Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?

 To be perfectly frank, I think my essay is absolutely rubbish and should be mutilated and destroyed.
Now that I have that out of the way, I'll be a bit more specific.
My paper isn't absolute rubbish. It's mostly rubbish. There are parts of it that are bearable, maybe even decent. My title is not half bad, but not exactly up to my usual standard I think. At one point I go on a mini-'rant' about the purpose of entertainment and fantasy, but I thought that part was well done and it got to my point logically. I also think that my explanation/description of Peter Parker and Wolverine was readable. It pleased me. Also, I was able to use obfuscated which is officially my favorite word next to farrago. I mean come on, obfuscated. How fun is that?
I did like my topic, and might have enjoyed writing this paper (though I really abhor research), and I certainly know a lot more about it now than I did. However, I didn't really include any personal experiences. On the other hand, they really wouldn't have fit. This isn't to say there wasn't room, but rather that they just wouldn't have fit with the style. And, I did include my personal experiences. I just didn't say they were mine. My whole spiel about entertainment and fantasy is all my experiences and observations. I love fantasy, and I think that's clear. But including personal anecdotes or tales of reading comics would really just ruin the tone and jerk the reader out of the paper, the last thing we want to happen. But perhaps I am completely and utterly wrong. I have been before. Many times. But then again, I could be right. Talk about wishy-washy.
But that does not distract from the problems. I was not clear in my presentation of ideas. I rambled, often without remorse. I jumped between my three to four points without mercy and repeated myself more than is forgivable. My ending was the work of a two year old and my organization the idea of an oyster. My verbiage was unfitting for the paper as a whole and I included much that was unnecessary. To make matters worse, I did not know my thesis. I could not pin it down. (Don't worry though; I found it Monday. Sneaky little devil was hiding in a back corner of my brain by the trash can.) And yet, I insisted on writing a meandering, circumventing carnage of mixed thoughts and gravel. It was sheer agony to read and full of even more useless information than usual. In fact, it had some information in it that wasn't even pertinent to the topic.
I was vague, general, and imprecise. I broke up paragraphs that probably didn't need to be broken up. I used phrases like, "had to be" which is not only untrue, but argumentative. Against my own point! I did not have terribly specific examples, and was repeatedly reminded of the wispy threads that supported my points.
Which of these is that greatest sin? That I do not know. At a guess, I would say not really knowing my thesis, my vague, general air, and my incessant repetition of the same three, kind of four, ideas.
So here's the question. How do I fix this?
The first thought is to just throw it all out, and in a way that is true. But we'll do this properly. I shall go through, and mercilessly analyze it until I find the parts that are good and fitting and I shall carefully lay them out in a manner that follows coherent thoughts. I shall introduce my thesis earlier and I shall introduce it properly. I shall remember what my thesis is and write with that in mind. I will have an interesting beginning that fits the paper. Mayhap I will even write the beginning I originally planned. I will be less vague and be more assertive. I use my sources wisely and I will not, absolutely not repeat myself unless utterly necessary for clarity or added emphasis.
And that is what I shall do with my dilapidated paper. With some luck, it will be better. Paper, ye have been warned.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lost Beauty

Amazingly enough, plagiarism stinks like the odious remains of pickled squid liver. That is, to plagiarize stinks like pickled squid liver remains. To be plagiarized, I can only guess at. You see, I stole someone's work. Granted, it was under the direction of the teacher, but I stole someone's work. And it was awful. I didn't want to take it to begin with, and when I took it I didn't want to put my name on it, especially not to claim it as my own. The person who I'd stolen from had worked hard; he'd written a song for pete's sake!
And then, not only were we supposed to steal from someone else and claim it for ourselves, we were going to be graded on that stolen work, which seemed pretty risky, even if you discount the fact it was sanctioned theft. Putting your grade in someone else's hands seemed like stupidity in its most developed form. The entire time I just wanted to give it back and turn in mine. I kept saying how I'd rather be graded on my work, even though I considered my work inferior to the work I'd stolen. He'd written a song! With chords and everything. That takes time and effort and skill. I wrote a short story. It may have taken time and effort and skill, but of a whole different set and is a lot less impressive, let me tell you.
I was so relieved when we found out that we'd be graded on what we did, not the stolen work. There was some grateful praying going on, for sure.
So I know that plagiarizing is the epitome of idiocy and I couldn't do it because it is wrong and it feels wrongs. I don't know how it feels to be plagiarized because I wasn't. Oddly enough, or perhaps not so oddly, I was disappointed that I hadn't been plagiarized, like my work wasn't worth stealing. Good, because it won't be stolen, but bad because darn, I feel like a failure. (Ok, not quite that extreme, but it was getting close.)
Plagiarism manages to break all five of the Core Values into little pieces with one act. When plagiarizing, you no longer strive for excellence; you'd rather someone else did the work. You don't take responsibility; if you put off your assignment and plagiarize so it will get done, you weren't very responsible. You weren't very responsible at all to plagiarize. You have no integrity; you take from others what isn't yours. There's no integrity there. How can you show generosity to others if you aren't willing to take the best you have and share it? You don't give the assignment, and the teacher, your time and consideration and focus. Plagiarizers can't be servant leaders. A servant leader is trustworthy, and listens and learns; he doesn't mislead others and he serves. He doesn't demand others to serve him. Taking someone's work is demanding that someone to serve you.
I have a large responsibility to uphold these Values. Not only me, but all the students. If we can't abide to the Values, to what are probably our own personal values if under a different name, then we can't expect others to do the same. They will crumble. The things that make this university a beautiful place to learn is the honesty and integrity at the heart of it. If students don't strive to protect and defend such values by practicing them, then that beauty will be lost.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Difficulty of Writing About Comics (They Talk Back)

How to approach my essay. How should I approach it? Probably from the side, so I don't startle it, but then again, a head-on confrontation might be the best way to wrestle with this beast. Or perhaps using a soothing, quiet tone and approaching in a non-offensive manner...or not.

I could sit down with my topic, make it a cup of tea, and then discuss with it the stereotypes surrounding it. I could dig deep into the idiosyncrasies of my topic that cause people to make assumptions about it and then challenge them. I could force people to look at it in a new way, not necessarily change their minds, but to just look at it differently. And I would then be laughed at by my topic. It is not to say that there are no stereotypes surrounding my topic, it's just that that may not be the right way of looking at it. It may not be. It very well could be. My topic is laughing at me and telling me to get on with it.

Alright, then, let's try option number two. I could talk to my topic about how it is made, the processes that bring it to life. That is a very interesting focus point I think. I could delve into the intricacies and labor that beget such a thing. After all, there is the brain that first thinks of it, and then the ones who write it and the ones who draw it and those who bring it all together and...my topic laughs again. Now it's calling me names.

So I'll try a third way. I'll find a comparison and a contrast between different aspects of my topic and...don't look at me like that, topic, I was kidding. No, the third way is to find the heart of my topic. And then bring that heart into the light. I'll try to discover why this is the heart of my topic and why this heart is so important, not just to my topic, but to humanity. And I'll wriggle in a little bit of history, perhaps a little compare and contrast, not to focus on those aspects, but to properly define and explain the heart of my topic. What is it about comics, superhero comics to be specific, Marvel superhero comics to be further specific, that have caused them to last through turbulent culture changes and to be a part of most people's lives. That is of course unless you live under a rock, which as Geico points out, is quite possible. How often do kids pretend to be Spider-man, or Wolverine, or Iron Man? Adults remember Captain America and the Hulk fondly. Why is this? That's what I'll find out, or try to. The heart of comic books.

Take that, topic. You're not the only one with ideas.

You see, it is not comic books that are loved and metaphorically devoured by people, but the stories and the characters, two things that are found across the world, and across centuries. The difference is the presentation of the stories and characters.

I don't think the reader will be very interested in stereotypes of superhero comics, or even the process. People know how it's done, even if only vaguely. No one likes being retold that which they already know, even if they're wrong. But a subtle mixing of elements into a paper of semi-discovery, even un-discovery, is perhaps a little more interesting. It's a story of sorts, and there are very few people who don't like stories.

Are you happy with that, topic? That's what I thought. And look! I have something that almost resembles a thesis.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weather Theater

One just has to love the weather. It is the most random thing in the world, and yet makes the most sense. Today for instance, it was bright and sunny and wonderful and then suddenly....it rained. On one car. The rain then spread to cover the whole street and some minutes later the whole area, but that one car was the first to notice.