Cars That Give You Hip Cramps

Kristen Peraset

Writing with Style

Prof. Peters

October 30, 2008

Formal Essay

Don’t Hate on My V8

I’m sick of environmentalists trying to get me to trade in my Cherokee for a Prius.  I can’t really see myself fleeing the scene of an armed robbery in a powder blue escape pod.  Nor do I see myself getting on 295 in a Smart Car without a death wish.  Well, maybe when they convert the shoulder to the new Smart Car Lane.  But, probably not.  I think people need be awakened to what Congress is trying to pull over our heads about gasoline and how our SUV’s are vehicles of Satan.

 

My boyfriend drives a Yaris and I get a hip cramp getting out of the thing.  Why is it that something better for the environment is always miniaturized?  It’s not a test-tube baby!  It’s a car.  Somewhere, there must be a written guideline mandating all things eco-friendly be uncomfortable.  I get annoyed with the overzealous soccer/hockey/ballet and baton moms too.  They ruin the reputations of those who opt to drive SUV’s.  But, in this case, blame the player not the game.  These women just can’t drive (parking is also an unattainable concept).  So, I’ve established that riding off into the sunset on a zero-polluting ergonomic scooter isn’t my thing.  Neither is facing constant crucifixion for not shaving off extra corn kernels at dinner to pour down my gas tank the next morning.  Ethanol is a conspiracy theory that has already proven itself to be a monumental waste of money for something that isn’t going to solve any energy crisis anytime soon.  Here, in the United States, we think of corn-derived ethanol, but in many tropical parts of the world, ethanol is produced from sugar cane crops.  Did you know that sugar cane harvesting is one of the most destructive forms of harvesting in the history of the agrarian society?  In order to harvest a single crop by hand, harvesters set the fields on fire (killing any living thing residing in that habitat).  Eliminating entire ecosystems to produce commodity crops like sugar cane and corn that can be devoted to ethanol production is widely accepted.   However, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or in the Gulf for American oil (which will lessen dependence on foreign fuel) to sustain our energy needs is seen as completely unethical by the same people.  Congress doesn’t care about you; they just don’t want an oil platform in their backyard.

 

There is currently no infrastructure in place for a majority of Americans to be riding around in hydrogen cars, either.  Even the Speaker of the House cannot wrap her head around that FACT that there must be a bridge to this proposed future of oil independence.  But, in the mean time while we’re all waiting on science, her hatred of gasoline is pricing people out of their eight cylinders.  Our government will likely collapse and the world will end before any oil runs out.

 

When the government starts asking us to drive Matchbox cars, I may denounce my citizenship.  In the mean time, stop trying to crush my dreams of owning a Dodge Mega Cab.  Oh, and it has a Hemi, people, which means it’ll waste more gas then you can imagine.  But, if I’m paying for it, you shouldn’t worry about it.  Here’s the other complaint I don’t get.  There are those oh so annoying folks who think everyone should take advantage of this mysteriously accessible mass transit throughout the country.  They’re perplexed as to why more people don’t ride the bus.  Yeah, right.  I don’t live in the city, but if I did, I’d avoid the crack-infested magic bus to Rowan anyway.  So, there you have it.  I have no other option when it comes to getting to school everyday—so I drive the old Jeep roughly sixty miles roundtrip everyday.  Yeah, blaming me for living out of reach of mass transportation is totally acceptable, Nancy Pelosi.  A volcanic eruption releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than a lifetime of SUV’s ever will.  Acts of nature will affect the earth’s climate more than humans will ever be capable of.  Why do more citizens of this country not see something wrong with individuals from Manhattan, D.C., and worst of all San Francisco legislating irrationally for the rest of us?

 

What’s wrong with driving everywhere?  It’s American.  Cyclists tend to annoy me and I really don’t embrace the idea of turning the United States into PseudoFrance 3000.  Sometimes, I see a lone Smart Car on the open road and I wonder what it must be like to be the environmentally aware individual captaining that kidney bean on wheels.  I think for a second.  Then, I proceed to make fun of that individual.  A few minutes later, the individual tosses a Chesterfield out the window.  God, I love progressivism.

 

Didn’t people once flee the tyrannies of the world and seek the divine freedom on the United States where they could be free from persecution of all kinds?  Overregulation, everyday civil liberty infringement, and overall toxification of freedom used to be called the Soviet Union—now our Congress is implementing a similar regime.  It’s simple.  If Zeb in Big Sur wants to fly around on a giant kite, I could care less and I’m certainly not going to interrupt his preferred method of transportation.  But, if I, in New Jersey, want to drive for hours on end in an M1 Abrams, I damn well should be allowed to.

 

I remember seeing a segment on the news about the fuel potential of olive oil.  Seriously?  Extra virgin or light?  What’s next, adding some garlic and steamed asparagus?   

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Better Living Through Fish

 

Kristen Peraset

Writing with Style

Prof. Peters

November 13, 2008

Narrative

Better Living through Fish

All my life (with a little nagging) my parents have tried to get me the pets I wanted.  We’d be sitting at the dining room table eating spaghetti and I’d sneak in a comment about a hamster in need of a home.  I’d justify this by saying, “Well, Kathleen’s parents got her one and he’s so cute and fluffy.”  Kathleen has been my best friend since I was three.  She always got the good pets and she always got them first.  So, I spent most of my dinners trying to guilt my mom and dad into buying me a fat, fuzzy creature they’d inevitably end up taking care of.  It’s not that I didn’t love my pets or want to provide them with the best home (that damn hamster ate better than I did), I just had pet ADD and I’d grow bored with my smelly rodents and decide I needed to breed hedgehogs or start a frog farm.

When I was little, probably about six years old, I wanted a dog more than I had wanted to learn to read and write.  My brother, Jon, and I spent hours at the library (yes, I said the library, antiquated, I know) looking at pictures of dogs and reading dog encyclopedias in order to come up with a good argument for our father.  Getting my dad to buy us something in the realm of a dog was a process.  He used to be an arbitrator for the NJEA, so everything was a case to him.  If I presented my case for a Westie puppy and it sucked or lacked solid reasoning for why I needed a Westie in my life and how the aforementioned puppy would benefit the rest of the family—the case was closed—I didn’t get the stupid Westie.  My dad is a great dad.  He’s always tried to give me anything I’ve ever asked for (and my demands have often been absurd), but he has never liked having living members of the animal kingdom taking up space in our house.

My father’s father served under General Patton in North Africa; do you think someone like that is a pushover?  So my dad never had any pets growing up, just a miserable hunting dog who bit small children for a laugh.

My brother and I were persistent.  We usually figured out what kind of manipulation tactics worked best on our parental unit.  After months of pathetic whining about how every other child in America has a dog, my brother and I were allowed to pick out our first family dog.  But, there were first family dog caveats:  it had to be from pure hunting stock and it had to come from Game Creek (they breed spaniels, but doesn’t it really sound like a McMansion development or a microbrewery?).  The whole car ride there I was thinking, “I can’t wait, we’re finally getting a puppy, this is going to be so great.”  I was a delusional child.  I ended up with two stupid ass Brittany Spaniels who couldn’t hunt for s*** and ran head on into trees.  Oh, well.

We had those dogs, Tom and Jerry, for a long time.  Tom and Jerry got more shock collar than dog treats and spent their hunting years attacking little terriers.  My dad took them out on one occasion, a swampy area infested with hillbillies and pick ups, where Tom apparently had it out for a Labrador.  Tom was in-bred and much too freakishly muscular for a typical Brittany.  Tom bit the Lab when the unsuspecting Lab tried to kick up my dad’s well-deserved pheasant.  The Lab’s owner overheard all the commotion and, in turn, pointed his shotgun at Tom and told my dad he was going to shoot him.  I can’t remember his exact words, but in his retelling of the story, I definitely remember my dad affirming that he was “going to shoot someone.”

Tom got hit by a car and died at the vet.  About a year later, Jerry, the dumber of the two, got his by a car as well.  Jerry had a broken back and made it home.  I always thought that dog was an imbecile; he spent hours chasing his tail and hitting his head on his doghouse.  But, there was something I cannot even express that I felt that day when we found Jerry lying on the step outside the backdoor.  Sure, you can say dogs have these kinds of instincts, but there was more there—something honorable, something so innately instinctual, something that caused that dog to push through the excruciating pain of an obscenely mutilated broken back and return to the place he had known as home since he was a little puppy.  I saw it in his face.  He came home to die.  It was so clear to me.      Jerry placed his life in my father’s hands, because he refused to let anyone else end it.  I remember my brother telling me to go to my room, but I didn’t and I continued to peer out the back window (I always was a pain in the ass).  It was April and cold and gray and Jerry was lying on a freezing, poured concrete block.  Why did that have to be the last thing he ever felt or saw?  It could have been eighty-two degrees with a southwest wind and the air could have smelled like roses but I guess it still would have been total bullshit that my dog was dying.

My dad shot Jerry in the head.  I promised I wouldn’t call him stupid anymore.  Jerry, that is.  He was never really stupid.  He just looked and acted like something that should be named Jerry. We never got another dog.  After that, I didn’t even want one.  These days, I stick to fish.

 

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Socializing with the Anti-Social

I think Lindemann, Nelson, and Bishop and Starkey all emphasize the social interaction that is necessary to produce a good piece of writing.  Specifically, Nelson discusses the many metaphorical and literal conversations she had in her journey to write the perfect paper.  Around page 290, she tells about knocking on her dorm-mates’ doors and requesting their presence at dinner and then jumping into a dialogue about Tolkien.  Now, maybe this friendly dinner for thought didn’t completely solve Nelson’s writing dilemma, but I think she suggests that listening to outside opinion can almost reinvigorate one’s compositional attempt.

Now, Lindemann’s approach (33) suggests that writers are in fact interacting with society simply by writing.  The writing process includes researching what it’s like living in the world and understanding what the reader is looking for.  So, even if the writer is sitting alone in his own personal space, he is not isolated.  The single fact that the writer lives in our society makes writing a social endeavor.

On page 72 of Creativity, Bishop and Starkey address a similar concept that is developed by incorporating the social reception of a written piece.  A self-admitted crazy may write something that the public perceives to be absolutely genius and profound; subsequently elevating the status of that once nutty person who just liked to write a lot of creative, off-beat stuff.  So, writing is undoubtedly a social art, because one must operate within society to grasp what society wants to read.  And, as the first writer discussed, bouncing ideas off of her peers in order to combat the roadblock she was facing, was a social aspect of writing that really worked.

In order to illustrate my own social interactions regarding writing, I need to make it known that I really do not share a lot of my ideas; I’m the crazy with a caffeine addiction who works alone.  Interestingly, I will sometimes post my essays on my blog so my friends can take a look at them—not because I want constructive criticism, but because I just like to see how my writing is received.  I think my thoughts about writing as a social art is most aligned with the beliefs expressed by Lindemann.  I take time to think about the reader and what people like to read and I spend time in the role of the reader.  I think writers are also social, in that they belong to writing discourses.  More often than not, I like to argue and that’s my niche.  One can’t argue without being a little social, can they not?

 

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My Not So Meaningful Analyses

Is there a point to cultural studies aside from dissention?  In An Introduction to Fiction, cultural studies is described as an “outspokenly antidisciplinary practice”—so, I’m wondering how one is supposed to actually practice an approach to analyzing texts that is founded upon anti-criticism.

Mark Bauerlein asks if cultural studies provides any evaluative standards to serve as a framework for studying individual texts.  He doesn’t answer his own question and goes on to say that “if there is no clear methodological procedures or evaluative principles in cultural studies, it is hard to see how one might popularize it, teach it, make it into a recognized scholarly activity.”  Because there is a blatant absence (intentionally so) of guidelines to be applied, how is any individual anticriticism a valid product in the literary studies world?  It would seem that one putting into operation the cultural studies routine achieves little more than promotion of his own bias.

Because cultural studies seeks to “blue disciplinary boundaries and frustrate the intellectual investments that go along with them,” I think the individual analyzing the text seriously displaces and sort of obscures his credibility.  Without conventions or adherence to any real structure, the anticritic lacks the anticipated evidence that should coincide with criticism.  Bauerlein insists “A single approach will miss too much, will overlook important aspects of culture not perceptible to that particular angle of vision.”  My contention is this:  don’t we presently have a school of thought that seeks to elicit an array of responses while rejecting one, single accepted critique?  It’s called reader-response criticism.

Additionally, we have the postconstructuralist cultural critique, which strives to criticize texts according to various socialist, leftist constructs.  If one was asked to evaluate Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron utilizing the cultural studies theory (also, likely a limiting term), how would he effectively dissect the social disaster that is that story without implementing a single method.  As radical as the postconstructuralist methodology appears, I can at least see the standards to which one refers in evaluating a text.

Since cultural studies “spans culture at large, not this or that institutionally separated element of culture,” a cultural critic can’t wholly evaluate anything.  Hoe does a cultural critic examine material and offer comprehensive reasoning and insight when his entire approach looks to “pick up an insight here and a piece of knowledge there.”  I wouldn’t put any stock into the reliability of a cultural studies anticritic.  The cultural studies nature of zero-specificity implies (for me) zero validity, as well.

I don’t think a criticism should focus on openness, as much as it should emphasize meaningful analyses.  The fact that people denounce the term criticis, up front, should generate a warning—if a label intrudes upon their ability to produce an authentic response, should we assume they will be unable to extrapolate pieces from a text without finding offense in any given word; thus, basing an entire anticriticism on the cultural deception of that given word.  Or, maybe I’m a sheep like everyone else.  I welcome establishment.

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Angst In A Nutshell

According to Roy Peter Clark, “journalists must not merely make information available to audiences but […], seek to bridge their intentions with the differing expectations and experiences of those who turn to the news.”  Recently, any discussion over current United States immigration policies and border control transitions into a full-fledged dispute—there are too many people with too many opinions.  What Randal C. Archibald, of The New York Times, does in this article about Mexican drug violence is pace his information.  There are those ultra-civil rights types who would take one look at the article titled “Wave of Drug Violence is Creeping into Arizona From Mexico” and immediately assault the Times for not considering the Mexicans who aren’t selling crack off their backs (but, that is extreme since the Times already is the most overtly liberal publication of its kind).

Archibald, first, opts to inform the reader that “the drug trade has long brought violence to the state” and he lets you know this isn’t one circumstance that occurred yesterday.  He continues to pace his allowance of detail by initially telling about the home-invasions and kidnappings.  He convinces the reader of the brutal mutilations in Mexico to drive home the fear (We can’t have that hear!).  And, in true Times style, he offers up another piece of world-saving anti-gun legislation proposed by “a Republican who favors gun rights.”  A Republican.  Extraneous detail, Mr. Clark?  I think not.

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Guess What Johnny’s Talking About

Arnetha Ball tells us that “African American Vernacular English is a linguistic system that many teachers may not fully understand” (226).  In actuality, what teachers don’t understand is what their students are trying to convey.  A teacher isn’t constructing a barrier by hoping to instill better mechanics in her writers’ minds—she’s doing what the state department of education has asked her to do.  I flat out do not buy the social or cultural value argument Ball presents nor do I believe her perspective reflects a typical, diverse classroom.

According to Ball, “anthropologists have assured teachers the AAVE is a logical language” (226).  Linguistic anthropologists forget that they are adept speakers and writers of presumably several languages, but the students in question are not.  A cultural variance neither deserves its own rubric nor excludes one from state-mandated testing.  I’d like the anthropologist to consider the logic behind a dialectical system that is widely viewed by teachers as a pattern of errors.  It isn’t feasible (or, remotely fair) to require teachers to devise separate rubrics to explain and propose methods of assessment for writing they cannot understand.  As instructors, we’re trying to teach students how to write effectively; the result here should not be to guess their intentions.  Unfortunately for the anthropologist, in the real world, teachers are held accountable and expected to meet content standards in alignment with their schools’ curricula.  If a student of mine persists in writing, “he be crazy,” my first thought is not that this student must really appreciate the “habitual be,” but that I’ve failed to achieve my lessons’ objectives.  I can’t find any purpose in such ethnosensitiveity.

If educators consistently allow incorrect grammar to stand, they, in turn, create a society of incapable communicators.  Interestingly, scholars from progressive universities insist upon the cultural and linguistic legitimacy of Ebonics and claim a place for it in education.  I have not, however, seen a piece of writing advocating acceptance or exploration of AAVE written in any dialect other than standard American English and presented in an entirely academic context.  Who are these esteemed proponents tricking into believing an outright abandonment of grammar will lead to prestigious positions with universities and law firms and such because one might find bidialectical merit in a grammatically flawed text?  Or, maybe the problem originates with the culture the vernacular stems from—low-income, gang-ridden neighborhoods tend not to reward success in learning, but value drugs, gang-affiliation, and various abuses.  Thus, verb tenses become minor and eclipsed by the more serious struggles of such a community; if grammar isn’t a discerned asset, is any ambition?

Never the less, our overwhelming goal as educators is to establish high expectations across the board—that means Johnny from the French Tudor and Jamal from center city are both held to the same standards (and, they’re both adequately equipped to master subject-verb agreement).  Any teacher who refuses to see the potential in either is doing a disservice to both boys’ futures.

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“Univerze”

Fundamentals of grammar have been reduced over the years and what we deem good writing probably fluctuates, but don’t be so quick to blame the holistic rubric.  With regard to assessing writing in lower-elementary, the holistic scoring method finishes in front and encourages more thoughtful writing from such young minds.

During my kindergarten practicum experience, the cooperating teacher I worked with enlightened me to a phenomenal writer’s workshop approach that allowed five-year olds to let their imaginations flow onto lined-paper.  Her students, who previously had very little acclimations to the writing process, were more in touch with how to tell a story than I was in college composition.  The reason—holistic scoring (well, partially).  Students may be asked to write about a favorite dessert (lame topics aside); they are allotted time to brainstorm, write a few lines, and draw pictures that link actual imagery to their words.  The freeing aspect for them is that they can leave the conventions of an alphabet they are just wrapping their heads around behind.  Kindergarteners and first-graders are full of things to say, but their writing is often limited—the fear of misspelling a word or making a punctuational error takes precedence.

The teacher uses a six-point scale similar to that discussed in the Wolcott text and focuses on the numerous elements of writing as a whole and how coherently the child is able to convey an idea.  Herein lies my next point of contention with holistic opponents—why do critics insist there is no constructive feedback?   At least in this circumstance, the teacher was able to discuss strengths and weaknesses with the students, in order to help them make their future writing assignments greater successes.  Obviously, at this level, the suggestions involved incorporating words from the word wall, adding more detail, and stating a character’s name.  But, writing, at any age, is an on-going process, is it not?  And, this parallels the belief that “holistic scoring can serve as an important way of enabling students to improve their self-assessment skills by understanding the criteria against which their work is evaluated” (Wolcott, 87).

A teacher who uses an analytic rubric, noting every alphabetical miscue or omission, is actually stifling any creative hope her students may have.  I worked with a little girl who couldn’t spell her own name; but, when she felt unrestrained to try inventive spelling, she came up with the richest vocabulary (mystery, glowing, and toxic were some of her favorites).  Scoring holistically in the lower grades seems so much more logical to me, because we’re letting students test out writing for themselves without immediately attacking what they don’t know.  We need to, first, draw vision and innovation out of children—applying the polish should follow sequentially.  My cooperating teacher typically adjusted misspelled words, inserted capitals and commas, but never allowed mechanical skills to dictate whether or not a child’s authentic ideas were worth writing about.  I’d be fairly content with a five year old who wished to write about the universe, but left out the r.

 

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