Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Two Exemplary Class Presentations

At this stage of the term, I'd like to post the notes from two of the individual class presentations that I have been enjoying each week. I chose the first because, to use an anglicism, it is played with a straight bat. It is well organised, presents some captivating points, and safely meets the assignment criteria. It doesn't try to hit the assigned requirements for a six (to continue the cricket metaphor) but that is very seldom necessary. In a business milieu, this would be called a professional presentation -- safe, yes, but strong & effective. The second is a discursive type of presentation: more like an essay, more of lecture style. It takes a commendably bold position & argues it forcefully with winning touch of cheekiness.

To add a helpful note here, I'd say that, ideally, short presentations will be memorised. Not a course requirement, just a tip for career cases. By the bye, do you all know the correct -- i.e. OED -- meaning of "exemplary"?

1st Presentation

“Gin and Goldenrod” versus Gord Sellar’s Blog

Writer’s Motive
1. Forms of Expression
- The writings are on easily accessible media such as books and webpages.
- Writers’ motives are desires to feel heard and to let the world know what they are about.
- For ex., Malcom Lowry often include inspirations from the landscapes and nature in his writing. Sigbjorn is a representation of Lowry’s frustration regarding urbanization. “Progress was the enemy. Ruination and vulgarization had become a habit.” (58) – Narrator
2. Discoveries for New Ideas
- Writing is about transforming intangible concepts from the mind to tangible textual design.
- The process of categorizing the thoughts and organizing the ideas may open up a new way of thinking for the writer.
3. Records of the writer’s belief and perception
- Human are constantly changing themselves toward their ideal self-images.
- Writings set marks that reveal or reflect author’s values at the time.
- Helpful for retrospection.
Reader’s benefit
1. Deepen the understanding of human nature
- Read other people’s lives thoroughly, and then compare theirs to our lives.
- Experience the surroundings with another point of view, or another perspective.
2. Reading expand people’s horizon.
- Collection of information.
- Broaden our interests. Ex. I didn’t know what a goldenrod is.


1. Not interactive between the writer and the readers
- Fiction story gives information; whereas, blog starts discussion.
- Information does not go both ways.
2. Bigger economic cost
- Create barriers to entry.
- To publish something in print, then ship it, store it, then finally sell it to consumers. The process involves an enormous cost.
- On the contrary, blog only requires a computer and an Internet connection. For its reader, blog is just few clicks away implicating smaller economic cost.


1. An artistic creation
- Like any other forms of art, every element within the artwork exists for a specific reason in serving the artistic whole.
- In fiction’s case, title, diction, punctuation, and syntax are those elements.
- Take an example on opening paragraph of “Gin & Goldenrod”. An descriptive exposition on settings with meaningful diction creating both literal and figurative imageries. Ex. “The bay looked like a polished metal mirror” (56). Diction often implies connotation meaning, which establish an atmosphere. Ex. “motionless”, “sunless”, “gray”, “quiet”. There is an uneasy undercurrent beneath the words. In contrast, blog’s opening is much straightforward like business letter. It introduces the beginning of situation, and develops from there; it adds no icing to the cake.

In conclusion, a unique quality of fiction is the depth of opening paragraph. Comparing the weblog, fiction opening paragraph tends be more sensory that readers can see, hear, taste etc.

2nd Presentation

Before this class I had never really looked at weblogs, at least not the diary type. Ever since I have been looking at them, solely for the purpose of this class, I have discovered that they just really annoy me. For various reasons, primarily though because I think that they are just pointless things to read and they are nowhere close to being fiction. I have to admit that I found a single blog to be disturbingly addictive to read, until I finally thought about what I was reading and it just wasn’t that interesting and I didn’t care about this person’s life. The politic blogs I can stand and enjoy, because they’re informative. As I am shocked by the number of people who don’t know who Tony Blair is.

The term fiction is so general but in terms of quality fiction, blogs don’t even compare. I am sure there are some that do, however I only found a story of one. It was called Plain Layne, aka Laine Johnson. The blog was of a “young adventurous lesbian with a past” (New York Times). It ran for three years and had thousands of readers. However, it was eventually exposed that Plain Laine was actually a product of the imagination of a 35 year old man, Odin Soli. Clearly the whole thing was fictitious, Mr. Soli refers to Miss Laine as a character; however, he did say that he was providing some “genuine emotional experience”. I never read the blog, but the readers were in an outrage when the whole thing took place. This just proves that you never know if a diary blog is real or made up but that still doesn’t mean that it’s quality fiction. It sounds as though Plain Layne easily could have been, engaging the readers with literary prose, therefore I am willing to except this as quality fiction, but for a large portion of the rest, I am not.

When I think of quality fiction, I think of Alice Munro’s Forgiveness in Families. I don’t think about these blogs where people just talk about what they did that day. In Alice Munro’s story, she teaches the readers this idea about life. Reading becomes an observation, and depending on how an idea is conveyed, it determines what benefits people may acquire form reading it. Alice Munro describes this concept about reality in such a subtle way, but by the end it seems so apparent and true about life. The remarkable bit about it, is that it is a fact about life that we often tend to forget about or just not realize when we live day to day. Through Val’s repentance, the readers are given this opportunity to step back from the story and realize how this situation is true to life. So many people try to blame their issues on others, denying reality, they don’t want to realize this horrible truth about themselves. The fact that Val does this too only makes the character more human like.

From my experience of weblogs, the bloggers are the people seeking these realizations about life that fiction provide. Also, so many of them are Vals. They claim they use their weblogs as a way to, “express their feelings” or that it’s therapeutic but it’s more often just them bitching about life.

I found this one weblogger Aaron Wall. I posted on his blog and asked him why he does it. He said that he uses his weblog to better understand his mind. I found it hilarious that his next post was him solely talking about how disgustingly fat he is (He gained 40 pounds in less than year). He was crying for, I’m not positive but most likely sympathy and understanding. (I just wanted to tell him to get up from his computer desk and take a walk, outside.) Anyhow, this is exactly similar as to how Val cried for sympathy. “I was going to school for the first time and all of the other kids had their mothers with them and where was mine? In the hospital having a baby. The embarrassment to me” (Munro 94).
Though Forgiveness in Families and diary blogs communicate the realistic trials of life, fiction contains this superlative quality: this ability to communicate an idea about life, allowing the reader’s to realize this truth. While weblogs just continue to be a form of mindless entertainment, fiction continues on to educate this realistic concept. This is what makes fiction, quality fiction.


xcentrik9 said...

Way to go, Jim!

xcentrik9 said...

And, way to go Lindsay!

Gord said...


Were you comparatively reading my blog to a work of fiction? (I'm sorry, but if you were, I don't know it.) How did you come across it?

I agree, I know the disturbing feeling of feeling addicted to reading about the life of someone I actually don't care about.

So in the wash, you're more interested in fiction? Was that your conclusion?

Five Ladies said...

Yes, it's really weird how you just keep reading, it's like a soap opera, really bad but you can get addicted. I think it's most comparable to reality tv, it can be horrible but you watch it anyways.

I am still interested in blogs, I just haven't found the right one yet (although, now that our assignment is done, I have stopped looking). I was hoping to find one that discusses real issues, world events, politics, beautiful places to visit, etc. and with many different opinions. There's just so much trash out there that the good ones get buried. Unless someone just tells me about a really good blog, I doubt I'll ever look for one again.

However, the same thing goes for me and fiction. I would never read fiction unless it has been assigned by a professor. I feel like I just don't have time for it, and if I really enjoyed it I would make time. The only time I have ever voluntarily read a book (well many books) was when I was traveling, therefore I wasn't working, I never had to wake up early in the morning if I didn't want to and I could very easily do nothing all day. Then, I had time to read, and did enjoy it. However, I did make my boyfriend read the book first so I knew it would be good.

So, in the end, for a conclusion, I am not really interested in either.

ps. These were the books I read, so if you read books, I would suggest these ones:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (I am sure all the ladies have read this one!)
The killing Fields by Christopher Hurdon
Mr. Nice by Howard Marks (wicked book, loved it)
Are You Experienced by William Sutcliffe (If you’re a traveler, this one is a must read)
Off the Rails in Phnom Penh by Amit Gilboa
Hell’s Angels by Sonny Barger (quite interesting)
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III