Some Thoughts on Writing

by on July 10, 2014 in Must Reads with No Comments »


“I write in order to peruse myself” – Henri Michaux

“Writing can be an artificial arena where we mash the world into a shape we can stand to look at.” –Tim Kreider

From Approaches to What?

…In our haste to measure the historic, significant and revelatory, let’s not leave aside the essential: the truly intolerable, the truly inadmissible. What is scandalous isn’t the pit explosion, it’s working in coalmines. ‘Social problems’ aren’t ‘a matter of concern’ when there’s a strike, they are intolerable twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

Tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, tower-blocks that collapse, forest fires, tunnels that cave in, the Drugstore des Champs-Elysees burns down. Awful! Terrible! Monstrous! Scandalous! But where’s the scandal? The true scandal? Has the newspaper told us anything except: not to worry, as you can see life exists, with its ups and its downs, things happen, as you can see.

The daily papers talk of everything except the daily. The papers annoy me, they teach me nothing. What they recount doesn’t concern me, doesn’t ask me questions and doesn’t answer the questions I ask or would like to ask.

What’s really goind on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recus every day: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infraoridnary, the background noise, the habitual?

To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we habituated to it. We don’t question, it it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a probme, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither questions nor answers, as if weren’t the bearer of any information…What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us…

Describe your street. Describe another street. Compare.

Make an inventory of your pockets, of your bag. Ask yourself about the provenance, the use, what will become of each of the objects you take out…

-Georges Perec from Species of Spaces and Other Pieces published by Penguin Books, 1999

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The Benefits of Handwriting

by on June 6, 2014 in Must Reads with No Comments »


handwritingDid you ever wonder what will happen if (/when) no one writes by hand anymore? As explained in this article, psychologists and neuroscientists have found new evidence that suggests deep links between handwriting and broader educational development.

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Success: More Than Just Good Grades

by on June 2, 2014 in Must Reads with No Comments »


success-sketch

In the thoughtful and inspiring convocation speech George Saunders gave at Syracuse University last year, the award-winning author discusses some of his struggles to succeed and encourages graduates to consider the wider scope of success.

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Public Education Reform in Newark, New Jersey

by on May 21, 2014 in Must Reads with No Comments »


newarkIn 2010, at the urging of then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and with the support of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged $100 million to reform schools in Newark, where public education is as bad as anywhere in the country. Last week, The New Yorker published a long and fascinating article examining how that money has been spent, and whether or not the problem has been solved. (Hint: Not quite.)

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Racism on College Campuses: A More Subtle Look?

by on April 8, 2014 in Must Reads with No Comments »


raceThis NYT article, “Students See Many Slights as Racial ‘Microagressions’,” explores a trend in discussions at US colleges about racism. Social workers have been talking about microagressions for years and anyone who has experienced racism already knows exactly what a microagression is: a communication that occurs on the subtle level of gesture, tone, or implication.  Students have begun pointing to this micro-level of action rather than overt and direct demeaning statements, opening up conversations about what constitutes racism. Of course, this has stoked some controversy, as this article seems eager to note. Strikes me that the author has some doubt and to be fair, determining someone else’s “true intention” can be a tricky affair. But to deny the existence of this form of aggression strikes this reader as possibly more dangerous.

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How to Write Better

by on February 27, 2014 in Must Reads with No Comments »


Spongebob-ProcrastinationThis short, light-hearted article, “The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do,” offers some real and humorous tips for how to produce your best writing. Topics covered include: dealing with writers block and procrastination, using punctuation confidently, and being patient with yourself. The article is a great reminder that writing can be hard, but that the first step to good writing (especially in the early stages of free-writing and drafting) is to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously.

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Why Do Community Colleges Have Low Graduation Rates?

by on January 27, 2014 in Must Reads with No Comments »


open book

An article in last month’s Atlantic, “How to Escape the Community-College Trap,” examines the problem of low graduation rates at community colleges — and offers a solution to the problem — in part by telling the story of a former student at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), named Daquan McGee. At BMCC, McGee, who’d just served two years in prison for armed robbery, enrolled in a program called Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, through which he received financial assistance; practical, emotional, and academic guidance; and even a free MetroCard. With the help, he eventually earned his associate’s degree. However, as the author, Ann Hulbert, writes,

In the community-college world, McGee’s achievement is a shockingly rare feat, and the program that so intently encouraged him to accomplish it is a striking anomaly.

To learn more about McGee and this segment of the higher education world, click on the above link to the interesting article.

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How To Use a Comma

by on June 6, 2012 in Must Reads with No Comments »


The New York Times has always been good at coming up with intellectually relatable witty titles for the articles it posts to its website, and University of Delaware Professor Ben Yagoda’s recent post, “The Most Comma Mistakes,” is no exception. Now, before you do anything else, take a second look at the sentence you just read. You will notice that it is rather long (40 words) but that it contains only three commas. “How can that be?” you might wonder. “The longer a sentence is, the more commas it needs, right?” Well, that isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it’s not correct either. In fact, it’s one of those things people think is true when they don’t actually have any idea about what they’re talking about. For the truth is that if everyone took a moment to learn the basic rules of comma usage, they would find that it’s not all that difficult to master.

CONTINUE READING →

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Learning to Fail

by on May 18, 2012 in Must Reads with No Comments »


Many parents love to tell stories of the formidable hurdles they faced growing up, like the classic “I had a to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to school” tale. My mother’s version of this story harkens back to her time in graduate school. There, on numerous occasions, her art school profs would make an interesting comment about one of her works in progress . . . and then tell her to destroy it. Or they would destroy it for her. Entire clay torsos were lobbed off in anatomy sculpture class and canvases were whitewashed in color theory. She speaks of the shock this always produced, but then notes the invaluable lesson learned: her development depended largely on learning how to fail better and better.

CONTINUE READING →

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Grammar Humor

by on March 15, 2012 in Must Reads with No Comments »


Artist, web designer, and part-time grammarian, Matthew Inman, writes and draws all the content on his hilarious web page, The Oatmeal. His site features witty, satirical, comic-like illustrations ranging in topic from “Netflix splitting in two” to “What it’s like to own an Apple product”. Inman even has an entire category of comics dedicated to grammar. In the link below, he has put together a hilarious and informative comic on what he considers the “most feared punctuation on earth”, the semicolon. His illustration, which is available for purchase, reminds us that learning grammar can be fun!

Click here for Inman’s fun with the semicolon.

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