Coerced Congeniality Selections from the email I sent out to my intelligent but shy Introduction to Literary Journalism class this quarter. My answers are in italics: For the better part of three years I've enviously eyed the conversational flow of the upper-division writing seminars. Today I realized the reason for the ease with which students in these seminars speak is entirely due to a simple fact: they know each other. They've taken at least four or five classes and/or workshops together, so they're comfortable talking to and before each other. So I thought long and hard about how to artificially recreate that environment in Intro. to LJ, and the best I could come up with is a questionnaire that y'all will fill out. Over the listserv. Is it awkward? Yes. Uncomfortable? Of course. But it'll help you to understand the people with whom you'll be sharing your thoughts and work over the next eight weeks. So when you reply, make sure you reply to the entire class, and when you speak in class, make sure you say your name so your classmates can begin to associate your face with your name. As a show of good faith, I'll answer first. 2. What would your mascot be? What would it look like? A robot monkey made of wood. 3. How do you feel about competitive eating? What competitive eating contest would you enter if you were forced to do so? Moral qualms notwithstanding--more than half the world's starving as I write--I have don't have strong feelings about competitive eating one way or another. On the one hand, half the world starving; on the other hand, they eat a lot of hot dogs and I'm a vegetarian...and the fewer hot dogs in the world, even if they are World Famous Nathan's Footlong Hot Dogs, the better. 5. Name four websites you check almost every time you go online. www.baseballprospectus.com: For the sabermetrically inclined baseball fan. Don't know what I'm talking about? Read Michael Lewis' Moneyball. Want to read it for this class? You can! Just ask. www.thevalve.org: A collection of literary critics I respect who have their own blog. They're connected to both www.littleprofessor.typepad.com and www.crookedtimber.org. Both excellent sites. www.aldaily.com: So I can learn what important cultural and political figures have died and why their deaths are as important as those of the important people who died last week. Also, the best source for information about upcoming books and essay collections. www.nytimes.com : Because I'm too lazy to watch television. 6. What do you think'll kill you? What steps are you taking to thwart it? The way people drive in Southern California, I'd have to say I'll probably die in an accident on the way to Albertson's. I'll thwart it by never leaving my apartment. By week four, this'll be a correspondence course; week eight, I'll stop answering email; week ten, you won't even remember you're in Intro. to LJ. You'll wonder why you have that nagging feeling every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning...
The Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle...in Sweets. Uncouth though it may be to mock earnest high school students who trace Darwin's voyage around the globe in brownies or cookies, I can't resist. I'm a horrible person for mocking a young mind who thought it "scientific" to draw Galapagos finches with cake icing. I'm a shit for laughing the efforts of one young man to construct a Galapagos tortoise from a pie and five cupcakes. Fortunately, I don't even know what to make of the H.M.S. Beagle "pie." (Nor do I understand why the young lady felt compelled to shudder quote "pie.") But what's really, really terrible is how I'm about to quote, verbatim, the "poetic" efforts of an anonymous student who, instead of baking, composed a tribute to Darwin in rhyme: Charles Robert Darwin was his name. The evolution theory was his claim to fame. He studied theology and received his bachelor's degree, from a highly noted school, Cambridge University. Darwin was a naturalist on a British expedition. To study plants and animals was his mission. The H.M.S. Beagle sailed far and near. Darwin found new animals in places rare. Darwin had a large collection of fossils. He knew that his finds were colossal. The fossils connected life old and new. And from this his theory grew. After studying his organism collection. He developed the theory, natural selection. Survival of the fittest was another name, for the natural selection game. The people of his time were shocked by his theory. Of humans from monkeys, they were wary. Darwin's theories impacted religious thought. And changed the science that was taught. Darwin lived until 1882, but his work is still studied by me and you.