Sunday, September 25, 2011

Five Ways to Screw up Your Life with the Internet

I used to announce to students that they had to do a social networking project where they had to publish something relevant to whatever we were studying on their Facebook page and then share it with the class.

Wait for it . . .

About 30 seconds after this announcement, some students would go white, others would start to fidget, while still others looked like their head was about to blow off. Here's what they were thinking, "I have to show my Facebook page to my professor?!@#$"

So think about that. If you wouldn't want your parents or siblings looking at your Facebook page, you need to do some adjusting ASAP!

What? You don't care what your professor or relatives think?

Think about this. When you apply for your dream job, your prospective employer is going to Google you and if your latest post features you in a sexually explicit pose chugging a bottle of tequila, well, guess who isn't going to get the job?

Pajamas media just published a list of the Five Ways to Screw up Your Life with the Internet

1. Upload naked pictures and videos.
Seriously, Anthony Weiner is a former U.S. Representative because he uploaded stupid pics of himself (see above).

2. Have a political blog and a stupid boss.
Seriously. See rule 4, below.

3. Put too much trust in people you don't know.
Yeah, don't move across country to marry your dream guy, he's probably a nightmare.

4. Post something you're not comfortable with EVERYONE seeing.
Remember, that rule about writing essays - don't write about something you don't want everyone to know. Well, the same thing applies to the internet, magnified about a billion times.

5. Let the Internet eat up your life.
People have died--especially, it seems, while playing World of Warcraft.

And oh, I'm not going to ask what dumb things you've put up on your social networking site. But if you're thinking, "I need to go clean up my Facebook page," get to it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Quit Procrastinating!

Instead of correcting that stack of rough drafts, or doing my lesson plans, or updating my roll sheets, I decided I really need to do a blog post about New School Year's Resolutions. Suddenly, I discovered I have a tendency to procrastinate and then began scouring YouTube for procrastination videos. After a few Google searches and twenty minutes, I decided the following YouTube video is my favorite:

Then, I spent another twenty minutes Googling "procrastination strategies" and these two seemed like good ideas.

1. Get organized - make a list of what you have to do and prioritize it. I know when I feel overwhelmed by work if I figure out what I should get done first, then second, and third, it helps me feel a little less stressed and actually get something done. However, only do this once because listing can also be a great procrastinating technique.

2. Fear of failure leads to procrastination. Face it, everybody fails sometime. Just take the plunge and get it over with. I bet you'll do just fine.

Which got me thinking about how to avoid procrastinating when it comes to writing papers.

3. Putting off that paper because you don't know how to start. Start in the middle. Start with something you know you want to include, which leads me to . . .

4. Write essays in chunks. Instead of freaking out about the big picture, look at the component parts and start with those (especially the ones that you think will be easy). Starting easy usually leads to clarity on the harder bits.

5. Break your time into manageable chunks. Don't try to write that paper at one sitting. First of all, it will stink and secondly, as a procrastinator, you'll put it off. Write in twenty minute segments then . . .

6. Set aside time to procrastinate. Take a break. Give yourself ten to fifteen minutes to eat, walk your dog, and check your email.

7. While writing or studying, turn OFF your cell phone and make a promise not to check your Facebook page, twitter account, or email.

So students, don't follow my bad example, procrastinating will lead to headaches, sweating through stacks at the last minute, and an occasional mis-corrected quiz. Well, in your case an F on a test (Yes, that's bad).

What is your favorite form of procrastination? How would you resolve to get yourself ahead of the game? While "There's always tomorrow," that paper was due by noon today.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Extraordinary Analysis

Writing a critical analysis is often tricky for college freshman. Instead of writing high school book reports filled with plot summary and description, they are now compelled to write beyond the text -- to "stick his or her neck out." John Trimble reminds writers that "The critic's job is to explain and evaluate--that is, to bring his readers to a better understanding of his subject". But what does that mean?

It means you need a top notch thesis statement. Sometimes it's easier to understand what a critical analysis is by looking at examples of good topic questions.

Here again Trimble gives some good examples:
"How is Hamlet like Horatio--and unlike him?"
or "How does King Claudius win over the enraged Laertes?"

If you think of comic books like any other piece of literature including Hamlet, you can come up with good topic questions that will lead to a great thesis statement.

If we look at Trimble's examples and apply them to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, writers can create topic questions like:

How is Captain Nemo like The Invisible Man--and unlike him?
or how does Mina Murray win over the enraged Mr. Hyde?

The key is to ask how and why questions, questions that can't be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."

Questions like, how is Captain Nemo a science pirate?

In addition to reasoned arguments, graphic novels and comics offer writers another resource for evidence--visuals can also be used to back up thesis statements.

What other how and why topic questions would you ask as a prelude to a critical analysis of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

9/11 is a time to reflect.

9/11 was the worst terrorist attack inflicted on civilians of the United States of America. Innocent men, women, and children died when the Twin Towers fell.

9/11 remembrances can be personal like those who got tattoos, tattoos ranging from remembrances of that terrible day, to remembrances of family and co-workers killed.

9/11 leads some to their local fire departments to leave flowers or attend candlelight vigils. Others go to religious services.

9/11 led our nation to build a national memorial on ground zero where so many lost their lives. Two 7-story waterfalls spill into the base of each missing Twin Tower and "nearly 3,000 names of the men, women, and children killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 are inscribed in bronze on parapets surrounding the twin Memorial pools."

How do you remember those who died on 9/11?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Extraordinary Rhetoric

Writers, politicians, advertisers and graphic novelists all use rhetoric in the same way--to persuade you to do something, believe something, or buy something. To bring readers and/or viewers, around to their way of thinking.

Creators can rely on ethos (or authority) to get their message across. When the president gives a speech we listen - he is an authority. In the same way, advertisers often use celebrities to sell products. If I buy Kim Kardashian's makeup, I'll look as great as she does because she's an expert at looking good. There are also experts In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where a "menagerie" has been brought together to save the British Empire--all because they have some ethos, as strange as it may be.

Often times you will see advertisements that offer proof that a product works, or statistics that report customer satisfaction. These are appeals to logic or logos. If studies show that 99 percent of people using XYZ toothpaste have whiter teeth, then it's only logical that you buy XYZ toothpaste because everybody wants whiter teeth.

Writers can also use pathos to convince viewers to do something, want something, or buy something. Those commercials that show poor, pathetic dogs and cats waiting at the shelter for a new home make viewers feel sorry for homeless pets--they want to adopt one, or better yet, they send money to those shelters. Consumers can also end up buying products because a television commercial shows what an exciting life you'll have if you buy that new car, plus you'll increase your popularity--and social standing. How about products that show happy, loving families sitting around the dinner table eating McDonald's, Swanson Fried Chicken, Ragu spaghetti, or Round Table pizza? These advertisers are all appealing to your emotions.

According to Stuart Hirschberg in "The Rhetoric of Advertising," consumers are often sucked in by "scenes emanating security and warmth, which the ad invited us to remember as if it were our own past." These kind of "ads thus supply us with false memories and invite us to insert ourselves into this imaginary past and to remember it as if it were our own." Creators of comic books do the same thing.

In the photo above members of The League are gathered around a dinner table. Remnants of the meal are visible and many of the members are having an after dinner smoke. Look at this "family" and think about how the creator is trying to get you--the reader--to insert yourself into this scene. How is your family like the League? Do you have an invisible cousin? A crazy uncle? A bossy aunt? A wanderlust second cousin, once removed? Are you trying to prepare a meal for vegetarians, vegans, and/or people that have a gluten-free diet? What do your family dinners look like and how does Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill use ethos, logos, and especially pathos to invite you into their book?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Visualizing The Price of Pot

Inforporn: The Price of Pot by Cameron Bird at Wired (September 2011).

Click here for the full graphic and article.

Read Think b4 u Write is always attracted to articles and essays with pretty pictures, and while this graphic is nice looking it accompanies an article about the disparities of marijuana laws in the United States.

The graphic displays fluctuations in pricing: the darker the green the cheaper the marijuana ($92 per ounce), while yellow tips the scale at $526 per ounce. The red and purple bars record fines and jail time, and the red cross indicates a medical marijuana state.

In part the article reads, "The US is still of two minds on marijuana: While 16 states now consider it a medicine, others continue to hand down heavy sentences—including jail time—for simple possession."

Do you think this is an effective graphic? Why or why not? Where do you stand on this issue? Should marijuana be legalized? Or should it be illegal? Or is there some compromise? What are your ideas?