What a former college instructor really thinks…

Posts tagged “writing

Betty Crocker’s Zombie Cookbook

I’m not entirely clear whether sex with zombies is illegal in the state I live in, so I’ll have to be very careful about what I write in this edition of Victimizing Other Bloggers.  I’m sure sex with corpses has to be legally questionable, but Zombies are able to give informed consent.  It’s a gray area.

Today, I am taking aim at A.M. Harte, who happens to be a published writer of “zombie love” stories. I think that officially makes me NOT the sickest person on WordPress.  Fortunately, Harte has also figured out that there’s a limit to how far a person can go with someone who is dead.  If you’re going to do zombie love, you’ll need a different type of love.  And here’s what she has to offer:

I think that's a phallic knife.

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then the way for a Zombie to get to your heart is through your stomach.  And that seems to be what Harte is proposing.  In her blog, she offers up writing tips that are modeled after instructions for baking a cake.  This is a classic example of someone not being willing to give up the tricks of their trade.    Does anyone really believe that this woman spends her time baking cake?  Therefore, I would like to offer up a revised version of her writing tips so that people who want to write zombie stories will find something that is relevant to them:

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Writing is like frying zombie brains (and other body parts).

There are thousands of different kinds of zombies and thousands of different ways to make them tasty. But the basic ingredients remain the same: flour, sugar, eggs, butter…

So what are the basic ingredients every story should have?

Frying Zombie Hearts (and other body parts)

Ingredients:
• Plot
• Characters
• Setting
• Theme

Instructions:
1. The zombie feet are the plot of the story.
It’s the basis, the foundation — more than just a chain of tiny little bones. If they are not washed properly, they will turn your entree into a foul mess.  Although zombie feet with the traditional odor may sound tasty, you need to liven up your zombie’s flavor if you want anyone to eat them.  Chewing on zombie feet is a romantic activity that is not prohibited by law, which is an added bonus.

2. The zombie heart is the main character.
It adds flavor, but that’s not all: it adds volume and keeps your story fresh. If you slice and dice it properly, you will find that a generous amount of blood will spurt out into your entree.  That gives your dinner a nice irony taste and your story all the gratuitous violence it needs.

3. The setting is the butter.
Harte says, “It glues the characters and plot together, it provides texture and depth.”  Um… no.  The butter provides a lubricating agent that allows the zombie love to proceed smoothly.  You can never have too much butter.

4. And the zombie bile is the theme.
It’s the hidden ingredient without which everything would fall apart.  Since zombie flesh tends to fall apart during cooking and sex, you need something to hold it together.  Everyone loves scatological humor, and who doesn’t get excited to see the friendly neighborhood zombie pooping on the buffet table?

And now you are ready to publish your own exciting zombie love stories, subject to state and local laws.

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This has been another installment of “Victimizing Other Bloggers.”  If you would like to become a future victim, click on the “Become a Victim” picture and leave a request.  Being a victim might not be as much fun as zombie love, but few things are.


Letter from HR: The Impotence of an English Major

Dear Applicant,

We were not happy to recieve your application for position UNUD666 – Writing Supervisor, and we are kind of sorry to inform you that you are not qualified.  We said that you have to have a degree in english and you don’t have one.  Having that degree is the only way to become an expert in writing and grammer.  Everyone in HR majored in HR and we know for a fact that you can’t have skills you didn’t study in college.  Its offensive that you think you can supervise our writing.  We have a talented english person in our office who proof reads all of our e-mails and and websites.   You can’t do the job as well as him.

Cordially,

HR

 

This post kicks off my new series on the joys of job searching.  I never received the above letter, but it resembles the attitudes and errors I am slowly getting used to.  Lots of English majors can’t write effectively because their professors were more concerned with filling their classrooms (a.k.a. keeping their jobs) and preaching on politics.  I’ve seen plenty of English majors who could not write nearly as well as their counterparts in other subjects.  Meanwhile, I’ve seen plenty of talented writers at WordPress and elsewhere who could never hope to obtain a writing job because they didn’t major in the “correct” subject.

And all of this begs a few simple questions: if HR personnel often can’t recognize correct grammar and spelling, what happens to the requirement that a resume be completely error-free?  Do job applicants have to guess what errors the HR worker thinks is proper English?  How often is correct grammar labeled as incorrect, causing a perfectly good application to land in the circular file?


Who I Am and Why I Blog

I’ve been here a couple of weeks now and have been surprised by the response this blog has received so far.  However, I’ve been even more surprised by how many people have clicked on my “About Me” page.   It has been a lot of people…

And so I have decided to put out something fuller than the non-statement I had on the blog and I hope it will correct some of the misconceptions I’ve run into during my short time here.

The first thing you need to know about me is that I am under 45.  (Therefore: not retired.)  I left teaching mostly because I could not stand inflicting the things I describe on my students.  Let there be no mistake about it: I write about things that are often required of college teachers if they want to keep their jobs.  If you are put off by my regular mocking of students, please remember that I view students’ negative qualities as a direct result of the educational system they have been put through.  I don’t hate them and I don’t blame them, but I worry that they will grow up to do the same things to their children as was done to them.   I feel bad for them and I have come to see the consequences of what is happening to them.

The other detail you didn’t know about me is that I have been looking for a job for a few months now.  The lack of skills among college graduates has appalled me; I wish I could post some of the grammatical atrocities I’ve seen in form letters and official correspondence from businesses.  I’ve also had the opportunity to see that businesses recognize how little many college students are learning in school.  And don’t get me started on the anti-intellectualism and stereotypes that make it nearly impossible for someone with a Ph.D. to find a job.  Eventually, I’ll start posting thoughts on the challenges of looking for a job with a Ph.D. if unemployment lasts much longer.

But I am still thankful not to be teaching.  I enjoyed teaching when the goal was to impart knowledge, but those days are long past.  Although you could get a basic idea of academe’s problems from visiting the Chronicle of Higher Education, I blog here to reach people who would not know to look for this kind of information. As long as it does not last forever, unemployment is a small price to pay for what I was able to escape.   Believe it or not, it’s less stressful.

In closing, please know that I intend to remain anonymous because I don’t want my former educational institution to be singled out unfairly.   (Caveat: If you want to offer me a job, we may be able to work something out.)  I’m not writing about one institution’s problems; I write about what happens at many institutions.  And: I remain anonymous to protect my former students.  I don’t publish anything about any individual student I taught, but quite a few of my former students could look at my blog and think I’m writing specifically about them.  In turn, businesses could look at my blog and say that they won’t hire grads from Dr. Tafisk’s university.

And please tell me that you didn’t really think my name is Lou Tafisk (lutefisk).  Something should have smelled fishy.

 

This post is being copied to my “About Me” page as the official replacement.


What Will They Learn? ACTA Doesn’t Know…

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is the love child of Lynne Cheney and Joe Lieberman (although Lieberman no longer wants his name associated with the group).  You might call them a conservative activist organization, although their primary goal of depoliticizing college curricula is something that people of all political persuasions can stand behind.  They also do some unnecessary conservative stuff, but that’s a post for another day..

As part of their work, ACTA operates a website called What Will They Learn and it attempts to promote a strong core curriculum instead of the watered-down versions so many colleges offer.  They list seven rating criteria and evaluate every college in the U.S. on whether they meet these ideals.  The listings are free and easy to follow.  Colleges that perform well sometimes advertise their success in their student recruitment materials.

In theory, this is a much needed service.  In practice, ACTA obviously did not do sufficient research.  To make my point, I would like to focus on two of their criteria: Composition and Foreign Language.

Composition: ACTA calls for a “college writing class focusing on grammar, style, clarity, and argument.”  At first glance, this is not a problem.  However, they’ve completely missed the boat on what English departments consider to be a good “argument.”  If the folks at ACTA were to read a basic survey of literary theory, they’d learn that English departments often teach that logic is racist and a “good argument” is one that supports leftist political views.  Plenty of English Composition programs assign their students essays that promote Leftist politics, use those essays as examples of effective style, and require students to write papers that mimic the readings’ political bent.  And since the literary theory ACTA didn’t read also declares “correct grammar” to be an unjust application of power by the privileged majority, it’s easy to see how that part of the course could be allowed to fall by the wayside… especially if it interferes with students passing the course.  Remember: if students don’t pass, they can’t pay the school more tuition dollars in future semesters.  The last place I taught at had a composition curriculum like what I describe here; that college gets passing marks from ACTA for composition.

Foreign Language:  They define an intermediate level of proficiency as three semesters of study.   If I worked in college admissions and wanted ACTA’s seal of approval on my website, I could find an easy way around this.  Normally, the textbook Destinos is used for Spanish 101 and 102. But: if my college gets creative, I can lobby to have the Spanish courses meet for 3 hours per week instead of four.  That means that we can teach Destinos in Spanish 101, 102, and 201.  It’s still the same content but now it’s 3 semesters and acceptable to ACTA.  (Or: we can let the courses remain at 4 hours per week and cash in on the extra tuition dollars!)  At least one college that receives a perfect score from ACTA uses the first-year textbook in 101, 102, 201, and 202; that school does not deserve recognition for its academics.

Moral of the Story: When looking at colleges, be sure to dig deeper.  There’s always something you’re not being told.