On Friday, Desad and I completed the Xbox 360 game, Gears of War, in co-op mode on Hardcore. For those unacquainted with the video game lexicon, it marks the third Friday in a row in which Desad and I electronically fought evil subterranean monsters called Locust for five hours straight, while yelling random phrases like “Boomers flanking left! Flank! Boomers! Left!” and “Help me up! I’m geared. Hurry before the Berserker . . . ah s**t!” as well as the ever popular “What happened?! You died again?” We chose this over getting wasted with a lot of pretty girls.

I am the Renaissance geek, a man for all obsessions: anime, comics, biochemistry, video games, elves and dragons, epic literature, manga, word games, black and white movies, and Ren faires. I’ve done it all. A lover of all trades, yet admittedly a master of no one. Yet these multitude of distractions bare far more importance as I have begun school again and my obsessions are interfering with my homework . . . in a good way. This is particularly the case with a rich story, the essential read. For example, tomorrow I have a midterm for which, though open notebook, I have prepared very little, the cool autumn climate drawing me outside among the flame-colored woods and to another yearly reading of The Hobbit. Honestly the whole of human scholarship would benefit if instead of midterms it dedicated the whole month of October to reading beneath leaf piles Bradbury, Tolkien, Poe, Gaiman, Stoker, Alexander, Conan Doyle, and that wonderful unknown monk who inscribed Beowulf. Along with a vast multitude of other authors, who I consider “autumn writers,” these masters of the macabre and fantastical harvest such wondrous tales that for me makes this time of year so magical, so beautiful and necessary like the scent of wood smoke, crackle of leaves, and smiles of jack o’ lanterns.

Thus, teachers and professors out there must forgive me my departure from the syllabus, as I abandon papers and forget online discussion boards (who can remember to check the growing host of statements, opinions, and rants anyway?). Come see me again mid-January when the frigid cold and icy roads keep me chained to my assignments, and boredom snaps its whip to “Write! Write! Write!” lest I go mad with inactivity. Now is my time of the year, a season into which I can throw myself with great abandon.


4 thoughts on “Distractions

  1. Yes, it was actually. The format involved two short essays and one long essay. Per my habit, the short essays actually ended up being longer than the “long” essay, but hopefully these epithets represented mere suggestions than actual rules.

    As I said, the test allowed open book and open notebook but only an hour and a half to complete all three essays; nevertheless, I just continued to write with some speed, filling in the paragraphs with my own arbitrary thoughts and hopefully relevant opinions, which the course being more philosophical in nature required. Judging from the our usual two hour class discussions and hour lectures, I guessed that the midterm would mostly likely center around essays and allow me to work my magic.

    This is not to suggest that the professor does not expect specific answers. Let me relate this tangent as an example:

    I received back an assignment earlier this week, a paper requesting “4 -10 pages in length” — according to the syllabus — analyzing a resource against ten criteria. Yet his complaints against my finished work centered on my lack of bolded words to distinguish the criteria I was to discuss. In other words, he did not enjoy the narrative format employed but wished the paper to feature subject headings and bulleted text for quick reading.

    “Even if you decided to use a table to analyze the resource, that would have been fine,” he said.

    By my opinion, the paper was well-organized. listing not only a summary of the ten criteria but the order in which they were to be discussed in the paper. Moreover, the content of the paper flowed easily between topics, completely reviewing the resource against each criteria. The header and kicker, again by my opinion, extracted witty interesting quotes from various resources that fit well with the topic resource. His corrections show no criticism against my writing or the content of the analysis, only mentioning the lack of labels as a severe criticism.

    Nowhere in the Assignment Description does it state that papers should be organized with bolded section headers or bolded type at all. Moreover, the required length of the essay — in my mind — nullifies any tables or bulleted text. I must have missed that in the Blackboard discussion.

    All in all I am left a little hurt that my professor so quickly discarded or ignored the style and content of my paper for asinine labels. It would have been easily to do it his way, but nevertheless, I think that I understand him better now. He wants lists and instruction guides, not stories or essays. That is fine with me; the course just got a lot easier — and less interesting.

  2. I can see this from the professor’s view point though. Although I haven’t read your paper, I imagine that it fulfills the necessary explicitly stated requirements with the added Klein-style of flowery prose attached to it, probably because your creative writing skills have been repressed for too long in the classroom environment. However, this is a masters degree in a science.

    Of course, this professor sounds like he cares little for the finer details and is more interested in the promulgation of technological awareness. Perhaps he thinks that one day life will become as mechanical as a google search.

  3. I agree totally; although, my repressed explosion of “flowery prose” in the classroom has run its course weeks ago. Amid my first or second writing assignment, I may have conceded this point, but this more recent assignment — analyzing a dictionary — lacked any excess of style or pageantry. No, the use of an essay, relying on paragraphs that flow into and connect to one another, organized by an introduction, thesis statement, and conclusion, prompted my professor’s criticism.

    Nor would I agree that a masters degree in science necessitates such an absence of narrative style. High-profile journals such as Science, Nature, and National Geographic, marketing to a wider general audience, require a readable prose-oriented style absent of the formal partitioning characteristic of high school lab reports. Additionally, many researchers with whom I’ve worked even support the return of the first-person to formal lab reports, replacing the passive “It was found that . . .” with active voice, “We found that . . .” Thus, I do not think it odd to find narrative essays (or simply essays themselves) in a masters level course in information science.

    No, as stated before, the form and character of the assignment is not a requirement of the curriculum but of my professor. I accept this fact in so far as I am told or informed of the desired format. However, I do not relish being informed upon grading that I failed to heed a few comments in the online discussion boards, not part of the original (and also online) assignment description.

    As I said, I understand my professor more now. Yet, this understanding is reflective, mirroring my own desires and habits as well. I enjoy my (albiet imperfect) writing, and unless previously informed of a preferred format, will continue writing interesting essays and narratives. To write well is my primary concern, not to necessarily analyze the resource or please my professor; although I hope that I can accomplish that too.

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