#323: The Book Club

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I’m going to continue my trend of writing about the most recent fics I’ve been into, and the next one is about a book club. When I described it to one of my friends, after she finished reading it she said, “This is the most you subject matter ever.” And she’s right about that; writing about high school and book clubs is within my nature. I’m still an English major, even years after graduating from college, and I feel like writing about high school is pretty easy, considering I used to teach at one. It’s not difficult to imagine what it’s like to live as an average high school student when so many average high school students are in your classes and beyond. Being in a book club, though, is a different story entirely.

Being part of a book club would be great. I haven’t actually joined one in all my years of reading, but I remember in grad school when one of my professors wanted to start one with some of us after the course ended. It was our grammar course, in which I learned all about morphology and sentence diagrams and trees. The fun, nitty-gritty stuff that you don’t learn in school any more, but probably should. It helps to know the mechanics and grammar of English, even if grammar is a social construct. I don’t like how grammar is used to belittle people who speak or write differently, but I think some grammar instruction would go a long way towards helping people grow as writers and readers. Some kids aren’t able to identify parts of speech, let alone discuss what an independent clause is. I think some of the basics of grammar should be essential learning, even if it’s tough to grasp. It benefits our knowledge of English so much.

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#314: The Bar, Part 1

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Despite being an amateur poet, I could never write song lyrics successfully. There’s a certain musicality to the words that I lack and can’t seem to grasp. It’s not that I’ve ever really tried, though. My experience with words is in function, mostly; I look at words and see them as having clear definitions with clear usage cases. Use this word here under these circumstances, don’t use this word when this other word precedes it, things like that. Words are complicated, fickle things, and it’s impossible to ever really know what sounds right to everyone. People interpret language differently. Grammar was invented to create a sense of what’s “proper” and “improper,” but grammar varies by location. Certain rules are consistent across location, but regionalisms exist for a reason.

Originally, I was going to write this blog post about experience bars, and how they incentivize progression in video games. Instead I went on a tangent and decided to talk about words. I’m not sure how the connection came to be, but I’m going to just keep going and see where it takes me.

In grad school, I took a class on morphology, the study of word formations, and we learned sentence diagrams and morphology trees. They were essential to our growth as future English teachers; being able to justify how sentences work and the intrinsic grammar to them was a fantastic gift.

When doing creative writing, I found that mixing up my grammar created the best reading experience. Trying different sentence structures and fiddling with the rules a bit is necessary to diversify the reading experience. You can’t just write a bunch of bland, declarative sentences over and over again, with hopes that it will eventually sound good. There’s a reason the greatest writers are masters of grammar; they know when to break the rules.

#234: The Website

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Building a website isn’t easy. No matter what service you end up using, be it WordPress, Squarespace, or what have you, it’s never a simple process, no matter what the websites tell you in their advertisements. I’ve heard from countless podcasts how Squarespace is the future of personal website designing, for example, and part of that is probably because of the deliberate wording of the advertisement itself, but it’s not what it claims to be, at least from my experience. Making a website that looks the same as countless other carbon copied websites is not enough, in my opinion, to sell me on the service.

When I was unemployed for awhile, my therapist recommended I consider making my own website, that way I can advertise my services there while still pursuing the job hunt elsewhere. I knew about Squarespace because of the podcasts I listen to, and I decided to try it out while I had nothing to lose. Why not, honestly? Maybe I’d get some emails from interested people. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen much, probably as a result of me not advertising the website very well. There’s the other thing: Squarespace doesn’t advertise for you, you have to do that on your own. You just pay for the domain and the services.

If I were pursuing a different professional career path, I could definitely see the potential of making my own website, as a sort of updated resume that keeps track of what I’ve done over time and shows to the world what I can do. I know of a few writers and graphic designers who keep professional websites for themselves, and that feels like a great use of resources. However, not all of us are in those specific career fields, so I’m not sure I’d recommend making a website for yourself unless you really needed one.

#126: The Lexile

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Lexile levels are a way of examining individual texts for language complexity. A text that has a higher Lexile level, say, One Hundred Years of Solitude, has more complex language than The Cat in the Hat. Lexile takes into account the individual complexity of the words used in a text, not so much focusing on textual features or figurative language, which is where it tends to fall short. It only takes into account prose as a framework for reading, without considering poetry or books of that type.

For example, Locomotion, the book I’m reading with my reading group at work, is not rated at all on Lexile. It is given an NP rating, or “Non-Prose,” to denote that it isn’t available for an actual rating because of its style. It’s a shame that Lexile doesn’t take into account poetry more often, as I think it would deepen the potential for using Lexile to teach poetry.

Solitude has a Lexile level of about 1410, which is at a college reading level. Meanwhile, middle school students are expected to be able to read books between a 900-1100 Lexile level, denoting that they shouldn’t have trouble reading the book or won’t run into any words that completely obstruct the meaning of the text. The reason I mention this is because, coming up soon, middle school students will be taking the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), and the test uses Lexile levels to monitor where students’ reading levels are. Students are given a template text at a standard, middle school level, and then depending on how well they answer comprehension questions associated with the text, they are given either a harder or easier text.

Lexile is interesting to me because it quantifies what “complexity” means in terms of reading. It actually gives a definition to it, rather than just baselessly saying that a text is “harder” than another. It provides a scientific framework.

#18: The Scorned

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In Destiny 2, there’s a group of enemies called The Scorn, an undead legion of motorcycle gangsters who run roughshod over the Tangled Shore, scaring those who dare enter their domain with lanterns aflame and steel chains whirling. They are called Scorn as a result of their deformed appearance, maladroit personality, and vengeful motivation.

To scorn is, according to Merriam-Webster, “to feel or express contempt or derision for.” Alternatively, it can mean “to refuse to do something because one is too proud.” Scorn comes from a place of superiority, whether given or just perceived, and it often connotes a sense of wrongness; when scorned, a person feels wronged by something or someone. Scorn creates the wrongness.

Even muttering the word “scorn” leaves a venomous taste in the mouth. Try it. It’s one of those words that sounds the way it ought to sound, where the emotion derived from its definition matches the word’s phonology. Gritted teeth, parsed tongue, an “n” sound that feels like it might go on forever.

Though unlikely, it is possible to feel scorn while also feeling scorned against, to look down upon something while simultaneously looked down upon by that same thing. A vindictive person, when scorned, can feel an unmatched sense of purpose towards their destination.

It should come as no surprise to those who read this blog that I belong to this category of scorned individuals. When you have given your most important possessions away, your health, your happiness, your sanity, your relationships, for one thing, and then to have that thing turn around and leave you alone to suffer the consequences, the anger that comes over you is unlike anything else. I wish it were easier to feel unmoved by this, but such an important and lasting part of one’s life can never be forgotten permanently. I will always remember the people who reached out to me when I was at my lowest, and I will always remember those who gossiped about my condition. I saw smiling faces on the walls of this place, faces I once knew but have not heard from in months. People who cared enough to say hello in the hallways, but not enough to ask what’s wrong.

Do I dare disturb the universe?

Lackluster Words

The

It

To

A

The word “word”

(And its plural form)

Selfish

Independent

Wisdom

Angst

The word “the”

White

Black

Gray

Between

Or “betwixt”

Lackluster

Unimpressive

Meaningless

Mediocre

The word “ordinary”

The word is dry, like a sweltering wasteland

Surrounding a great, untouched library

Unexplored, unlimited, omnipresent.

The world demands your word.

 

 

Down the River

Image

In the heat of the evening breeze, I see

A flower soar right in front of me.

I saw it dance and saw it fly,

But then I saw that lonely flower die.

The nature is rushing down the river.

The freezing water makes them shiver.

The cold is long in the summer’s embrace

And the flower’s death brought tears to my face.

With heat comes cold, and seasons too

For when they change, the world turns blue.

I see it when I walk for long,

As nature sings it melancholic song,

The death of a flower, oh so small,

I wonder if it happened to them all?

Would we notice and would we care?

This world I see, for all to share.

I worry and I preach: “beware!”

For those flowers dancing eternally in the air,

For all we know will soon despair;

The future I see is all too near.

One by one they’ll drop from the sky.

And I can only ask why.