Coates and Emotion

Coates dealt with his opposition by gathering all of the evidence in the world relating to African – American’s. From enslavement, to emancipation, to the great migration north, to current day, Coates snared proof after proof of his speculations regarding the White American sentiment towards African-American’s throughout history. I think the most brilliant part of this writing was Coates’ masterful dissection of fear. Fear is something that transcends race, it’s a human emotion that can be felt by anybody, and with the help of testimony, both from blacks and whites who lived through gruesome racism, it became clear why any human being would fear advancing their life in any way during the 20th Century. Coates detailed hopelessness as exquisitely as fear, citing how black kids felt they’d never amount to nothing, and that their future was destined to be bleak. I think when you paint a hopeless, fearful, and even angry portrait of anything, and Coates painted the saddest picture possible by pulling out all of the right facts, it makes the audience empathize with the writer. I also think Coates aimed at his opposition directly. He knows his opposition is a god-loving, military loving, do-no-wrong community. To enlighten this population and rid them of their ignorance he touched on every facet of golden-white American life that blacks have been systemically denied. Blacks were kicked from church for having poor spoken language, blacks were assaulted for wearing their uniform after world war one, blacks were denied housing simply because they were black. Apartment’s were set on fire for housing one black family, scores of families were systemically herded into sub-standard living indirectly by banks that refused to loan to black families. They were denied the American dream. The worst part is banks are still trying to rip money from the same people, pushing them into loans they cannot repay.

I think for my essay I am going to need to capture an emotion to rope my audience into my anger expedition. To do that, I think my point of entry needs to, not be offensive, but be controversial enough draw an emotion that I can dissect. Also, Coates had a world of evidence at his disposal and was able to utilize the same common sense approach we’ve discussed in class. Common sense is hard to disagree with, or it has been in the assigned readings at least, so I think that is the best approach I should follow while drafting my essay.

Advertisements

Longform: The Confidence Game

This essay was hard to wrap my head around. It has a vocabulary that is richer than my own, which made it difficult to digest. What made me continue reading through the Confidence Game was that the content of the article was portrayed as important to society, with information that made it clear I hold a stake in this content as a reader and as a part of a new generation. I think that is what makes this essay, and most of the longform I have been reading in this class, valuable – it tells the reader why they should care about it, rather than reporting a neutral perspectives (as described in the article). Instead of mindless dribbling on a subject, the content of the article always circled back to the reader, and at the end of the article, Starkman informed the readers of what they could do about the information he had shared within his article. I think this is what readers enjoy about longform writing, when the content comes back to the reader, and a list of response options is placed into their hands. Personally, it makes me feel like I am more involved in a discussion rather than being talked at or talked down to. Starkman made a point to identify the changes in the relationship between writer and reader that has evolved in tandem with technology – it is less hierarchical than it has been throughout history.  As I read, Starkman introduced the current and imminent impact modern networks have on the future of news through the scope of long-form journalism. In one particular investigation Starkman wrote “Like Jarvis, Shirky is a leading proponent of the idea that we are passing through a watershed, not just for our generation or era, but for all of human history. This is the idea of the “Gutenberg parenthesis,” coined by a Danish scholar, that holds that the Internet has the potential to revolutionize human social life to a degree that we cannot now understand, just as Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press paved the way for, eventually, modernity itself.”

There were a number of steep claims that suggest the connectivity between people and nations that now exists through miracles of technology is going to change the way people interact and share information forever. Reading through his meanderings (with the inclusion of supportive evidence), these claims weren’t out of the blue. He gave his perspectives on journalism supportive context that convinced me his reasoning wasn’t incorrect, and invited me to think about the theories of news’s future. He made a clear case that a revolution is occurring within journalism, and how journalism is currently being perceived, and is going to be perceived in the future is within question. The question? Well there wasn’t one question about the future perceptions of longform and it’s impact. Thats why this article is interesting. It is investigative. It asked many questions about its subject matter and granted me different perspectives on the newly introduced topic. It went further to ask me as a reader what I thought of what was happening. I was invited to ponder with Starkman, rather than read Starkman’s ponderings.

What I Think of Rosen

New Journalists get to know “everything about everything” by starting a niche news service that discusses issues people care about. I think by using topics that a larger audience is sure to care about, you are ensuring that you have a base readership at the outset of the endeavor. The endeavor, of course, is to sustain that readership and see it grow over time. As time passes, and as the new journalist writes his/her blog, experience is gained. The experience, in the case of the journalist, comes through logistics, organization, and research. The journalist must be a vigilant researcher in order to keep up with the latest breaking stories their news service covers. Organization is key as well, the blog must be updated habitually. Whether these updates come on a day by day basis is entirely up to the journalist. The journalist will learn how to appropriate the updates with time.

To me, Rosen’s idea is for new journalists to throw themselves into the “fire” headfirst. As the journalist thinks on his/her feet in a scramble, he/she picks up new ideas to improve the process of writing for his/her blog. The only way to learn the life of an online Journalist is simply to become an online journalist. I think our group work on this project has followed this same concept. Want to learn what collaborative research is? Conduct a collaborative research project. I’ve learned that it is difficult to schedule interviews and that it is uneasy to build a list of research questions, given that research itself is no small chore. For my group project, each member juggled the three tasks of researching, building interview questions, and conducting the interview themselves in with collaboration. Now that the project is near completion I recognize that If I was assigned this project again I would handle it differently. My research would have been conducted more swiftly so that I would have had more time to interview. And I would have mandated that each group member state their availability to collaborate at the very first meeting, to ensure that meetings could be more aptly planned and have better attendance. It would have  created better collaborative opportunities for our group. I don’t regret any of the decisions I made personally, or those that I made with my group. Without being “thrown into the fire” I wouldn’t have been able to figure out all the smaller details that went into the project.

Nobody can be perfect the first time round in any field, and I think that is another part of what Rosen was trying to say. In order to be the master of your craft, you have to work at it, and what a better way to do that than jumping right into your field of work. Whether its jumping straight into online journalism, or jumping right into collaborative group research, the idea is that with anything new, mastery – or even a basic understanding – comes with time and practice.

Discovery with David Foster Wallace

Two Knights ago I was at an 8:00 pickup practice with the Arcadia lacrosse team. We have about two of those a week. This was the first outdoor practice I had attended since the end of our fall season in early October, so I knew I would be a bit rusty. When the practice had finished, I found that I was the one who was ready to play, and it was everyone else who was rusty. The team has been practicing for weeks, was this the best we could play, even if it wasn’t a coach-mandated practice?

I sat on my couch after a long Monday and stared into my phone, hopeful to receive a text that would give me the answer to my troubling thoughts. Something felt wrong about that practice, and about the team, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I began to think of all the things that didn’t go smoothly that night. Players couldn’t throw passes, nor could they catch them. A chemistry-less offense was scoring at will against a defense that carried three core players from last spring season. As I wrote down my laundry list of team flaws, my roommate Steve walked into the apartment. Noticing my thousand yard stare into one of our apartment’s empty walls, Steve asked me the question “what’s wrong Benny Ben”.

I told Steve what I was thinking. “People talk about working hard but nobody thinks about how they work. The few people that consider improving at all don’t work on their stick skills. If stick skills aren’t more important than conditioning, they are, at the very least, equally important within the game of lacrosse”.

Steve listens to me yap and yap about things that bother me on a daily basis, so he knows how to defuse me when I start thinking in this trend. This trend usually doesn’t muster an answer, just more negative (or critical) analysis of what I see.

Steve made a point to me in asking “Ben who was there tonight”? Steve was also at the practice, but asked anyways to help me see what I was overlooking. Grand total, there may have been seventeen of some forty players in attendance at that practice. Of seventeen players, only five are likely to start in the spring. From this, I realized that I was a little too deep in my thinking. I was already at the point of questioning the motivational drive of some teammates when I hadn’t considered the combination of players at the practice. No bueno. Of course it would be a messy game of pickup with the players that attended.

I think the reason I enjoyed my conversation with Steve was because we were breaking down my analysis into simpler ideas. I was asking why some players even played. Steve was asking who was present. Sometimes asking who, what, where, when, why, and how, in that specific order, is beneficial to the essaying process. It helps to question your own line of questioning and thought. I was gunning for how, but I hadn’t considered who.

When I read “Consider the Lobster”, I felt like I was waiting for the bass to drop on one of the EDM songs I’ve been listening to. Normally, in this class, the readings make me think in ways I haven’t thought before. It’s a surprising feeling that I enjoy. I was fine reading the dissection of lobsters, because I was expecting the article to take me someplace I hadn’t been, and that’s exciting. For a while, David Foster Wallace took me places I had been to. He talked to me about the anatomy of the lobster, the history of the lobster, so on and so forth. He asked me about what a lobster is and what it has been seen as throughout history and up to date. Then, he asked me about why I would eat a lobster, and if I thought that was okay. That’s when the bass dropped.

Cheesy music analogies aside, I was hooked. Metacognition always gets me going. We were thinking about how we think of lobsters, and asking what we thought about it. Whoa. An even simpler question, we were asked if we think of lobsters at all, and if that was okay. Wallace no doubt rattled a few cages when he wrote this essay. He questioned (a) reality. People eat lobster and go to a fair and don’t think about it, then David Foster Wallace found a way to ask his readers if it was all okay, while at the same time, telling a story. It was hard for me to wrap my brain around his style.

So much information. So many questions.

I realize, after reading this article that Monday morning, and talking with Steve that same night, that information and questioning are the key to an intriguing brand of writing. So much information: David Foster Wallace’s research of lobsters was exquisite. So many questions: David Foster Wallace seemingly managed to question every layer of the lobster. The two seemed to work in tandem. Ask a question, then input a beautiful hulking mass of research. Or, sometimes you can even question your questioning, or research your research. But, before you do any next-level thinking, make sure you have the simpler information down. I think thats a tough pill for me to swallow. I always want to do the hard stuff before I master the simpler things, like answering the question who, before delving into how and why. Reading this article has helped me notice some of the types of lapses in my thought process, and my writing process as well. Yes, sometimes you need to run before you can learn to walk, but for writing, and in my case, I think it might be better to walk first.

In General, I feel like I found another layer of research writing when I read this essay. So much was new. I was upset that I haven’t read similar essays. I was grinning when I read it.

My take on Paul Graham

“An essay doesn’t begin with a statement, but with a question. In a real essay, you don’t take a position and defend it. You notice a door that’s ajar, and you open it and walk in to see what’s inside.”

This first excerpt will help me map out and outline my essay more efficiently. In past essays I have struggled to begin the research and writing process, and this excerpt puts it so simply. All I need to do is ask the right questions and the essay should spawn from those questions. That said, I think I’m going to need to ask several questions to find the best one’s to answer.

“But that’s not what you’re trying to do in an essay. An essay is supposed to be a search for truth. It would be suspicious if it didn’t meander.”

I feel lost when researching and writing sometimes and I think this excerpt will help put my mind at ease.  I am sometimes frustrated when I can’t find exactly what I am looking for. The way Graham phrases this makes me realize I’ve been on a fools errand all along. How can I find exactly what Im looking for when I don’t know what I’m trying to look for? Research and writing is a trial and error process, and that means I might need to meander a bit. Though meandering feels unproductive, I need to trust that I’m on the right path even when I feel I am lost in research. I need to make the distinction between being lost and meandering. Just because you don’t know where you are, doesn’t mean you’re lost. I might meander through different topics while trying to answer the same questions.

“The trick is to use yourself as a proxy for the reader. You should only write about things you’ve thought about a lot. And anything you come across that surprises you, who’ve thought about the topic a lot, will probably surprise most readers.”

This idea helps me realize that I shouldn’t force-write about something that isn’t as intriguing within my research collection, I’ve done that often in past essays. This proxy also suggests I need to be well read on my topic before I decide to pick out my writing topics. This seems like a no-brainer, but for me – a person who has never enjoyed reading, and is now slowly starting to see and understand the benefits of reading from several sources about the same topic – this idea is new. To implement the idea, I might need to regiment more reading into everyday.

“Above all, make a habit of paying attention to things you’re not supposed to, either because they’re “inappropriate,” or not important, or not what you’re supposed to be working on.”

I like this. For me, this is a refreshing reminder that it doesn’t help to shy away from topics. Even if something is “bad”, you can still learn from it. I think Graham is trying to say “be sure to pay attention to everything, even the things you don’t like, because you can learn from anything”. So, if I spy an idea I disagree with, I should try to investigate it further.

“The other big difference between a real essay and the things they make you write in school is that a real essay doesn’t take a position and then defend it.”

This is another friendly reminder for me to not get caught in a binary argument. If I am defending something, am I really looking at the full scope of my topic? Will my research be jaded if I pick a side? It is important for me to take many different angles of research to create a full essay.

What It Means To Contribute

Contribution is something my mother has always been adamant about. Whenever my family goes to a neighborhood party, or a tailgating event with friends, my mom asks my dad what we’re bringing. She asks my dad this question and he’ll look at me briefly, knowing full-well we’re in for an expensive trip to the grocery store. He then returns the question to my mother and asks what we want to bring. Both my parents understand and follow the idea of contribution, and have demonstrated their understanding time and time again since I was a little tyke. At tailgates, neighborhood friends would stop my dad from grilling and hail him for his efforts. He wouldn’t ignore the praise, usually he’d turn his head, smile, make a joke, and turn his attention back to what he was doing. He still does this now. While he acknowledges the praise, he is not consumed by it, because he doesn’t grill for the attention. Dave grills because we’re guests at a neighbors house, and he understands that if we, as a family, contribute to the mess at our friends house, we should also contribute something to make the party better.

My mom and dad don’t believe in making a mess. My sister and I were taught by my parents to pick up after ourselves and to be responsible guests. We never once made a mess at our neighbors, but we still would contribute to the party with food. This is the concept that Plant and Zander were speaking about when they used the word contribution. You don’t need to receive something to give something. It isn’t about fame or glory, and it doesn’t need to be warranted.

Benjamin Zander was quoted in the article saying “we are about contribution. That’s what our job is. It’s not about impressing people. It’s not about getting the next job. It’s about contributing something”.

I think when he said he also implies via subtext that if people contribute successfully, then everything else will eventually fall into place. Everything could mean getting that next job, or it could mean impressing people, or it might not mean either, but through continual genuine contribution, you are almost guaranteed a return on your efforts.

In the context of my group project, I think we will find success using Zander’s “contribution” ideology. When our group presents, we can follow these ideals by equally sharing the speaking points. Also, we can avoid emphasizing the amount of contribution each group member has made. This way, the audience is not captivated by the contribution of a sole group member, or perplexed by the lack of contribution by another. In theory, if we a are truly focused on our contributions to this presentation, the audience will not even notice a difference, and focus on our presentation. To have a strong presentation, all we need to do is contribute each of our skills to the collaborative group effort. If we do this, the presentation will take care of its self.

Thrown into the fire

New Journalists get to know “everything about everything” by starting a niche news service that discusses issues people care about. I think by using topics that a larger audience is sure to care about, you are ensuring that you have a base readership at the outset of the endeavor. The endeavor, of course, is to sustain that readership and see it grow over time. As time passes, and as the new journalist writes his/her blog, experience is gained. The experience, in the case of the journalist, comes through logistics, organization, and research. The journalist must be a vigilant researcher in order to keep up with the latest breaking stories their news service covers. Organization is key as well, the blog must be updated habitually. Whether these updates come on a day by day basis is entirely up to the journalist. The journalist will learn how to appropriate the updates with time.

To me, Rosen’s idea is for new journalists to throw themselves into the “fire” headfirst. As the journalist thinks on his/her feet in a scramble, he/she picks up new ideas to improve the process of writing for his/her blog. The only way to learn the life of an online Journalist is simply to become an online journalist. I think our group work on this project has followed this same concept. Want to learn what collaborative research is? Conduct a collaborative research project. I’ve learned that it is difficult to schedule interviews and that it is uneasy to build a list of research questions, given that research itself is no small chore. For my group project, each member juggled the three tasks of researching, building interview questions, and conducting the interview themselves in with collaboration. Now that the project is near completion I recognize that If I was assigned this project again I would handle it differently. My research would have been conducted more swiftly so that I would have had more time to interview. And I would have mandated that each group member state their availability to collaborate at the very first meeting, to ensure that meetings could be more aptly planned and have better attendance. It would have created better collaborative opportunities for our group. I don’t regret any of the decisions I made personally, or those that I made with my group. Without being “thrown into the fire” I wouldn’t have been able to figure out all the smaller details that went into the project.
Nobody can be perfect the first time round in any field, and I think that is another part of what Rosen was trying to say. In order to be the master of your craft, you have to work at it, and what a better way to do that than jumping right into your field of work. Whether its jumping straight into online journalism, or jumping right into collaborative group research, the idea is that with anything new, mastery – or even a basic understanding – comes with time and practice.