Cover Letter 2

This project was particularly interesting for me, as it simply started out writing about whatever I really wanted to write about. I noticed certain things about memoir and the memoir culture in the class, and I wrote about the rhetoric in and around memoir. From there, I also added some small attempts at memoir from my own life, and that gave me a better idea of what it was actually like to write it, and be on the other side of it. With my observations from all of that, I began to form a thesis, and started directing my research and writings toward that thesis.

By way of weaknesses, I see the fact that I did not start out with a thesis as a weakness. While everything that I wrote ended up helping me develop my thesis, it was more difficult to tie it all together at the end. I think, though, that I ended up succeeding in actually making everything coherent and reasonable. My first installment was a bit challenging, but I think I learned a lot from it, and was able to make the second installment a little more focused. In an attempt to not repeat the kinds of things I did in the first round, I did eliminate some ideas that may have actually been helpful, or at least added more material to analyze in my concluding posts. On the other hand, I think that it was a strength that I wrote so much that might have seemed irrelevant, because by looking at it, I was able to more fully develop my thesis and support it with experiences of actually writing memoir, and reading memoir, and looking at other forms of memoir. It also made it more interesting to read, as the entire blog was not simply an analysis of memoir, but also related it to life experiences and modern understandings of culture.

For me, this project was invaluable to my understanding and learning of modern culture. I have always hated technology and the internet simply because I did not have a really well rounded understanding of either, so I ended up not liking it because I did not understand it. This project helped me to understand, not only how to use a blog well, but also how they really are meant to be used, how they fit into modern culture, and how memoir as a whole has formed and been formed by the modern culture. By using a blog, I was able to utilize many more capabilities than I would have been able to by simply writing a paper or typical memoir on the same things. The rhetorical understanding that we have about how a blog works was the foundation for understanding what I was doing in the project. By using a blog, I was also able to analyze different aspects of blog, and other mediums of social media, as memoir than I would have been able to. In this way, I was able to look at all aspects of modern culture as memoir and the reasons surrounding it.

While I did not always like the choices in memoir that we read, I think that it was a very diverse selection, and so gave us a good understanding of memoir in a short amount of time. The papers, while pretty easy for me, did help to develop my understanding of the works that we read, as well as rhetoric and memoir as a whole. The project, for me, was simply fun. It was very fun way for me to be able to analyze things that I had never thought of before.

By way of participation, I did a lot of group discussion. By participating in group discussion, I was able to articulate ideas that I had in my head, but were too many to put into the small papers that we had. This definitely helped me to understand memoir better and more thoroughly than I would have if I hadn’t participated. I never quite utilized the days that were online as well as I could have. I used the papers to look at aspects of the books that helped me develop my thesis. I also used the ideas that I talked about in the paper to help me develop ideas for my project. This helped me to understand memoir in a deeper way.

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On Being Human

What does it mean to be human? According to the Medieval Philosophers, it means having reason. While animals have some semblance of reason, it is not the same, in nature as humans. We call this the Chain of Being, and it looks kind of like this:

So what about humans, and particularly our reason, makes us the kind of beings that communicate, and want to communicate? Well, one way we can look at it is that stones don’t really do much. While interesting (and geologists would totally argue with me here), a stone’s existence does not tell us a story, at least not in the way that a human’s life does. Our reason helps us to understand our lives as they relate to time and space; thus, our lives are narratives. Our logic sees the patterns in our life and puts it together as a story. But our reason also sees that our life is not the same as other lives around us, an awareness that does not exist in flames or stones. So we communicate. Granted, that animals (most of them anyhow) have some basic form of communication, but we are able, at least in some way, to actually fully communicate our thoughts. We communicate them in the most substantial way possible: narrative.

A very interesting theory recently developing is the idea that narrative is The Form of Communication. Meaning, it holds within it every substantial form of argumentation and thing that we rhetorically respond to as humans: “tells us about the speaker, the situational context, and the matter under discussion” (237). Everything that one needs to know about what is going on in any particular situation, as well as the why, and reasoning all around the situation is told in a story. It is a basic understanding of how we exist in time and space, and it comes out in a narrative.

As humans, our reason, dictates that we understand the laws of time and space, and so order our lives in a kind of narrative. This is why we share our stories with others, and write them down for ourselves. We know that we can only understand our lives in the context of a narrative, and others can only understand us in context of a story.

Woods, William F.. College Composition and Communication 40.2 (1989): 236–238. Web http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.nau.edu/stable/358142

On The Beginning of the End

So, what then is the point of all of this rambling of mine? The point, is that whatever we are, in our Western world, we care about others. We care about others, and we want to know where other people are from; we want to know that hero’s still exist and that there are people out there that are going through the same things we are, and different things, and that they are doing okay.

 We care about others, and we want to know where other people are from; we want to know that hero’s still exist and that there are people out there that are going through the same things we are, and different things, and that they are doing okay.

The point of memoir is knowing that we are not alone, but at the same time, knowing that we are different. The human experience is different for every person, and we want to know that we are doing a good job living it. So why read memoir? Because you’re human.

So why read memoir? Because you’re human.

As people, we care about other people. We want to care, we want to experience other things, and throughout the ages, we have looked to books to get away from our own world. It has been happening for ages, and it will continue to happen. Part of the human experience is wanting to experience things outside of ourselves.

Books allow us to experience things outside of ourselves, inside of ourselves. We are able to take scenery and imagery that the author gives us to work with, and make it our own. This is why people get so mad when the movie is not like the book: they owned the book in their own particular way, and the movie, or other people’s interpretation of the same work is not that same way.

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Yes, thank you Doctor, books, memoir, are the greatest weapons in our modern day to combat prejudice, hate, and misunderstanding. Looking through the eyes of another in such a way that you own it and can experience it in your own mind encourages an understanding deeper and far more intimate than any other learning of the world.

This is why we read about other people’s lives, from St. Augustine to Twitter, we use words to communicate in a way that people will process intimately. Through words we are able to communicate what we are thinking, feeling, worried about, and what we have achieved.

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We talk to understand, we talk to be understood.

We talk to understand, we talk to be understood. And, we use words in a particular way when we write it down. The words become immortal. Anyone can forget a word that was simply spoken, but no one can forget a word that has been put down in writing. It will always exist. They exist at the end of a Google search. They exist in the minds of all who have seen them. And they exist forever in the mind that wrote them.

In school, we write papers for a reason. Writing words down on a page or a document help our minds to process the information in a particular way. We take notes in lecture to synthesize and summarize the words another person has said. Writing has an interesting way of making us learn and making us remember. Any teacher knows this. Any student knows this. Memoir does the same kind of thing.

Not only does it help the author understand what has happened, it helps its audience to understand another person’s life.

On Food Blogs (as Memoir)

So, as I have been scanning the internet for, well another class as well, but also looking for memoir, I noticed a kind of blog that I often frequent that also falls into the memoir category, in an interesting way: food blogs. images-9People, women especially, tend to like food. Really like food. So much so that we even make blogs all about food. But typically, these blogs still revolve around the author’s life. They tend to start with a story, how the person’s week went, or something interesting that happened in their life, or how they discovered the recipe. Then, the author transitions into a step by step through how to make the actual recipe, and finishes with some pun or quip and the recipe written out like a normal recipe. So, even though the entire blog revolves around food, it still has a lot to do with the author’s life.

Eat,_Pray,_Love_–_Elizabeth_Gilbert,_2007This is very similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Which revolves around Gilbert’s travels to find herself. The first portion of the memoir is all about her discovery of Italian food. There are even food blogs written about the  kinds of food that Gilbert discovers on her travels. While the majority of the book does truly have to do with Gilbert’s own internal life and her discovery of herself, it also does have a lot to do with food.

We also see this fascination with food through Julie and Julia, the blog, the book, and the movie.

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Both the blog and book (the original media forms) revolve around a person’s life, as she attempts to make all of the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook. The blog, and thus the following book, followed not only the attempts at cooking, but also the author’s life. The book itself was a success as a memoir, as was the blog as memoir.

images-8 Blogs, even food blogs, are modern forms of memoir. The food is just a cover up for what the blog is still really about: the author’s life. Almost every form of social media is really a kind of memoir. We are so fascinated with our own lives, and learning the lives of others that the modern culture uses every possible outlet to show off our own lives and publish them in order to come to terms with them. Memoir is only possible in and because of our current culture. No other culture would and does really care that much about other’s experiences. images-4

On an Imaginary World

Mom is having a bad day again. I finished my work in like, five hours today. So even though it’s only 11, I have the rest of the day to myself. Of course, I’ll have to go back for lunch at some point, but for now, I just have to get out of the house. I could go ride, but there’s not enough time right now… maybe after lunch… I think. So I just run up the hill to my castle. “Ah! My queen!” my imaginary headmaster meets me at the door of my (both) imaginary school (like Hogwarts (complete with houses (Gondor, Rohan, Rivendell, and Isengard) but for creating and training Knights and Lady’s for my kingdom), and my imaginary castle. “Headmaster, is Professor Legolas in?” I ask. “Always,” the headmaster replies, “Pent up in his office, no doubt. You’re gone far too much. I hear he is thinking of retiring from his position in the High Council of Middle Earth, as well as from his professorship here just so he can run your kingdom in your absence.” The headmaster fills me in as we pass students on the Great Stairs, pass through two secret doors, and stand in the hidden hallway that leads to Professor Legolas’ office. He pauses with a knowing look. As sad as I am that I have been away a lot from my imaginary kingdom, Mom is not well enough to really even run the house at this point, let alone take care of the animals and help me with schooling. I had to make a choice. Something had to give. “I’m sorry to hear that Headmaster, but you both know that I do as much as I possibly can for the kingdom.” “Of course my queen,” the Headmaster relents, and I sit in the hallway for a moment before entering Legolas’ chambers. Maybe I could try talking to Dad about Mom again… but no… that always just ends up with them fighting. I sigh, and re-enter my imaginary world.

A short piece about the thing/person who knows me best. In this case, my imaginary world. The only place I could really go as a child. It know everything that I was dealing with, and was the most understanding and insightful thing. There wasn’t really anyone else who I could turn to as a child, so instead I ran to my imagination.

On Audience Cont.

I have already reflected on the phenomena of the memoir’s true audience being the author themselves. However, they do seem to also write their memoir, their story of their life for another audience as well. Who are the people who read memoir? Why are they so fascinated with it? It seems to be a movement in our current culture, as I have already explored in part with social media as memoir, but why?

Memoir as literature dates back to around 400 AD with the “Confessions” of St. Augustine. Moved to share his experiences with others, Augustine wrote the “Confessions” to document his life before conversion, his reasons for conversion, and how he came to convert. The first of its kind, “Confessions” to this day stands out as the first document to ever have been written in the first person, documenting what happened to him, what he did, AND how he felt about it all. This trend in literature continued on, and can be seen more recently in Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl.” Taken to a concentration camp in Nazi occupied Germany, Frank’s Diary was originally just that, a diary that she kept to note what was happening to her, and as my last post about Audience noted, deal with the atrocities happening around her and to her.

Since Frank’s “Diary,” the First World culture has seen a major trend  in literature that is written in a first person perspective, regarding the author’s life, or some part of it, that typically deals with some emotional or physical trauma in the author’s life. Why are we so fascinated with this kind of writing? Why read this?

The First World culture, particularly the American culture recently is very fascinated with other people’s stories. It seems to be an escape from the mundane life that we each live into someone else’s life who is, undoubtedly, more interesting and exciting than our own. The rise in communication, starting with the radio, telephone, TV, and now social media has enabled us to learn other people’s stories in the blink of an eye. We hear it on the news all of the time, we look at our phone’s and see it on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, reddit. It has become an inevitable fact of our human existence in this world. Our lives have become mundane, and in an attempt to avoid our own lives, we look into other people’s. TV is no longer about Mr. Rogers and how to live the good life, it is MTV and reality TV, and Opera, and Divorce Court, and Dr. Phil. We want to see how messed up other people’s lives are in order to feel good about our own mundane existence.

Is this a good thing? Well, as a philosopher, I’m inclined to say that it is neither inherently good, nor bad, but rather, it depends on both how the author writes, and what kinds of things they enable and encourage people to do, and what the people actually do that matters. A person can say whatever they want (the glory of free speech) but the moral acts that they end up encouraging, and that the people end up acting on are the moral foundation for each particular thing.

Cover Letter

This blog has been very interesting to write so far. The only thing in common between all of the posts: memoir. Some are free-writing-recollections from my childhood that could be turned into a memoir, others are rhetorical analyses of some aspect of memoir, still others are analyses of different kinds of memoir and forms of social media as memoir. All of these make up my thoughts about memoir throughout this class, as well as outside of it. Each post must be taken independent of the others, as each one is its own thing. Some of the posts give rise to the thoughts that drove me to write another of the posts, but rarely in any particular order.

So far, the strength of this project is the fact that I look at many aspects of memoir. Without knowing too much about memoir, a reader could be entertained by the diversity and kind of thinking about memoir found in this blog. It is also interesting because I am able to look at social media as memoir in a special way, as I use social media to analyze memoir. Although I do not, as of yet, have any links to any outside media, the potential is there (along with the plan to use this later). This gives me the opportunity to look at other social media in my own way on this blog. The idea of the blog gives me many opportunities that I would not have had if I had done just a traditional paper. Because each blog post is independent, I am able to look at many different topics without it seeming too jarring or ADD.

The weaknesses of this blog so far is that I rarely preface any of the posts. I discovered that this was a weakness fairly early on, and did fix some of the issues; however, the issue still arises: how does the reader confront the many diverse topics presented in this one blog? Most people just get really confused when they see the blog because it has so many topics and I give very little frame work for how to understand my work. It is a difficult thing to remedy, however, because giving too much frame work would detract from the kind of stream-of-consciousness that comes about when reading the blog.

This blog was important for me to write because I hate social media. In writing this though, I discovered that I only disliked social media because I did not understand it. As I researched and wrote, I came to understand social media better, and thus do not hate it as much. It also gave me the opportunity to look at many diverse topics without making a paper seem very ADD. The form of the blog is the perfect platform to have shorter posts on many things, which is exactly what I was hoping to do. This blog has given me the platform to summarize my thoughts on a variety of subjects and ideas, and think on paper, while still being able to dabble in memoir.

Installment 2 will look fairly similar to Installment 1. I am already planning several posts for the future. In it, I hope to continue to look at other forms of social media as memoir, other rhetorical features of memoir, write a couple more memoir shorts of my own, analyze further the rhetoric of blogs as memoir, and finish it with an analysis of the current culture’s obsession with chronicling one’s life.

Memento Mori

Memento mori: remember death. At some point, we all die. It is the inescapable truth of human existence. But what do we do about it? Most people do everything they can to avoid it. And when someone does head down that path we call it a tragedy. It is some horrible thing that the person has to go through, or worse, has gone through. But is it really? Are we scared of it? Why are we scared of it? For something that everyone goes through, it is considered horrible morbid: coming from the word mori, but taken now as a grotesque thing. Why? Isn’t it just normal? So what if we have no idea what happens afterword? Isn’t it better to approach it like Socrates did: like a friend? So much less fear, anxiety, and stress for something that is bound to happen sometime or another.

And when it happens to someone else, who are we to worry? We have no control where they go. We can only memento mori: remember death.  Our own death, not theirs. We can only memento vitae, remember life. Remember their life. Let their life inspire us, either with what to do, or what not to do. But there is no use worrying about what will happen to them: what will happen, will happen and our fear and worry for them has no use.

So memento mori: remember your death, my dear ones. Remember that you will die. Everyone will die. Remember that you are mortal, and there is not a thing you can do about it.

This is a small recollection on death following the shooting on NAU campus. My small thought comes from looking at everyone around me and seeing their reaction to the shooting and reflecting on it.

On Contextualization

Contextualization is a wonderful rhetorical tool, but it can be overused, and/or used improperly. When used properly, the audience responds by understanding the text better and relating to the author in a more poetic and physical sense. When I say that “the room got louder, like a library just after a class gets out,” many people can relate to the increase of population in a school library after the release of a class; however, the opposite is as well true. If one has never attended a school, or never been in a library, this experience is totally foreign to them, and they cannot connect with the image that I am trying to portray. The same is true for contextualization as a whole. One must alter the contextualization not only for what the author knows, but also for the rhetorical audience that the author is trying to reach.

If I were to write the sentence about the library in a journal to online gamers, the imagery might be lost. But, if I were writing it in a journal for college librarians, it is entirely appropriate as it is a daily experience that they can relate to. It is all about who one’s audience is and what they can relate to. Contextualization is not something that a person can just arbitrarily throw into a text thinking, “oh, someone will get it,” but rather, it is something that must be tailored to each audience according to their needs.

This comes from my reflection on Nic Sheff’s book TWEAK. It is a summary of the thesis and argument that I made about his book, but also extends further to all memoir, and all writing in general.

On Muses

Plato’s Ion is a fascinating representation of Greek thought about creativity. Muses come, and muses go. They inspire, sometimes what they inspire is very good, sometimes it is not. And none of that is the fault of the poet. This is an enlightening way of thinking about creativity: we are not actually held responsible for anything that we write, we merely are the conduit through which the muses speak. But is this how creativity works? Is this how it has worked for me?

Yes. For me, particularly, but only in some cases. By way of songwriting, that is exactly how that process works. I have an idea, a thought comes to me, rather, and I am either able to capture it, or I must send it along to the next person. Sometimes even, the inspirations are not even close to anything I would have come up with on my own, but rather have a very different style. These particular ideas I sometimes will try to catch a hold of, but typically they fail epically. They prove to me that they came to the wrong person.

But other ideas… oh other ideas I can catch. I catch them, and they speak to me. And I think, write, sing, play, or otherwise, in ways that I myself am not capable of. They are something else, speaking through me; they use me as their vessel to the world. We collaborate our creative minds, and the world becomes so much more than it was.

This kind of thing only happens (for me) after much practice. Only when I have learned how to do my art am I a proper conduit for these daemons. When I do not have the ability to do what they ask, we fall. We trip and fall flat on our face into the world of negative inspiration. This is the inspiration that speaks doubts and fears into one’s life. I discovered this especially with both playing the piano, and writing in opposite ways.

In the case of writing, I was not particularly good at writing, but the muses came and gave me a topic. I tried and tried and tried to write what they were speaking to me, but alas, failure! Epic and complete failure. Before long, the idea left, and I was left doubting my writing ability and if I should ever even try to write again. Of course I did. And later in life, the same thing happened. I came across another idea. And this time I wrote, and I wrote, and the book came freely, completely, and beautifully. It worked! The muse and I collaborated, and together we made art.

With piano, it was completely different (but much the same). I had spent years practicing (not really, but more taking lessons and randomly occasionally actually sitting down and improving myself), and I had learned many techniques and ways of doing things. Then one day, I sat down to play. It started with a basic chord progression. Then it expanded. I was doing all sorts of stuff that I wouldn’t learn about for another two years! But it was working! The muse was working through my fingers to create beautiful music! It could use the things I knew, and combine them with the things it knew and make something amazing! But then, several years later. After not playing as much (for a year, to be exact), I tried to be inspired like that again. I played a basic chord progression, and I tried to improvise. And it failed. I managed to create one of the worst possible pieces of music in the history of music. It sounded terrible, made no sense, and did not flow or follow at all. I was again filled with doubts and fears and negative thoughts. “I will never be able to play piano again!” “I will never be as good as I used to be!” And the list goes on.

Ultimately, yes, there are muses. And they come and go as they please, but only to those who are open to them. Just because you are open to them, however, does not mean that you will be able to utilize them as well as the next person, nor does it mean that every idea that comes your way was, in fact, made for you. Sometimes the muses get it wrong. Our job is to make sure that we pick ourselves back up from the mire of negativity, brush it off, and carry on.

This is a reflection on Gilman’s book, Big Magic, and how maybe she gets something right in her thinking about creativity and the creative process. It also is a reflection on my own experiences with creativity.