Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations” about a topic that is controversial for many in the United States, one that is seldom agreed upon in any room and one that requires a lot of thought before expressing any kind of informed opinion. Coates deals with that with an advanced amount of research, spanning several very vast fields. Present here in all of that very diverse research is quite a bit of information that appeals to many of the people who might oppose what Coates is arguing for. The use of quotes from the Bible is a really interesting tactic to appeal to the people who are often, in my experience, the most skeptical of the invoking of reparations: white Christians. Using words from the Bible is usually one of the best ways to engage that particular group of people in what they might be reading. The piece also begins with anecdotal research through the story of a black man named Clyde Ross. While this kind of evidence is helpful in providing context for the situation, it is also helpful when it comes to humanizing the issue. We can talk about big ideas all we want, but when we are not talking about the people they effect, what are we talking about at all? This type of writing could definitely apply to my own. I am usually wary of writing something that I know people will be skeptical of. This is kind of ridiculous of me, and I am aware of that, but I don’t really like to be told that I’m wrong. Finding a way to bridge the gap between a skeptic and where I stand on a topic through the use of research is something that could really be helpful.
Elizabeth Royte takes advantage of Medium as a platform in really interesting ways with the publication of her piece “The Remains of the Night: Sex, trash, and nature in the city.” I felt a little bit jarred just by the nature of the piece, thinking of the girl I knew who had to go to court after being caught fornicating in a park, but I digress and must now return to the actual piece, a commentary on the things we leave behind when we take pleasure (hehe) in nature. Medium is kind of the perfect platform for this piece. The platform allows for the integration of photos and texts to work almost seamlessly. The reader–with the proper internet connection–is presented with one of Royte’s photos from her experiences cleaning up litter in a park in the city. Upon further scrolling, that picture is merged with the text from the piece to which it corresponds. Another way that Medium as a platform really helps to make this piece a more effective one is the ease with which Royte can include infographics. They are well dispersed and well placed throughout the essay, and they offer insight into certain statistics that add to the effectiveness of the piece. This is a really interesting way to add more evidence to a piece without beating the reader over the head with it. One of the other things I really found to be helpful with this piece, which is something that stems from the platform on which it was published, is the inclusion of the map. The reader can interact with this particular map, helping to increase understanding and providing context for the location about which this is written. For me, at least, someone who really is not all that familiar with the location of this piece, having that particular map placed within the piece is really helpful for providing context that I did not have to begin with. I actually would usually Google the place I’m reading about, but this time, I did not have to. That speaks to how helpful Medium is as a platform for this piece. The ability to include a collage of the photos Royte took during her clean up time also helps to provide context. They are not included in the same way that the other photos are included, the ones that turn to text. These are included almost like a piece of art in the middle of the essay, and they are both really fascinating photos and interesting parts of the essay. Medium’s platform lends itself really well to the inclusion of these photos and, in turn, the effectiveness of the essay.
“Jennifer Lawrence and the History of Cool Girls” was published in 2014 when Lawrence was nominated for her third Oscar for her performance in American Hustle, a garbage film that I honestly to this day regret spending a single moment of my life watching, but I digress. The essay was originally published to Buzzfeed and was featured on Longform.org‘s Best Of list that same year. One of the more noteworthy things about this really fascinating piece is the fact that it comes to look at Jennifer Lawrence from an angle that we don’t usually see her covered. There is so often coverage of her that just says exactly what this essay begins with: “Jennifer Lawrence is so cool!” “Jennifer Lawrence is so relatable!” Every headline on Facebook is “Jennifer Lawrence Falling At the Oscars is All of Us.” This essay goes much further than that. It questions why we think this of Jennifer and why we need girls to be the “Cool Girls.” To keep going with the words that were prompted within the assignment, one of the most valuable things about this essay is that it brings to the light the ways in which we judge women and also the ways in which we judge the idea of being “relatable.” The thing I found most interesting about this piece is just how present the “cool girl” has been in Hollywood since Hollywood became what it is. She has been there for it all, and she has broken ground, but she is also kind of concerning in terms of what she might stand for in modern pop culture. I think that the thing the readers of Longform may have appreciated so much is that this is really culturally relevant while also giving way to information about Old Hollywood and somewhere between then and now. It comments on the ways we view women and how that reflects in our art and our culture.
I was just about to write a tweet about how much some “food bloggers” bother me before I sat down to read David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster,” which covered the Maine Lobster Festival, or MLF, as it is commonly known. I know that this is possible the most ridiculous thing that I could say about “Consider the Lobster,” and I know it’s most likely a cliche, but this was one of those times when “I felt like I was there with the writer when I read this.” To begin with, I actually felt as though I was learning something interesting about a subject that I didn’t know anything about. Most of the time I’m a little bit too poor to eat lobster or anything that it might be associated with, so it definitely was not something I knew anything about. That portion at the beginning that discussed lobster in a scientific way as well as in the way that relates to our food. I found the commentary on lobster in relation to class kind of fascinating in a way I wasn’t expecting. It pulled me in somehow to an essay I wasn’t expecting to enjoy. Another thing that was kind of incredible most definitely was the intense hatred of the MLF that shines through in this piece. He had a massive problem with the way this industry runs and the way the festival exists. There’s also something kind of captivating about the visuality of the descriptions of the people Wallace encountered as he covered this particular food festival. He humanizes them in a way I didn’t think we were going to see here. Most often, as I’ve encountered coverage of food festivals in different papers or magazines, the different people profiled are usually just described in small amounts of detail, nothing significant enough to hold any sort of weight in the long run. Most of those profiles on the people around do not usually make any sort of real connection to the town or the region which puts on that particular festival. This essay and its profiles on the people almost make everything seem like a movie, and my general understanding of those who work in the lobster industry in Maine helps me to better understand and relate to this particular place and the food festival that takes place within it. This is one of the more captivating and interesting aspects of this piece. It could have just been a quick little profile of some tables and food stands and games and people who catch lobster for a living, and it managed to be a lot more than that with the help of a really talented writer. That talented writer also tapped into our very much human thoughts of life and death as well as animal rights, considering the fact that lobsters are one of a few types of creatures that need to be cooked while they are still alive in order to be edible. Wallace wonders, and makes his readers wonder, whether or not we do the right thing as we cook this little shellfish as it squirms in our hands for our own enjoyment. Oh man. This essay was really kind of breathtaking. Ahhh. I may honestly read it again, and I don’t know how often I say that about “assigned reading.”
This particular essay employed argument as a means of communication and understanding rather than a means of domination. “What Makes an Essay American” from The New Yorker seeks to learn something, and it does not come immediately from a place which is rooted in a particular opinion in the same way that a Crossfire style of argument does. It uses a lot of literature and art for its evidence as well as anecdotal evidence and personal experience. It seems to take a more neutral position. on the issue.
“Everything about something” is a phrase that has always managed to strike me a certain way, and it might be because it’s how I’ve always liked to live my life. I like to know everything about certain things, even if other people might dismiss them as “irrelevant” or “unimportant” (i.e. my incredibly long phase of deep dives into Harry Potter Wiki. Ask me any question about Nymphadora Tonks. I dare you.) Jay Rosen’s idea that a new journalist’s most imperative strategy is knowing “everything about something” makes a lot of sense. To not only paint yourself as an expert but also to create a space for your work that is only for that specific work is really important. It gives you an audience that is specific to your medium and that way that you use it.
That concept of knowing “everything about something” is very much relevant to our podcast projects. Right now, my group, specifically, is in the process of learning everything there is to know about crying. Who does it? Why do they do it? However, this kind of information, because it comes mostly from our interviewing of other people, is not enough to carve out our own little niche, to imply that we know everything about this particular subject. That’s where the academic research that’s being done comes in handy. It gives us a more scientific look at crying, something that the personal information we reap from our interviews does not quite fulfill.
I interview my roommate briefly about tattoos.