Monthly Archives: September 2014

Capstone Adventures: Finishing Kanye

Last night, I turned in a final draft of an article about Kanye West for Part I of my honors capstone project. I spent all summer working on it, and although I’m mostly happy with it and the experience I had writing it, I’m glad that it’s over.

I wrote a paper about “Yeezus” and the exploration of a producer/product relationship, and what that adds to postmodern art. If it isn’t published anywhere, I’ll be sure to post it here.

My first idea for my capstone project was to write a collection of personal essays, and then write a reflective paper about the entire experience. But because that didn’t happen, I’m going to put it here. Self-reflection is an important step in the writing process, because it’ll eventually make you hyper-aware of your own process.

I seem to be best at brainstorming if I have unlimited time to come up with ideas. I write better under tighter deadlines.

The reason the first essay took so long was partly because I had a full work schedule, but mostly because my procrastination was at an all time high. I had due dates, but I couldn’t get my brain to understand that this was a Very Big Deal. But at 10:30 p.m. every deadline night, I was typing like a madwoman.

If you don’t make something a priority, it’ll never get done.

Related to that, I realized that I have to put more time into the next two essays I have to write — especially now that I  have class to go to and grad school apps to finish.

Me for most of this project. But seriously, I know that it's going to make me a better writer so I'm glad that I'm getting the chance to do it.

Me for most of this project (and the rest of this year, quite frankly). But seriously, I know that it’s going to make me a better writer so I’m glad that I’m getting the chance to do it.

Getting feedback from other people who understand you and how your brain works is crucial.

I was really lucky that I had a couple of friends who were interested in the subject and reading my work, and caught syntactical and grammatical mistakes that I had missed in my haze of furious typing. I’d also like to find some kind of nonfiction writing group to share my work with, but most of my friends in the English department prefer writing fiction.

Drafts are wonderful because you have multiple chances to really nail something.

The first draft of the essay was absolute crap, but the fifth and sixth ones were actually pretty okay. There’s nothing like awesome track changes comments from your professor about the things you did right.

You really have to examine all of the theoretical aspects of writing before or close to the start: structure, purpose, etcetera.

I almost always sketch out how I want my essay to look and where I want to place things, but for the next two essays I want to set them up better. I started thinking deeply about the structure and my significance statement in the third and fourth draft, and I’d like to hit that in the first or second draft.

Idea maps are awesome.

Typing my ideas at the bottom of my word document or keeping the structure in my head are both ideas that do not work for me. I found that the best way to organize all of my thoughts and decide what to keep or cut was to actually write it out. I took a huge piece of craft paper, taped it on my wall, and wrote all of my ideas out on it so that I could see something physical. It was easier to draw arrows and lines connecting things than trying to do that electronically. I found this cool program called FreeMind late in the project, but this helped me preserve my ideas when I got sick of staring at the paper.

My very high-tech and innovative brainstorming method. I go to a polytechnic, you know.

My very high-tech and innovative brainstorming method. I go to a polytechnic, you know. (Gratuitous appearance by my record player and AM.)

Keep up momentum.

I need to block out significant chunks of time on my schedule for the rest of this project on a more consistent basis. One essay down, two more to go.

Do you have any tips on paper-writing? Let me know in the comments.



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Link Party: 9/22-9/26

Also as a Friday tradition, I'm going to try and upload a photo I took that didn't end up anywhere else on my social media channels. This week, an ink installation by a few new friends at the university art gallery.

And as a new Friday tradition, I’m going to try and upload a photo I took that didn’t end up anywhere else on my social media channels. This week, an ink installation by a few new friends on display at the university art gallery.

In honor of it being Friday, here are some of the cooler things I read this week:

1. My Monday morning instantly got better when I stumbled across this unearthed Ezra Koenig short story from his Columbia days.

2. I could dig being French wherever I am.

3. What we talk about when we talk about what we talk about when we talk about making. (I know it’s a very long and convoluted title, but it’s definitely thought-provoking.)

4.An intro to the expectations in graduate school, which in many ways is also solid life advice.

5. This article about a Kickstarter campaign that is trying to help people with Down syndrome feel good about their clothes melted my heart.

And a bonus: Which badass woman are you? (For the record, I got Eleanor Roosevelt and was very satisfied.)

Did you read anything awesome this week? And which badass woman are you? Join the link party and leave a comment!

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Think Tank: Two Thoughts on a Car-Centered Culture

Today was the first day of fall quarter, and of course, it was just my luck that I had car issues and had to be towed home at the end of a long day at school.

How I felt when I came over the hill before my freeway exit and my entire dashboard lit up and all of the meters fell to zero. Also how I felt when the parking and transportation services officer gave me a battery jump that died 10 minutes later.

All day, I was frustrated and stressed out about not having a car that works right. But on the way home, sitting in the tow truck with a guy named Dave (who, although incredibly nice, needed just to button one more button on his shirt for my own personal comfort level) that reeked of cigarettes and really loved country music, I ruminated on one thing and realized another.

Public transportation options outside of the metro area suck, in part because our culture isn’t built on it.

My journalistic instincts and English major training prompted me to immediately Google “transportation issues in Los Angeles” when I got home.

Well, that's comforting.

Well, that’s comforting.

People have a lot to say (complain, rant about, etcetera) about this, mostly in relation to traffic issues within the metropolis. Apparently people in L.A. spend more time stuck in traffic than any other drivers in the United States (which I believe), and there are quite a few initiative to make L.A. friendlier to cyclists, from the daily commute to special events.

I live in a suburb about 30 miles away from the downtown area, and go to school in a city slightly closer, so there are three options for me sans a car: getting dropped off by a family member (which doesn’t always work out), a local bus route, and a rideshare program run through the university. I’ve never looked into the rideshare program, but my schedule is so weird that I wouldn’t want to make another student, faculty or staff member wait for me.

An extension for one of the metro rails is slated to come closer to me in 2016 come through my town eventually, but that doesn’t help me or any of the people in my area now.  The local bus system is a little gross, and I would have to leave incredibly early to make it to school on time. In one way, I’m making excuses. But in another, none of these options are particularly convenient for my own life, and I’m sure there are a lot of people in the same boat.

This is more or less accurate.

This is more or less accurate.

But throughout the day,  I realized that there are a lot of larger issues at hand that have contributed to just how terrible the public transit system in L.A. is. The people of L.A. have made the culture very car-centric, which is due in part to how big the geographical area is and the local economy. Getting people to use other options when they’re comfortable with the option they have now is going to be nearly impossible: if someone already has a car, it doesn’t matter if the public transit system is good because they don’t need it. Plus, county budgets are tight and manpower isn’t readily available. If there’s only thing I learned while in college, it’s that something that is incredibly complex with multiple factors and has a wide sphere of influence is not going to be easy to dismantle. It’s a little disheartening to realize and understand that, but maybe something will change eventually.

Not completely relevant, but it speaks the truth.

Not completely relevant, but it speaks the truth.

Although they build and perpetuate horrible systems, people are still okay. 

To keep an eye out for Dave the tow truck guy, I was standing next to my car for nearly 30 minutes after I called AAA. I thought I would put the hood of my car up so that he could see me better.

It was about 5 p.m., so a lot of people getting out of a 3 p.m. class were heading to their cars. Noticing my car hood, so many people stopped to ask me if I was okay and needed help. A few guys even offered to jumpstart my battery, and just about everyone wished me luck— as if they knew exactly what it felt like.

Of course there were people who just walked and drove right past me, and I wondered if I would have done the same thing if I had seen the same scene. I think I would have stopped and asked if they needed the campus police’s phone number or to borrow a cell phone, but that’s beside the point.

Although we all perpetuate the same problem by making no attempt to get rid of something that negatively affects everyone eventually, I thought it was incredibly significant that complete strangers felt that they needed to offer me a hand. Call it morality or social conditioning, but it was comforting to know that if I really was in distress that someone would help me. It was the universe’s cosmic way of saying “I know that the culture you live in is a little messed up in more ways than one, but there are still glimmers of hope that the human race has an inherent ability for camaraderie,” if you will. So although I am still stuck waiting to find out the fate of my car, at least my faith in the world is a little bit stronger.

The bumper sticker I'm going to have to buy now, obviously.

The bumper sticker I’m going to have to buy now, obviously.

Does this make any sense to you? And what do you think — about traffic in L.A., about postmodernity, about life? Let me know in the comments.

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Culture Connoisseur: LACMA

In case you don’t follow me on Twitter, you should know that I am in the midst of a very passionate love affair.

With the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In addition to having a really great social media team (that also retweets my photos), LACMA is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. In fact, I’m a card-carrying member.

My membership card when it came in the mail. It's always in my wallet in front of my Starbucks card and my Ulta rewards card, so you know it's for real.

My membership card when it came in the mail. It’s always in my wallet in front of my Starbucks card and my Ulta rewards card, so you know it’s for real.

LACMA’s collection is huge, and has just about every kind of art you can think of. The organization of the museum itself is very smart, so if you don’t like a particular type of art (here’s looking at you, anti-modern art people), you can avoid that building or particular floor pretty easily.

I get the same standard replies when I tell people that I like to go to museums: “That’s nice,” “You drove all the way to there?” and “I don’t really like museums.” But what I wish that more people knew is that at LACMA, there’s something for everyone: playing with that outdoor installation that looks like spaghetti, the awesome piece that uses 100,000 miniature cars  and even free jazz on Friday nights.

Had you fooled there for a second with the passionate love affair announcement, didn’t I? Here’s a photo I took of the lights out in front of the museum. If you know anyone that has ever been to LACMA, they’ve probably taken a photo in front of these lights (myself included, but those are safe on Facebook).

For students, LACMA’s yearly membership is only $30, which is a complete steal considering it’s $13 alone for general admission. When you become a member, they send you this great monthly calendar that tells you all about the events for the month. And if you time it right, there are times during the week where general admission is free (so you can bring your friends, of course).

I’m looking forward to some of the upcoming exhibits, featuring Delacroix, the Hudson River School and Larry Sultan.

My Must-Sees at LACMA:

  • Matisse’s “La Gerbe” (One of my favorite pieces of all time)
  • The Impressionists room (One Saturday morning, I had this room all to myself and it was wonderful.)
  • The kimonos at the Japanese art pavilion (I love great textiles, and these kimonos are beautiful.)
This photo is from the Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibit the museum had all summer. It was so great I went twice.

This photo is from the Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibit the museum had all summer. It was so great that I went twice.

And when you’re done with the museum, you can go next door to the tar pits and then catch a bus up the street to the Original Farmers Market and the Grove. Win win win.

Been to LACMA before? Tell me about it in the comments.


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Welcome to the Internet adventure that is my blog.

Things you’ll find here:

  • Chronicles of a college senior living in proximity to one of the largest cities in the world
  • Articles, photos, links and websites that I like (and will probably comment on)
  • My own cogitations on living in the postmodern world

Enjoy your stay.

I received a dress in the mail a few years ago, and this was on the envelope. It’s moved around my room a few times (completely dependent on how I feel like curating my bulletin boards), but I love both its genius and simplicity.

(Also expect photo captions that swerve from poignant observations to tangents you probably won’t care about.)

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