Researching fun!

January 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last week was a great researchy kinda week.  Had the SPC librarians in to tell my class about research, and over at HCC, I spent all day Wednesday in the lab teaching those students how to research…  Well, trying to, at least.  There’s just so much to cover!! And it’s all new in the last 10 years or so!  Crazy!

So anyway, that’s what I did Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thursday, I utilized those same resources to get ready for my Friday morning Brit Lit class, where we were discussing the background of Anglo-Saxon literature…  it was fun!

Anyways, I thought it might be an interesting post to discuss the research I did, and the types of things I found.

Okay, at both SPC and HCC, we use the Linccweb databases, which I imagine are probably pretty standard across the board.  You know, EBSCO, Gail, Wilson, etc… I really prefer the EBSCO Databases.  Not for any significant reason, but just because I think they’re easy to use, with lots of nice features.  Features are important in research.  Seriously. And in general, EBSCO’s Academic Search Complete is the first database I show my students.  It’s a fun one… and I show them the Newspaper database (America’s newspapers.  very cool…)

But the best databases, jut for sheer fun stuff, are ARTStor and FMG.  ARTStor is, as the title suggests, all about art… It rocks.  Great images, all in HD.  Pick a topic, type in the search term, and … boom!  Great images!  Love it.  And FMG… well, we also call that “Films on Demand”!  And that’s the one I primarily used for my Anglo-Saxon research.  Not only did I find Benjamin Bagby performing Beowulf (IN OLD ENGLISH!!!!!) I also found several documentaries talking about Beowulf and the time period.  Very interesting.

Plus, you know, I had to re-read (from about 15 years ago) the intro material in The Norton Anthology of English Literature.  Fascinating stuff.  I’m not even being sarcastic.  It’s about the only textbook where I’ve ever read, and taken notes on (without protest), the intro material.  Normally, that’s the worst part.  But in the NAEL, it’s fascinating…

It all culminated in a Powerpoint that I used in class Friday morning.  Hopefully my students found it interesting.  I did.  Plus I had fun making it.  Actually, it’s still not done all the way… need to cite my sources still… oops!

Prof. Wilson

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Writing…

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Okay, so this is supposed to be a reading and writing journal, but so far I’ve only written about reading.  Well, it’s time to write about writing.  Specifically, it’s time to write about blogging.  Very late last night, I started uploading pics onto my other blog to write a post about the table I decoupaged over Labor Day weekend.  Well, the silly thing took on a life of its own. See, I was only going to get the pis up loaded and just write the intro, and then go to bed.  After all, it was 4 am. But, once I started working on the intro, I couldn’t stop writing.  It’s like it was pressing against my brain just dying to get out…

This actually happens to me quite often.  With any of my creative outlets.  I’ll get an idea, and I cannot rest until I have it out of my brain… or at least started (but that only works with the exceptionally large projects that require multiple days of work… and usually drying time…)

Another thing that happens to me quite often is that a project that is intended to be short and sweet (a quick blog post, just a pair of earrings, decoupaging the top of a little table) gets a mind of its own and becomes a monstrosity. In fact, read down a few posts; you can see several examples of that happening in my writing right here on this blog. I intended all these posts to be much of a muchness–just quick entries discussing various ideas I’ve had.  As you can see, a few of them really got out of hand.

So, why am I discussing all this?  Well, mainly just to point out that when it comes to writing, just like any other creative outlet (and don’t let anyone ever tell you different–anything you write can be a creative outlet, even that pesky research paper I’m requiring) it’s sometimes best to just let it go.  I don’t mean let it go and don’t do it… I mean let it go and take you over for a brief span.  You never know where you might end up.  Maybe with a beautiful new table or an awesome set of jewelry you can give as a gift!

Prof. Wilson

What have I been reading lately…

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Well, mostly I’ve been reading stuff I already read years ago.  A lot of Mercedes Lackey books, especially the Valdemar series. Actually, I’m attempting to read them as close to chronological as I can, just because… The problem is that several of the books overlap timelines, but in different locations and with different characters. I like her books, and these are generally the books I come back to when I’m bored, simply because she writes a great story.  I’m near the end of Arrow’s Fall right now.  Not sure what I’ll read next. Actually, I’ll probably end up reading two books next, along with a bunch of essays (which I will not discuss here…)

Other than that, I’ve found a few new blogs. My favorite so far is the Brave Girl Blog. It’s two sisters, Melody and Kathy, who started the group about a year ago.  They just started the blog this past weekend, and I’m already in love.  It ‘s all self-helpy without being self-helpy, if that makes any sense… eh, it does to me.  I think the thing I like most about this blog is their use of crafts.  As anyone who knows me can attest, I am an absolute, unabashed craftaholic.  From what I can tell so far, the basic premise of the Brave Girl Club is to remind women everywhere to be strong, to be beautiful, and to love themselves and the things they can create. They say it better on the site.  Check it out! (oh, and just try not to fall in love with all the color!  I love the look of this blog!)

Enjoy!

Prof. Wilson

A ramble through Bon Temps… (some thoughts on Sookie Stackhouse)

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

FYI–Borderline spoilers follow (for the books, at least…)

So the session has started, which got me to thinking about the various essays I assign and whatnot, one of which is a Critical Comparison.  And so, since I spent the week before classes began rereading all of Harris’ Sookie books (except for the very last one that was released in May–haven’t had a chance to get it yet) I got to thinking about how very different some of the specifics of Harris’s novels are compared to the show True Blood. Now, let me preface this discussion that I have not yet seen Season 3 of True Blood.  I do not have cable at all, much less HBO (very sad) and so must wait for the DVDs. 😦 Oh well, I’ll live…

Okay, so yeah, I love True Blood, and I love all the Sookie Stackhouse books. Charlaine Harris created a truly nifty character with Sookie and a world that is a lot of fun to get lost in (you know, what with all the vamps and weres and shifters and stuff…. and fairies! LOL!)

Alright, so with the comparison essay I assign my students, there is, of course, a limit on what they can discuss, and their essay is 3-4 pages.  Seeing as this is a blog entry, I’ll see about making this a bit shorter (but I make no guarantees.)  So, obviously, I won’t be looking at all the differences in the two formats.  With the departures that the show writers have taken with the characters and storyline just in Seasons 1 and 2, that would take an entire book to effectively discuss. And at the moment, I just don’t have that kind of time.  So I’ll be looking at some of the highlights, as I see it, of the differences, along with discussing why I think those differences matter (after all, that is what I ultimately want from the 1101 Comparison essay… the why of the matter…)

First off (btw–don’t ever use that particular phrase…), I can’t really say too much about the major book characters.  Sookie is there, about as you would expect her (sometimes a bit too sugary sweet, but cute nonetheless…) Bill is handsome and manly as ever, Sam is just the bestest guy you could ever want to meet (with occasional really bad taste in women.) Eric is sexy and scary, Pam isn’t quite what I would have expected from the books, but I like her all the same. Jason is Jason, Andy is Andy,  and Arlene, well, I really hope Arlene doesn’t go the way she did in the books.  That was sad…

I’m hoping we get to see Alcide in Season 3, but like I said, I’ll just have to wait to see (actually, I’m really hoping we’ll get to see Quinn one of these days.  I like Quinn.  Feel kinda bad for Quinn…) So some of you, especially those of you who haven’t read the books (you should, they’re pretty good) might wonder why I didn’t mention Lafayette or Tara.  Here’s why: neither of these characters is a major part of the overall books.  Okay, I take that back, Lafayette actually plays a HUGE role in one of the books, but in a VERY different way than we see him in the show. He gets murdered…  and Maryann isn’t even in the books, at least not by name.

Okay, so back to my focus. (yeah, I’m tangent-y today.  That’s why revision, which I probably won’t do much of on this post, is so very important!) Some of the major differences in the two formats… Well, the main thing that comes to mind just now is the relationships. And, because they sort of go together, characterization.  I’m going to have to wait and see how Sookie’s relationship with Bill falls out in Season 3, but by the end of Book 3, (Club Dead, great book) she’s back to being single. I have a feeling that may be where the show writers are taking it, which is nice, because it then opens us up to all the possibilities that Harris gave us in the novels. One of the major relationship departures between the two formats, though, is Sookie’s immediate relationship with Tara.  Tara is in the novels, but in a very different way.  In the first few books, we rarely see her at all, and when she does start making appearances, she’s there only briefly.  On the other hand, in the series, she’s a major player from the get go, and, quite frankly, she’s spunky and fun.  A bit harsh on occasion, yes, but you can see where she gets that from.  And in what I honestly consider a stroke of genius, the writers decided to totally redirect Lafayette’s character.  He’s still flamboyantly homosexual, but he’s also Tara’s cousin, and (happily for him) he doesn’t get murdered (at least he hasn’t yet.  I hope he lives, I really like him as a character.  Plus, he’s not bad on the eyes!).

The world of the story itself is actually pretty similar in each form, and I think one of the reasons I like the story so much is because, even with all the supernatural that’s included, it’s still oddly plausible.  Harris has created characters who may have to drink blood to live, or who may change into wolves or panthers or collies (I love that Sam changes into a collie… that’s just so… Sam… you know?) or characters who are demons or fairies or whatever, but regardless, we can look at these characters and actually feel a connection.  They are all, vamp or were or shifter, still human, int he most basic sense.  They want what they want, and they need human connection to fulfill the holes in their existences.  This makes these characters real to the reader or viewer. To me, that’s the mark of a good novelist–someone who can make you care for the characters on the page.

Okay, so I think it’s time to end this.  It’s a rambly little post (but, because it is a journal entry, that’s okay. So remember that.  Journals, ramble on.  Essays, be more specific…) Hope you enjoyed it!  Now go read something and write a journal entry of your own! Have fun!!

Prof. Wilson

Blogs I enjoy… and a litle bit about Voice…

August 5, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’ve found, in the last few years, that I really enjoy reading blogs.  I’ve found some that were just odd and not so much fun to read, but I’ve also found a few gems.

I do have the “fluff” blogs (as I call them) that are primarily funny photos (I can has Cheeseburger, Cake Wrecks (so, yeah, I just got sucked into the Wreckage as I was looking up the web address… lol!) Ugliest Tattoo, Regretsy (fyi–these last two, often not suitable for the kiddos… just sayin’.) You know, fun fluffy stuffs…) and I generally check back on these blogs every few days, when I need a bit of downtime and a good chuckle.

And, of course, there are my business-y blogs, giving me tips and tricks and ideas for my jewelry business.  These are good because I am, essentially, clueless… Most of these blogs come from either Artfire or Etsy, and you can find them at those sites, if you’re interested.

And then I have the blogs that I read because I love the writer’s voice (aka, my “fun blogs.”) These are the blogs that I look forward to the writers’ new posts, and I tend to have these in my Google Reader.  In this category we have things like Epbot (how cute is that lil’ robot! I wants him!), Points for Creativity (a good friend of mine who blogs rarely, but it’s worth it when she does!), and Sacking the Llamas (from a former student on whom I blame MY blogging now… :)). There are other blogs I enjoy, of course, but these are kinda my big three. The writers of these blogs are people who I’m either friends with, or who I think I could very easily be friends with, and I enjoy hearing (yes, hearing, even though I’m reading) what they have to say.  This is where that idea of “voice” comes back in. See, this is one of those things that I have the occasional trouble explaining to students.  Voice. And tone.

So what does that mean? Well, per Dictionary.com, “voice” can be defined, grammatically speaking, as “expression in written or spoken words.”   Hmmm… clear as mud… Let’s look at tone, then.  Again, per Dictionary.com, “tone” is defined as “a particular style or manner, as of writing or speech; mood.”  Hmmm… that helps a bit more.  See, voice and tone are things that I am concerned with for my students, but they’re also something that I instinctively grasp.  I think part of that is because I am an avid reader and writer, but I also have a strong musical background, and these are things that we talk about there, as well.

So, how do I see the voice and tone of my favorite blogs?  Well, the fluff blogs are just that, fluff.  There’s not a great amount of writing, necessarily, but because of the nature of the blogs, what is there tends to be more sarcastic or humorous in nature, going for the easy laugh.  After all, that’s what those sites are about. The business-y blogs usually maintain a bit more formal tone, although not like something you’d see in an academic or medical-type journal.  Just, they’re not going for the laugh, they’re trying to impart useful information, so the way they present that info is going to be more formal in nature.  That’s not to say they’re not fun to read, because they often are.  The authors very often do a very good job of leavening their serious info with fun anecdotes.

Now my fun blogs, their voices are very different from these other two categories. Jen, the writer of Epbot, has tagged her blog as “Geekery, Girliness, & General Goofing Off.” (Incidentally, she’s also one of the writers of Cake Wrecks). One of the main reasons I love this blog is because, quite frankly, she speaks to me. You know?  I, myself, am “geeky” and “girly,” and I do tend to goof off quite often… (and yes, I’m paying a bit of am homage to Beetlejuice… did ya catch it?) Her voice, though, is so much fun! She’s enthusiastic, occasionally a little bit sarcastic, and she references all the movies I grew up on (and I have the feeling, she does so because they’re the same movies she grew up on.)  Jessica, from Points for Creativity, is an old friend from way back.  Her voice, in the case of her blog, is also a little bit sarcastic, very enthusiastic, and a little bit self-deprecating. Plus, she discusses her crafty endeavours, and she’s incredibly talented.  She’s given me some of the best pointers I could have ever gotten in terms of how to think outside the box (which is one of my big problems…) And Chris, from Sacking the Llamas, now he’s a very methodical writer (just what I could have asked for in a student! LOL!) But at the same time that he’s methodical, he’s also a bit geeky himself (yes, I’ve tended to surround my virtual life with geeks. In the real world, I’m not the lone geek, but there’s not too others around.  I’m okay with that!) Chris discusses gaming, and books, and computers, and puts a lot of research into his more lengthy posts, providing extensive links. His posts are interesting, well-thought out, and I’m always eager to see what else he has to say.

Voice and tone are definitely important in writing. The proper turn of phrase can change the entire reception of a piece. The kicker is that some writers automatically have a grasp of the proper use of voice and tone.  Others have to work on this. But, as with all other things writing-related, practice can help.  And feedback.  Feedback is ALWAYS important, and probably the most helpful aspect of writing.

So, get out there and write!  Have fun with it!

Prof. Wilson

When Casting goes wrong…

July 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

So, I just finished reading Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. Good book, but this is one of those weird cases where the film versions of The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons (both superb books) have ruined my image of a character. See, I love Tom Hanks.  Really, I do.  He’s a great actor, and by all accounts, a nice guy.  I’ve very much enjoyed most of the films I’ve seen him in.  But he is just not Robert Langdon.

But, other than my problem with the casting of the films, which kept invading my brain as I read, the book was, as usual, well researched and thought out.  I really enjoy reading Brown’s books, and Symbol was no exception.  It is, however, a book read with the Internet at hand. In fact, I have an “Illustrated” Angels and Demons, and it was one of the best things I ever purchased. All the artwork he mentions in the pages of Angels is included in the illustrated edition, which makes reading it oh-so-much easier!

The Lost Symbol is interesting because we finally have a symbology-based novel based in the US, in our Capital, no less. So all the detail the Brown provides in his other novels is finally focused on something closer to home (kinda like the National Treasure movies.)  I think that’s why I read his novels–to find out all the nifty stuff hidden in plain sight.  Cuz they don’t teach you that stuff in school (at least, not in that detail) and that stuff is fascinating (for example, I didn’t know that Darth Vader is on the National Cathedral).  But not so much that I want to go to school to study it myself.  I’d rather have someone else do the research and tell me about it, hence Brown’s novels… LOL!

So this one was all about the Masons, which I knew a little bit about, and the story was round all about with new sciences (Noetic Science, which actually exists, pretty cool) and a murder mystery/kidnapping, so it was fun…

Not sure what I’ll read next, but I’ll find something interesting!

Prof. Wilson

That Silly Extra Credit Assignment…

July 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

So, another blog… but this one also has a specific purpose, and I expect it to have a very defined reader-base.  Unlike the Crafting English Prof, this is a blog specifically to be used as a Reading and Writing journal to serve as an example to my students, when I ask them to do a reading journal as extra credit. In fact, that’s why I’m starting it now–to have a month or so to get enough entries in here for them to really ponder.  And really, I could do with a new writing journal… one I’m not likely to misplace any time soon.  So, at the moment, I need to get back to grading, but I’ll be back soon to post a proper reading/writing journal entry…

Have a great day!

Prof. Wilson