Tag: English

Life finds a Way

Don’t worry, I’m not here to complain about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom again.

Even though I’m sure I definitely could.

In my somewhat exhausted, mediocre blog post from yesterday which I completely understand if you all skipped, I mentioned that one of the highlights of the day was finally finding a mentor for my Senior Honors Project.

It has been a long time in the making, as I was supposed to find a mentor and get a proposal for my project signed off on last semester. However, I didn’t feel very confident with my project premise at the time. At least not confident enough to ask anyone to stick with me for a year on a large venture.

So I took the summer to work on the overall premise of my novel, hashing out the plot and some of the major characters. All of it was under the impression that I’d come back to campus this semester and find someone to work with me right away.

For the most part I accomplished step one, getting myself to a place of comfort with my overall idea.

However, finding someone to work with was much more difficult.

I’ve approached a good number of different professors in the Comm Department, English Department and Honors Program over the last few weeks and had very little luck.

The reasons varied, usually fitting into one of three categories. Either they had no interest in working on an Honors Project, were too busy working on other things to devote enough time or had some extraneous circumstance preventing them from helping — despite wanting to.

It was frustrating and somewhat disheartening to me, even if I completely understood where most everyone was coming from.

Though it wasn’t all negative, as many of the people I talked with were able to offer various pieces of advice that I’ve since incorporated into my ideas for the story and how I’ll be processing the writing of it.

It simply became more of a concern under the upcoming time crunch of having to register for classes at the end of October. Because one of the main drives behind finding a mentor is that multiple independent study classes are required for the project, and your mentor grades you for it.

I approached Professor McConnell, who’s one of the main Honors instructors that helps students through the project planning stage, on Monday expressing concerns that I was not having a lot of luck. He recommended a few more teachers that I should try and talk to, and said if I continued to have trouble we’d take some more drastic measures down the line.

One of the teachers he had suggested was Holly Rizzo, who I’m currently taking Mass Media Ethics with. We’ve had a few conversations in the past and I genuinely enjoy chatting with her and being in her class, so it seemed like a decent option to try.

Within about 30 minutes of asking, we had already agreed to work together. It all just clicked so well for a number of different reasons.

After months of anguish and frustration, I finally had a mentor. It felt awesome. And I had Professor McConnell to thank for pushing me in the right direction.

Or so I thought.

The story continued today, when I talked with McConnell after our class — he teaches the Evolution and Creation course I’ve been enjoying thus far and have talked about a couple times. Namely with that short thing I did on Charles Darwin.

He was really excited to hear that everything had worked out so perfectly, as I was. Said it made his day even, and that I deserved to work with someone who was eager to work with me.

Felt good to hear him say that.

But then… He pointed out that he had no idea who I was talking about with the person I’d taken on as a mentor.

As it turns out, Rizzo was not the person he has recommended I talk to.

He had recommended I talk to Heather Osborne-Thompson, a professor in the CTVA department (who I talked to at one point for a story in the Daily Titan last semester, as a fun fact for you all).

Somehow or another I took that as Holly Ocasio-Rizzo.

Signals were very much crossed somewhere along the lines. I blame the very similar H & O name structures, and probably the fact that I was busy being worried about my midterm for Rizzo the next day.

Yet, despite the fact that I had gone somewhere he did not suggest, it all worked out almost too perfectly. Professor Rizzo has experience with Honors projects that are eerily similar to what I’m working on now, and she had a bunch of really interesting ideas to present that got me more excited for what I’m working on.

I’m not a very religious person. My family kind of lives by the moniker that we’re bad Jews.

But I would be willing to argue that some semblance of fate weaved its way into this series of events. Because it really does all seem to have worked out miraculously well.

Hopefully that will continue to be a pattern with my Honors project stuff. After all, now that I’ll be getting past this phase I’ve been held up at over the last couple months, I’ll probably have a lot more to talk about around here.

And boy am I excited about it!

The Benefits to being a Hoarder

The Benefits to being a Hoarder

They called me crazy.

“Why would you keep all of your old binders,” they said.

“You should just throw out/burn all that old stuff,” they said.

“When are you ever going to use your high school notes ever again,” they said.

Well who’s laughing now viewing audience who I’m imagining chastises me for my corner full of old binders on a daily basis. For one of the first times, I had to break out my old AP Psychology binder from about four years ago now (Yikes, I’m getting old) to help fill in a detail for a research paper I’m writing in my Sensation and Perception class.

For context, I’m writing my paper about the way language affects our perceptions of the world around us.

Part of the reason I was interested in grabbing this topic was because it stood out so much to me back in my AP Psych days. My friend Nina, who’s aiming to become a professional interpreter (and is well on her way from what I understand, given that she’s doing a gig translating for the CEO of Sony), made the idea way more tangible at the time by explaining her experiences struggling to translate certain words or emotions between English and Japanese.

Now that I’m writing a paper about that exact topic, I knew I needed to use the general idea we were learning about at the time. Unfortunately… I couldn’t remember the exact term.

My current textbook didn’t exactly provide any useful clues in that department, either.

So it was off to the pile of old binders. Eventually I managed to find the one I needed, and with a cursory search found this:

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Linguistic Determinism 

A range of views in which our thinking (or worldview) is seen as being determined or shaped by language.


That term, coined by Benjamin Lee Whorf, is the crux of my current paper.

And I would not have remembered it if not for this four-year-old binder sitting around idly in the corner of my room. Now I feel completely vindicated for hoarding all of these bulky old documents for as long as I have.

Perhaps I’ll have to go through the pile, clean up the binders and re-organize them one of these days, however. Because these things are dusty as hell and covered in silverfish.

Guess that’s the price I have to pay for just haphazardly throwing them back there after each year/semester when the promise of vacation proves too much for my better judgement to bear.

But anyway, extra special shout outs today to my AP Psych professor, Mrs. Mata, and to my friend Nina for creating such a strong, lasting impression on me that I have the perfect foundation for my big research paper this semester.

Plus that AP Psych class was what drove me to minor in Psychology in the first place so… You know. Just some icing on the cake there.

Time Marches On

I’ve had no problems talking about how much I enjoyed my high school experience in the past. I was a hell of a teacher’s pet and really made good friends with a lot of them, so between that and my time as a journalist on the High Tide it felt like I really came into my own.

In fact, at least once before I’ve written a post very much like the one I’m filling space with tonight. Except that small piece on how much I appreciated my high school teachers is more than two years old now.

Which is just crazy to me. Because I was one year into college then. Now I’m a college senior.

It’s something I’m personally still coming to terms with, but watching a bunch of my old professors react to that news was simply priceless.

For context, tonight was back to school night for my sister. Since I only have one class on Thursdays this semester, I was able to make it back in time to tag along. Like I said I feel close with a lot of those old teachers considering many of them shaped where I am now, so I like to come around and poke my head where it doesn’t belong once in a while.

Other than the “wow we’re old” reaction, I was able to get a lot more meaningful stuff in with a few of my ex-teachers in between the 10-minute periods of back to school talk.

Like joking around with my AP Lang teacher for not being able to make it to the now at least yearly gathering of “the AP Lang Gang” that spawned in her room.

Or catching up with my AP Gov teacher about the crazy political scene and the fact that I tried out a restaurant recommendation in the OC he made at least a year ago.

[[ Also I know today was especially crazy with the Supreme Court nominee hearing. But I’m not going to talk about it. Because I didn’t get to pay a whole lot of attention, and I’m not an expert even if I did. Good? Good. ]]

I had an especially fun time this year catching up with my old journalism advisor and telling him about my new position with Gladeo. As well as catching up with my AP Psych professor and telling her about taking up a psych minor in college — she was pretty ecstatic about that.

On top of that, I was surprised to find that one of my old math teachers (who Aly has a class with now) remembered who I was right when I walked in the room.

Even though I haven’t seen her since sophomore year.

Teachers are crazy sweet with that kind of thing, I swear.

Another surprise of the night was seeing some stuff like this around campus:

For context, again, this 900s building did not exist when I was there. In fact, it didn’t exist about a year ago when I came for back to school night last.

Kind of jarring to see that new space obscuring the skyline, especially considering it’s right in front of the spot where my friends and I used to hang out every day.

There were some other nice parts of the night too. It’s actually my Mom’s birthday today (and I know she’ll be reading this, so extra happy birthday again!) and it was great watching all of her parent friends wish her well throughout the night as we ran into them.

I mean let’s be honest, I actually brought my Switch to the event thinking I was going to have some boring downtime.

Took it along with me like I was dealing watches on a New York sidewalk:

Have I mentioned I love this jacket?

But I never had to use it. If anything, it was kind of a burden in the long run.

Just goes to show you that when you have some old faculty friends, it’s never a bad time to go visit them. I always look forward to doing so, because it really does help bring some hindsight back to my life.


P.S. Despite the fact that it made for one of the most liked posts I’ve put together in a while, my Grandma didn’t like the picture I took of us the other day.

She requested we take another, so we did:

This time with a much more fancy background.

Enjoy!

A Short Essay on Short Essays

A Short Essay on Short Essays

I don’t know why I insist on writing these posts after going to the gym lately, because really it’s just detrimental for my ability to imagine and write coherent posts.

Though perhaps not as much as the insufferable heat wave yesterday.

I’ll count my blessings where I can.

Speaking of that heat killing all of my motivation, it seems I’ve been fluctuating between work-focused and not at all work-focused quite a bit the past few days. After doing next to nothing yesterday, today I actually got my stuff together enough to be productive. Notably with a job application I’ve been working on that is, admittedly, a far-flung idea for me to feel completely justified talking about in-depth.

Doing that job application has gotten me thinking a little bit about one part of this app, and many others for that matter, that feels somewhat strange to me at the moment.

The personal essay.

I don’t typically put a lot of thought into the idea of writing essays. Growing up I put myself through the wringer of the Advanced Placement course pathway in high school, which included AP Language and AP Literature. We had to write a lot of essays in those classes to prepare us for the AP exams, so I was used to the idea.

Essays also continued to be synonymous with college courses. Every undergraduate-level class has some kind of writing requirement and all of my Communications courses are all about writing.

As a result, you would think essay requirements showing up in job applications would just come in stride.

Which, to be fair, they do for the most part. Whenever I’ve applied for the Daily Titan an essay has always been required, for example.

But for some reason the essay that was asked of me in this current job application stuck out as… The worst, most stand-out part of it.

It took me a little while to figure out exactly why. But I think the conclusion I’ve come to says something about me and the way I tend to approach work.

For me essays make a lot more sense in a job application when they ask for some kind of very specific information. Using the Daily Titan application as an example, the essay portion of that involves answering a couple of questions pertaining to the potential job.

What does the paper do well? What does it not do well? What can you bring to the job you’re applying for that would make it better?

Things like that.

Sure it’s arguably formulaic to go down this route, but the sense of direction those questions bring do make for a straight-forward task. Answering the questions, while utilizing them as conduits for inserting stories of one’s experience as a means of showcasing that individual’s abilities.

The application I’ve been working on doesn’t really have any sort of driving questions like this to give potential employees a sense of direction.

As far as premise goes, this application simply asks for an autobiographical essay to tell the hiring staff something that cannot be garnered from the surrounding questions in the application. Given the fact that it already asks for degree-earning information, references and work samples outside of the essay, that leaves a vague opening for what can be written.

That somewhat vague nature exacerbates a potential pitfall in writing the essay. Or at least it does in my head where I’m more than likely over thinking things, but that’s another story.

If you have an essay for a fairly serious job application essentially asking you to write about anything you want outside of your direct work experience, where is the line in terms of being too casual or not casual enough?

Obviously the whole thing can’t just be the tale of how you won X reward or accomplished Y task, but it’s also probably not great form to do something jokey or entirely non-serious since the serious aspects might be in one’s resume off the bat. Looking like you take the job not at all seriously while applying to it seems like a quick way to lose a potential job.

Now all of this is more of a theoretical thought experiment, as the pragmatic side of me has already sorted out the balance of serious-versus-personal qualities to write about. But seeing my personal preference lean so heavily in the direction of a structured, serious or even academic paper versus one that lets me express myself in an open, even goofy way is interesting. Introspective even.

Perhaps all those years of AP classes really did screw me up for the rest of my life, just like I joke about.

This seems like the perfect opportunity to ask an actually interesting question at the end of one of these blog posts. Where do you feel you stand on the spectrum I described here?

Do you prefer if a job (or anything for that matter) asks structured, serious questions of you? Or more open, vague questions?

Let me know somewhere on the internet, I’d love to hear it!

Jason’s Ten-Dollar Word of the Day

I spent a lot of the day today doing work, copy editing for a number of different people mostly. While I could go on about why that made me late for getting this post out into the world, that would be boring.

Plus anyone reading this after tonight probably wouldn’t care in the first place. So I’m just going to not do that.

Instead I’m going to pull out an interesting tidbit from one of my jobs today and expand on it.

See, while doing a copy edit for a story coming out of Boom sometime soon regarding the current discussions about separating immigrant children from their parents at the border (a topic I don’t plan to delve too deeply into here, don’t worry) I found there were a few words I had to look up to see if they were being used correctly.

One such word stood out in particular because it gave me a more proper term to use for something which otherwise I’ve always treated in a casual manner.


Proselytize

Intransitive Verb form

  1. To induce someone to convert to one’s faith.
  2. To recruit someone to join one’s party, institution, or cause.

Transitive Verb form

  1. To recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution or cause.

via the Merriam-Webster dictionary


Basically, when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your house to talk with you about their faith, they are proselytizing.

The term extends further than just religious door-to-door salesmanship, however. It’s also a politician’s term, a social movement’s term, an industrialist’s term, so on and so forth.

Funny enough, the word actually reminded me of a story I wrote back in 2013 for the High Tide. Julian Stern, a kid who I’d known through being a school acquaintance for some time by then, was running for City Council while just 18 years old.

Very specifically I recall him spending some time in my house to do the interview because he happened to be going door-to-door campaigning in my neighborhood at the time. It was an interesting interview to be sure, and I actually wound up reflecting that in the lede to my article.

You can read the article here, by the way. Bottom right-hand corner of page three.

Looking back on it now I probably would have been laughed out of my high school newsroom for trying to use a term like “proselytize” in my story, but it would’ve fit quite well as a more specific, mature term.

Of course the average reader more easily understood that he was “selling himself rather than magazines,” and that’s why it was the better choice to go with, but still. I would like to see myself use proselytize in a sentence sometime soon.

Also, don’t read too much into my saying ‘selling himself.’ I know you internet, you’ll make anything dirty, but this is not the time.

Stop it.

Well that’s my ten-dollar word of the day. I actually enjoy seeing things like ‘words of the day’ on every online dictionary and goofy calendar ever made, so I might just try to do this again next time I find a new word that’s interesting. If you’d like to see more of it, or if you learned an interesting new word today yourself, let me know down in the comments!

English Papers from the Flip Side

Between going off to meetings in Fullerton and building somewhat mindlessly in Minecraft tonight, I kind of lost track of time and almost forgot to write a thing.

So I’m just going to take the easy way out and riff on something real fast and dirty that I’m finally seeing from a new perspective tonight: High school English essays.

English was probably my favorite subject in high school, which all things being equal makes sense considering the industry I was headed toward by working at the school’s paper for four years.

Don’t listen to young, naive Jason who’s ready to tell you math was my favorite subject in school. Because he’s wrong. Algebra was okay. But the geometry and the trigonometry and the calculus certainly were not.

One out of three classes does not a favorite make, you idiot. Stop lying to yourself.

But hey that’s enough self-reflection and self-flagellation for one night. Obviously that’s not what I’m here to do.

What I’m here to do is talk about English classes, all of which required just a ton of essays every year. Especially AP Language and AP Literature, both boasting the extra requirements of essays specific to the AP tests that were just… A lot of work. Like so much work. Like write three different kinds of essays in the span of an hour after answering 100 multiple choice questions kind of work.

Yet surprisingly enough, I’m not here to relive that nightmare either.

I’m here to talk about the basic weeks-long essays that happened throughout the year in every English class. You know the ones, those essays where one quarter would be focused on persuasive writing, followed by the next quarter focusing on argumentative writing.

I bring up all of this writing because tonight my sister was working on completing final edits for her research paper on how music can effect a person’s perception of restaurants/the meals they eat. Because let’s face it, she’s as one-track-minded about music as I am about video games.

Also just incorporated video games into my post about Aly again. #GotHer

Back in my high school English days, there were many a long night of staying up late with my parents to finish papers. Actual writing, editing for copy, creating work cited pages, and so on.

While I certainly did appreciate their help keeping me from going crazy at the time, I never quite realized how impactful it was to have a couple of good editors around to prevent me from going crazy staring at my own text for too long. My mom has always been the copy editor — now reflected in her career as a book editor (hint hint plug plug) — while my dad has always been the content editor, always good at framing things the right way.

Tonight I got the opportunity to really appreciate the impact of that work when I became both copy and content editor for my sister as my parents were out of the house.

Now you may think my seven years of experience working on newspapers, many of which have been in editorial positions, would have made this a quick-and-easy time.

If so, you too seem to not realize the vast divide that exists between writing short, informational print for newspapers versus writing elegant prose for English essays. Because they are entirely different beasts and switching back to the older style (older in my personal chronology anyway) is kind of a pain.

There were some noticeable benefits to switching back to English prose however, in my opinion.

I got to be more wordy and expand upon thoughts more verbosely, for instance. It has always been a criticism of my work that my papers tend to be too long or wordy, but after many years of focusing on becoming more concise to fit a newspaper format it was a lot easier to take the middle-of-the-road approach.

Not too long, but enough extra space to be able to elaborate on thoughts more readily.

I suppose there really is no good way to end off this short, kind of silly post because Aly has to turn in the essay tomorrow so I can’t resolve the cliffhanger of how well she did on it.

So instead I’ll just say… Thank you mom and dad, for dealing with me when I got so exhausted staring at a paper that you had to do 90 percent of the job by pushing me toward the correct ideas.

Because that’s basically what I had to do tonight, and it was… Interesting seeing things from the other side.



Bonus content:

Enjoy Aly laughing herself into a coma as she seriously loses it trying to edit photos of chef Mario Batali into the powerpoint presentation she needs to accompany her essay.

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Minor musings on Robert F. Kennedy and the English language

On an otherwise lazy day where I basically did next to nothing of note worth talking about with any serious bravado around here, leave it to Dr. Jason Sexton and Boom to give me something interesting and intellectual to reflect on.

Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. It will officially be the 50th anniversary of that event in just three days.

The history of the Kennedy family isn’t exactly something I think about too often, despite the intriguing nature of the “Kennedy curse” as it were.

As a result, it was interesting doing a copy edit on the 17-page essay written by Joseph Palermo. The piece examines the death of Bobby Kennedy and what motives drove the assassination, both the actual motivations and whatever motivations were placed upon the assassin. He questions whether or not it was appropriate to frame the politician’s death using the Israeli-Palestinian crisis (as many tried to do) based on logs of interactions kept by L.A. County Sheriffs who watched Sirhan.

It’s a rather well done piece that I enjoyed reading, one that gave me a deeper understanding of a period of history I don’t often think about too seriously. Dr. Sexton is hoping to get the thing out on Tuesday, the actual 50th anniversary, and I’d recommend everyone read it once it’s out in the world.

However I didn’t just want to take this time to promote an essay that hasn’t yet been released.

I also wanted to spend some time reflecting on the English language, because copy editing writing does give one plenty of opportunities to think about how needlessly dumb and overcomplicated this great language can be.

For example, there are so many words that are spelled similarly but have vastly different meanings.

At one point in the piece, someone is described as being a ‘demur’ person. Thinking the intent had been to write that they were a ‘demure’ person, I looked up the two words to get a better grasp of exactly what the difference was.

According to dictionary.com:


Demur (verb) — To make objection, especially on the grounds of scruples.
also (noun) — The act of making objection; an objection raised.


Demure (adjective) — Characterized by shyness and modesty; reserved.


Amazing how much difference one silent vowel makes, isn’t it?

In one fell swoop, a person can go from having a descriptor for someone to having an action. Or a noun that’s technically the embodiment of what that verb creates.

No wonder English language learners need extra assistance, the whole construct is just chocked full of rules, exceptions and similar elements like homophones that make it a nightmare to truly master the damn thing.

But hey, that’s the world I’m looking to immerse myself in one of these days, so it’s just my lot in life to try and learn, understand and apply these kinds of specifics.

Guess it’s a good thing I’ve got opportunities like Boom, Gladeo and the Titan around to help me start to work on everything, huh?