some intangible objects I feel writers should have.  There are probably half-eaten bags of almond M&Ms in this drawer, as well, but that’s really none of your concern, is it?  My primary necessity is having the capability to hear a topic and formulate some  kind of perspective about it, even if I’d rather eat dirt than spend my nights writing about it.  People often tell themselves:

“I know nothing about the ‘concept of global warming that has yet to be proven’ or ‘house-flipping,’ so there’s no way I can write five pages about the stuff.”  I don’t think there is a single thing wrong with questioning the validity of an abstract or going so far as to disprove a widely accepted idea; you just have to do it with conviction.  I can’t convince the reader of something if I don’t believe in what I’m saying.  You may think you’re doing a swell job of bullshitting yourself and everyone else, but readers will know when what they’re reading is false.  You should bring yourself to the point where you find it sickening to lie, in writing and in the rest of your life, too—people will respect you more.

This next one is the most challenging—if you refuse to dedicate time to your writing, you will ultimately fail.  I hate wasting time during the day writing; I’d rather be tanning.  So, I allot time for writing at night.  I have time to toss around ideas and conceptualize while I’m baking muffins.  At night, I am most at ease with my thoughts, so I can sit down and the writing simply flows.  There are invariably bumps along the way; I can fix those later.  Maybe, for you, the morning provides the clearest insight into whatever idea you’re writing about (I can barely move in the morning).

It’s also important to have someone else look over your work.  Do they immediately see your intentions or do they struggle in establishing the theme?  The problem here is that some people are handed a paper and can’t fight the need to correct flaws in grammar.  I am one of these people.  If I see a misuse of “that” and “who,” I probably will find it difficult to read about the big, blue dinosaur’s first day of school.  So, don’t ask me to read your paper—ask someone who will read in order to uncover a story and to learn something.  They will be able to tell you if what you’re saying actually makes any kind of literary sense.  Revision can come later.  You can have perfect sentence structure, but if your storytelling ability is crap, no one will want to read it in the first place.  Now, I’m not advocating you publish 500 pages of Ebonics, I appreciate intelligent writing.  I just think, initially, grammar should take a backseat.

One of my last suggestions is, in fact, quite tangible.  I always rely on a thesaurus.  Especially if you’re writing twenty pages, using “nice,” “wonderful,” and “bad” three-million times becomes awkward.  Using a thesaurus in the right manner is crucial—don’t seek the longest, ugliest, syllable-laden word ever created. More so, become acquainted with words that you may not use a whole lot, but are great alternatives to the sometimes over-used ones.  And, with time, these may become your weapons of choice (too frequently) and you will need to send them back to the desk drawer while you discover new words.  An expansive vocabulary is a great one.  But, the wordiest of words, like margaritas, must be consumed in moderation.  You don’t want readers thinking you reside in the city of pretension.  Use a thesaurus, and you may endearingly call your city “ostentation.”  People have a tendency to write down words that don’t ordinarily come out of their mouths in casual conversation.  Stick to writing what you know; your results will be more coherent and the way readers perceive your writing will be more congruent with what you want them to take away from the writing.

You can write a descriptive essay about your backyard or narrative of your last Bon Jovi concert.  Or, you could even write a critical essay about why Rocky V should never have been made.  What is the connector?  Some may disagree, but I think everything you write should contain a piece of you.  I want the reader to know instantly that I wrote Rocky V is Garbage.  Define your own style and make it prevail.

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Justice for Leather Goods

Kristen Peraset

The Writer’s Mind

Parody Assignment

Society for the Rights of Inanimate Furniture Objects:

The Fight for Liberty, Justice, and the Pursuit of Inanimate Happiness

            Since the conception of the “living capacity” or “living room” (as known by the bottom-feeders of the nation); man has saturated and permeated it with an abundance of interior designs to accommodate our physical beings.  These numerous appliances and adornments have been muted and unexpressive for decidedly too long.  Through the course of one nautical day, an ottoman from the southern coastal region of New Jersey envisioned a “better world” for other interior-furnishing varietals like himself.

“Ottoman,” as after extended home-furnishing nomenclature research, he concluded would be his proper title, was enervated; he was visibly debilitated after a year of the mentally inferior  homo sapien sapien constantly casting him and the other living capacity creatures aside.  Ottoman assured his overly cautious, circumspect comrades that it was favorable to attain autonomy of the household and apprehend the victimizers.  Ottoman perceived the subordinate members of the living commorancy to be the one’s to approach initially; he apperceived this “dad” figure to be the leader of the ill-treatment movement.  The over-taking of the dignitary would be the supreme gradation in the procuration of uninhibited latitude for inanimate furniture throughout southern New Jersey.

Ottoman, Rocking Chair, Big Chair, and Ugly Couch had been sat-on, eaten-on, and cerebrally abused and Ottoman made an attempt to speak to “Netsirk” regarding the mistreatment.  Netsirk, incipiently thrilled that the ottoman she endeared so much spoke, articulated a favorable position.  She commanded Ottoman to communicate his feelings to the older sibling, “Noj.”  Netsirk and Noj had intently listened to the Ottoman’s despairing narrations of having surpassingly much mass placed on him and being assaulted with voluminous carcinogenic chemical solvents.  Netsirk and Noj assured the interior furnishing friends that they would never again be dealt such extensive punishment.

Subsequently, the horrified, yet enlightened siblings telephoned the older sibling, Ralip.  Ralip had a tremendous ability to circumvent other’s limitations by talking circles around them.  Ralip suggested Ottoman and the interior design friends outline the framework for an alliance.  In larger numbers, they could enforce permutations of their living arrangements and receive the revisions that had appealed to them for so long.  Mostly, Ottoman wanted to implement a mass-allowance to be distributed onto his person.  Ottoman had come to embrace Noj, but Noj was far too behemothic to rest on the medial-ranging ottoman for dilatory allotments of time.  Noj, though distressed, did understand.  He agreed that ottomans were not meant to be utilized to occupy the entire physical being.  Ottomans were merely designed to accommodate one’s tarsal/metatarsal points.

Nearly an epoch came and went.  Finally, Ottoman and the others organized an outfit which would continue to demand adjustments in the treatment of living capacity furnishings.  With help from Ralip, they drafted the beginnings of the charter for SIFO—The Society for Inanimate Furniture Objects.  SIFO would be a haven for abused furnishings; a setting where one broken and beaten down rocking-chair could feel safe with his peers.  SIFO would ensure an eventual following.  They hoped it would gradually encompass all of New Jersey and other Mid-Atlantic states.  The following provisions were included:

  • No interior friend should receive severe, discourteous maltreatment or mishandlings.
  • The use of solvents shall be terminated.  The use of lanolin-derived products may be considered acceptable.
  • Some emollients of petrolatum origin are also exceptions.
  • Permitted mass-appropriateness shall be established early in the acquisition of new furnishing friends.

Ottoman enlisted neighboring interior design accomplices from the community to discuss their complaints with whoever inhabited their households.  Ottoman warned them of the dignitaries often referred to as “dad.”  The dads were guilty of the harshest brutalization.  They were the ones who usually accumulated the furnishings for the household, so they had a gross misinterpretation that the interior friends could be used at their own expense.  Netsirk and Noj had difficulty in convincing their commander that Ottoman, Rocking Chair, Ugly Chair and the others were deserving of fairer regimens of utilization.

Eventually, Ottoman was no longer the unfortunate receiver of vile chemicals intended to make him “glisten.”  And, he had ambitions that his cousins across the region were handed more desirable standards of existence.  Ottoman and his assistants now hold international SIFO conferences to create awareness in far away lands to prevent further abuse.  I would like to crown my tale of inanimate furniture object injustice with a quotation I believe interior design friends of all ages must heed:

“Old ottomans never die; they just fade away.” – Ottoman of Hopewell

 

A Brief Biography of Ottoman

            Ottoman maintains his residence in southern New Jersey; he finds it to be quaint and a lifestyle that makes him feel at home.  He has received accusations of attempting to construct a furniture dictatorship, but Ottoman suggests that he is merely being relentless in his struggle to achieve an equal partnership between Homo sapiens and the interior design friends.  Ottoman attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia where he joined forces with Kristopher Finklestein to develop a line of ergonomic ottomans designed to address the “cankle epidemic.”  He enjoys the Fox News Channel, bourbon, bass fishing, African big-game hunting, Bon Jovi, Scattergories, and HGTV.  Look for Ottoman’s latest furniture self-help book: Cornucopia of Myopic Perspectives: Why Most Humans are Innately Stupid.  Also available on shelves, is Ottoman’s politically motivated piece: Furniture for SUVs: The Fallacy of Global Warming.

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