ENG 162 Fall 2013

ENG 162 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor ME, taught by John A. (Don't ever, ever ask!) Goldfine johngoldfine@gmail.com

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week 14--using yourself differently:

Week 14. Prompts, theme, lecture all rolled into one untidy package....

Baseball legend Ty Cobb used to say, "Hit 'em where they ain't!"That meant shifting his stance, shortening his swing, guessing on the pitch, and drilling grounders through the infield into gaps left by defense, then legging out a single or double. It sure worked for him.

But when he suggested to even-greater baseball legend Ted Williams that he do the same, to take advantage of the extreme Williams shift that opened the whole left side of the field, Williams was horrified. He had his thing, he did his thing, his thing worked. No way was he going to mess with it, change things around just to punch out a dinky hit--so what if that's what it took to win a game!He was Ted Fucking Williams (in his autobio, he says that's how he thought of himself), and you'd never see him change anything!Ever!And he never did! (And one of the elements of the Curse was always Ted F. Williams. Appropriate they named a tunnel after him, not a soaring bridge.

But that's a sidetrack, and the 2004 baseball season is over--gloriously over and the curse is no more!)This week you're going to hit 'em where they ain't.In other words, you have your strengths and the fielders try to guess where you'll hit, but you're gonna pull a Ty Cobb. You're going to fool them!I seem to be addicted to sports epigrams this morning: the same idea is expressed in boxing--'Box them if they're punchers, punch them if they're boxers!'

Okay, you all have convinced me you're punchers! You do excellently what I spend a whole semester trying to get my ENG 101 students to even consider--you use yourself and your experience, thoughts, feelings, observations to motor a piece along.You're Ted Williamses! And I'm philosophically inclined as a teacher to have you reinforce those strengths, to build on them, but I'm equally suspicious of myself, arguing that--c'mon, John, you're obliged to get those students to peek at the weaknesses too.

So, how would you do in a piece where you couldn't use yourself directly? Instead of offering prompts this week, I want to throw out this gauntlet: write two or three pieces where you don't show up as an authorial 'I.'Not an anonymous encyclopedia article. Not voiceless instructions. Not cookie-cutter prose. Not a ranting political editorial about some evil thing. Not smarmy greeting card goop that's the most anonymous stuff going. In fact, NOT something that sounds like anyone else but you, but something that somehow has you stamped all over it--but that is not directly about you, your life, your experience.

Tough, tricky? You bet, but there ought to be roses on the other side of all those thorns!And why not post them on your blog, and use the comments section here to react to the assignment, ok?

How about an example for Week 14? Sure!Well, actually, most of Week 14 prompt/lecture/theme material--all the stuff about Ted F. Williams, Ty Cobb, bridges, tunnels, boxers--is an okay example of me writing about something outside me in a way (again I hope I don't flatter myself) that is inimitably me, even though I'm not in it directly. That's what you're working on this week.

By the way, this kind of writing could be considered a distancing technique. If it works right, the reader keeps trying to pull the curtain aside to see you. The reader says, 'What an intriguing voice! Who is this?' But while continuing to intrigue, you never quite offer an answer to that question--which keeps the reader reading....Another example?

You could check this out from another semester:

http://josiejosplace.blogspot.com/2004/11/week-twelve-generic-2.html

Or this: http://josiejosplace.blogspot.com/2004/11/week-twelve-attempt-1.html

Or this:#1. The blank stare:Either no one cares that fifteen people were just fired from their jobs of 21 years and up, or there are just some heartless people stuck on this earth. The least they could do was blink.#2. The Whispering Heart:She's ugly, and fat, and too young, and greedy, and a whore...I wonder if anyone's knows that she's a scholar, a singer/dancer, and a great friend.#3. Men are who they are:Leave without notice; arrive at early hours; take spare clothes in the truck; spout on and on about nothing. Come home to a warm clean house; give a kiss to the cheek and an I love you to the ear; stay up all night rubbing backs, and shoulders; surperise with coffee and breakfast in bed; live a happy life.#4. Car trouble:Ugly blue smoke, smelly, thick residue filling the air, polluting the ozone, outrageous gas prices, astrinomical tickets issued; the sound of thick fabric covered air-bags protecting a head, the snap of vinyl holding a body, and the cushioned seats saving a life. Not such an environmental issue any more.Copyright (c) 2006 by Jenna

Here's a series of linked vignettes:

There she was, 14 long years after her diagnosis. She had Lupus, which is much worse than a flower. It is one of the most miss diagnosed diseases. But not her, the doctors hit it right with her. Her cells were attacking her inside out; slowly, and then progressing to faster. The disease was able to strike the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, and skin, but it hit her joints and lungs. Her body had swelled, and she became very tired. Then she had to leave home.Her swollen body laid in the white sheets, in and out of conciousness. The massive amounts of morphine made her sleepy; sleepy but not in pain. She would wake up and talk like everything was going to be alright; it wasnt.Most of the family were there, not the grandchildren. Her body had attacked her to death at the young age of 56. She had so much more living to do, but, her body killed her. Not JUST her, but it killed her family too.

***He asks the same questions, over and over again. He cant remember his grandson's name. He cant remember the year, or season. He has become such a burden on his family, he has to live in this place with others who cant remember. His family does come to visit, but he doesnt remember. They brought him roses, but he doesnt recognize the smell. He has pictures in his room, but cant recall the faces. His roomate has been the same for 6 months, his name is Ed. Two letters, yet his mind doest allow him to recollect. He opens the same door everyday wondering what is in there; a toliet and sink. His meals are the same time everyday; 8, 12, 4. He always asks. He was a capenter, but when he sees a picture of a hammer, he doesnt know what it is. He has a stuffed dog; he thinks it is real. He pats it and kisses it. His shoes have always been black; there is always a fight because 'his shoes have always been brown and those are not his shoes!'Its getting worse for him. He says he is hungry, there is food in front of him, but he doesnt precieve it; he doesnt remember to pick up his fork and place it in his mouth. He is getting combative and abusive becuse his mind is now haywire. He is forgetting how to toliet, so now he lays in his own soil; and he has fogotten the smell. He has forgotten the call light to bring in a nurse. He is there, smelling and stinking, such a poor site, such a sad end.

***She thanks the people looking down on her from above everyday. She knows it has been them all along. They are gone now, from this life, but havent completly forgot her. There is no other way he would have been brought to her. Everything changed after she laid eyes on him.She was in a bad relationship at the time, full of lies, cheats, drugs, and incidences of abuse. Her family had dispised this man, but she didnt listen. Her grandmother even hated him on her death bed. Maybe thats the reason why her Gram brought this new one to her.He showered her in kisses, roses, and loved to show her off; all things that she had never had. This wasnt a tough decision for her, but it was. She had know her boyfriend for ten years. Sucide became his motive to get her back. It was difficult, she kept with the sweet boy, and everything for her has been perfect since.

***The funniest of funny, the most generous, and the most hardworking, gone. He was a lobsterfisherman, just finished hauling out his boat and all his gear that day.His friend was home from the army, got him out of bed for a few drinks at the bar. A few turned into too many. He got dropped off, stummbled into his house for what his driver thought was going to be a good night's rest. She was wrong.He lived the length of a football field away from the pier. After a few minutes inside its suspected, he wanted to take a ride to the pier; he had done it a thousand times before. He jumped into his red dodge and drove off. It was cold; a blanket of snow was covering the ground. His truck slipped, hit the cement barrier and bursted into flames. He was in there, and that was his last ride to the pier.Copyright (c) 2006 by Meghan Ruhlin

Or this:

Bruh Man
Who is it that driving what appears to be a miniature mobile home or what most of us call a grocery cart?
The appearance of him is reminiscent of what's chasing people in their childhood dreams; a shadowy figure that just keeps on moving seemingly in slow motion. No matter how slow he moves, he can be seen all over the city.
This is that old dude sitting in the back of the project hallway. He is going through the trash, past the food and the empty crack vials just to find something to wrap up in; perhaps some clothes scraps of little children. Nobody walks past him to get to their apartment, they would rather take the fire escape because it is unclear whether he can be trusted.
This is the same dude with the scraggly beard in the back of the bus. “It's Fraaayesh...They sho is” He says, as he is observed talking to the remaining pieces of someones grinder sandwhich.
It doesn't matter whether he has food stamps, bottles and cans or one hundred dollars; He is getting kicked out of the store. Just to eat he crashed the cookouts, family reunions and even funerals.
Brotha is just sitting there telling a story in his own language. It sounds like he is speaking E-Z Wider dipped in Heineken and when that starts to make sense he puts a quayloode accent to it.He can be spotted from far away just by looking for the military surplus jacket that he wears over some of the clothes that get “borrowed” from the Goodwill Store dumpster. Is that jacket really green or is so dirty that it is beginning to seed.
He has arthritis, a lazy eye, slipped discs in his back.Open toe shoes are in style for many but for brotha man they are all that is left his once spit shined general issue. Underneath that do-rag/ winter wool hat is there hair or not? Is it just stuffed with the thoughts of life's wisdom like the scarecrow that Michael Jackson played in “The Wiz”?
One earing or shining wax in his ear; He's musty and apparently he don't care about staying in the warmth of a shelter because he won't wash for any agency. He's always hollering at the police, “YAW AIN'T SHIT!” The cops won't touch him, they can't touch him because they know him.
Everyone in this city knows who he is. Some would say that he is an angel in disguise and some with a guilty conscience would fear that he is Jesus come to earth. He is not an angel or Jesus, but he is a messenger from the almighty sent to weigh the hearts of humanity. He at one time was a savior, in a sense, for the world.
This is “Bruh Man” and this is his song:
He tries to GET MONEY and the VA won't fund himHe came back from overseas and society shunned him.You support your troops but get mad when he poops in publicHe joined the army after 9-11 when everyone loved it.Living off the land and dining in garbage cansWho ever thought their little boy would grow up to be that kind of man.Enjoy your day and please don't feel badBut think about the US citizens whose mind is still in Baghdad.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Marlon Weaver

Finally, here's one that tells a huge amount about the personality, tastes, and problems of the writer (but where is the writer?)

Quiz:If you had to eat one of the following, which would it be?
A – finger paintB – toothpasteC – poopD – mom’s cookingE – EMCC dorm food

If you had to sleep on one of the following, which would it be?A – floorB – broken glassC – rockD – pull out couchE – EMCC dorm bed

If you had to wear one of the following, which would it be?A – bottleB – dirtC – turkeyD – shirtE – EMCC sweatshirt

If you had to live in one of the following, which would it be?A – card board boxB – trash canC – industrial waste parkD – houseE – acadia hall

If you had to go to school at one of the following, which would it be?A – Jeeve’s school of butleryB – Igor’s school of lab assistantsC – Madame le Goth’s school of obedienceD – Jenna Jameson’’s school of sexE – EMCC

If you picked anything other than d on any of the above, you may want to seek help. If you answered E on any of the above, you have been brainwashed, seek immediate reprogramming.
Copyright (c) 2006 by Eurayle 7

So, how would you do in a piece where you couldn't use yourself directly? Instead of offering prompts this week, I want to throw out this gauntlet: write a couple of pieces where you don't show up as an authorial 'I.'Not an anonymous encyclopedia article. Not voiceless instructions. Not cookie-cutter prose. Not a ranting political editorial about some evil thing. Not smarmy greeting card goop that's the most anonymous stuff going. In fact, NOT something that sounds like anyone else but you, but something that somehow has you stamped all over it--but that is not directly about you, your life, your experience.

Tough, tricky? You bet, but there ought to be roses on the other side of all those thorns!So: you're going to write about something without you appearing, (write two pieces). No sneaking! None of this fakey third person bizness: "The 60 year old English teacher with the grumpy expression sat at his keyboard writing stuff to his students..." Nahhh.The idea is to write about not-you, but to do it in a way that somehow conveys your tone, your voice. It's a great trick to have up your sleeve.

So, this week no separate prompts. Use this lecture to develop your own theme on your home blog (write two pieces).

23 Comments:

Anonymous reetplus3 said...

Two more for the road.
Any extra credit for getting done early??!!

It' been a fast semester.

Friday, April 29, 2011 9:31:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

What do you give your guys at work who do an extra good job? Gold star? How about I give you a Goldfine star?

Saturday, April 30, 2011 1:05:00 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

innnteresting...I like it all rolled up in one!

Saturday, April 30, 2011 5:07:00 PM  
Anonymous reetplus3 said...

We don't give out stars, but there is usually some sort of sticker put on a paper that is well done.

But for this class, a Goldfine Star would do just fine.

Saturday, April 30, 2011 5:25:00 PM  
Blogger Rebecca C. said...

I have to say, I agree. I like this wrapped up in more than one theme/prompt, rather than separate prompts and theme. But it certainly will be tricky to write something that says "me" without putting "me" in it.

Saturday, April 30, 2011 6:24:00 PM  
Blogger darci said...

I get it but at the same time I don't. Will reread it and then give it a go.

Sunday, May 01, 2011 7:53:00 AM  
Blogger Kristie Grant Canfield said...

progressively getting harder, makes sense, but doesn't mean I have to like it

Monday, May 02, 2011 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Morgan said...

One week for two themes? Sounds great!

Thursday, May 05, 2011 8:49:00 AM  
Blogger emily said...

This is so confusing to me!!! ahhhh...

Friday, May 06, 2011 8:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Hmmmm this is going to be very hard, it's deffinately different

Sunday, May 08, 2011 6:21:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan G said...

I like that you changed it up a bit, change is always welcome, although it could have come a little sooner then the last week.

Monday, May 09, 2011 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

OK. I think I got it...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 9:42:00 PM  
Blogger RJ Perry said...

This theme sounds very difficult, but I'm going to give it a shot!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 9:45:00 PM  
Blogger HillNicole said...

I am just now getting to this assignment(yes on the last day of school) better late than never right? In my opinion it will be the most difficult.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Felicia G. said...

At the end you said no sneaky third person business, yet two of the examples are in third person.
?

Sunday, November 27, 2011 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger DAGrant said...

It has been a great semester. I have enjoyed most of the writing. I am not to sure about this one though.
Thanks for working my brain.

Monday, May 07, 2012 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan Larrabee said...

I'm kind of excited to start this assignment! I think I may run into a little trouble trying to think of what to write about, but it will be fun.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012 6:23:00 PM  
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This is great do you have a catologue if so I would love one to share with friends and family.
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