Portfolio

Harry Stone

Professor Claire Laville

English 101, 8:00 AM

8 December 2014

Portfolio

Essay Revision Number 1: Modern Investigations

An Investigation of Investigations:

How Our Police Force Uses Flawed Techniques to Crack Cases

If you’ve ever seen the classic family Christmas comedy, Home Alone, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that only idiotic criminals like the “Wet Bandits,” are crazy enough to intentionally leave a “calling card” behind after committing a crime that could potentially land them right in the clink. No, that would never happen, it’s nothing more than movie magic that draws crowds to the theater. Nowadays, criminals can commit national and global crimes and authorities would not have the slightest clue who committed the crime or what his/her motivation was due to the sophistication of criminals and technology that exists today. As criminals become more and more sophisticated police are only getting further behind in the never-ending cat and mouse chase between both sides of the law. You may wonder why I am discussing any of this, well, it’s because as I was reading Carlo Ginzburg’s, “Clues: Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock Holmes,” the other day I realized why our authorities are quickly losing the war on crime: they are focusing on the clues a criminal would leave as opposed to the characteristics the police and the criminal would not ever think about. Ginzburg so cleverly points out that everyone has odd tendencies distinguishing them from anyone else on the planet that they cannot hide no matter how hard they try, and if police focused on looking for evidence of those characteristics instead of minor slip-ups that any criminal with access to CSI New York would know to avoid making, they would have a much higher likelihood of success.

The first aspect of law enforcement that Ginzburg indicates could benefit from this style of thinking, is distinguishing a counterfeit piece of art from an actual piece of art. He begins by describing Giovanni Morelli’s, a famous art critic, method for determining if a painting is a counterfeit or not, which he dubbed the “Morelli Method.” The Morelli method is simple, when determining the legitimacy of a painting, never focus on “the most obvious characteristics of the paintings,” because “these could most easily be imitated,” instead, you should focus on the minuscule and intricate characteristics or tendencies of the artist, because these will be absent from even the best fake. You may think this method seems silly, but in actuality, it is what doctors use every day to diagnose illnesses, primarily mental, and it has proven very effective in other fields over the years. When a patient goes to see a doctor about how they are not feeling well, the doctor immediately begins to examine the symptoms the patient is experiencing to determine what the illness is. The problem is, that a lot of illnesses share similar symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, a high temperature, the chills, headaches, stomach pains, and many many more, which means that without a very clear understanding of the assorted illnesses it would be nearly impossible to distinguish between different illnesses, which mean you cannot correctly prescribe medication, which means things don’t always end well for the patient. Doctors must use a method similar to that of Morelli to determine if a patient has the flu, a bad cold, or is showing early symptoms of lead poisoning, because all are treated entirely differently, but show very similar characteristics. Even Freud used this methodology while he was studying patients and actually described how what is “beneath notice” is the most important aspect of psychoanalysis because absent knowing the full reasoning behind someone’s (especially a criminal) thought process, it is nearly impossible to understand why they did what they did (Ginzburg).

It is this method of psychoanalyzing criminals that police could greatly benefit from using. Think of how much more effective our police force could be if we could get into the mind of a criminal and think about all of the possible reasons he or she did what he or she did and how he or she did it? Now, you may be thinking, “well, that’s great, but this is pretty difficult to do given that the police will only see the aftermath of a crime,” but Ginzburg has a solution to that too. To answer this question, Ginzburg makes the obvious comparison between police work and hunting, but then takes it a step further. While Ginzburg makes the obvious comparison between tracking an animal and tracking a human that you are likely thinking of, ie, looking at foot prints, trails of blood, feces, hair, feathers, or whatever else an animal or criminal leaves behind, he takes this search a step further. He says that an expert hunter will “reconstruct the appearance and movements of an unnecessary quarry” in an effort to “give meaning and context to the slightest trace,” thus recreating the entire scene to fully understand what happened. This same concept of reconstruction is exactly what police officers need to use. Rather than just looking for typical “clues,” that any average Joe criminal would leave, to stop the great criminals, police officers much provide “meaning and context” to the clues to truly get inside criminal’s minds.

If you’re still not convinced that this method of detective work is what our archaic police forces need to adopt, Ginzburg points out that the greatest detective to ever live, fictional or real, Sherlock Holmes, swore by this method of detective work. While the rest of the police force would analyze the obvious clues, Holmes would go a step beyond them and think of how a criminal’s past could influence his or her future decisions, or how miniscule characteristics such as the shape of one’s earlobe could lead to another potential culprit that the other detectives wouldn’t even know existed.

I am not writing this article as a critique of our current police force, because I applaud their detective work, work that I certainly couldn’t handle, but rather I am writing this to explain why the more complex cases are consistently stumping our police force. Not every criminal is going to be like Harry from Home Alone, they won’t always intentionally leave a trail behind just to leave a presence, so police officers and detectives everywhere need to adapt to a more intelligent era of crime or suffer the consequences.

Work Cited

Ginzburg, Carlo. “Clues: Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock Holmes.” The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Pierce. Ed. Umberto Eco, Thomas A. Sebeok. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983. 81-118. Print.

Essay Revision Number 2: The Education System

Slacking Leads to Resourcefulness

The Chronicle recently published “The Shadow Scholar” by Ed Dante, a pseudonym for a writer paid to write essays for slacking college students, critiquing the modern education system for neglecting student’s needs, thus forcing them to turn to outside sources to write their essays, but I think Dante has it all wrong. The education system should certainly not be critiqued for its neglectful response to student’s need of writing help, in fact, it should be praised! If it weren’t for the flawed education system, our country’s students would be far less resourceful, which is a characteristic that is almost nonexistent in universities nowadays. Dante falsely critiques these students for being lazy, rich, and moronic, when they should be being praised for being so resourceful.

Dante said that he catered to three primary types of students, incompetent students, lazy rich kids, and ESL students, but his favorites were by far the lazy rich kids. The lazy rich kids were not necessarily incompetent writers, in fact they often had targeted and specific instructions for Dante and were willing to pay top dollar for him to meet their expectations. Although he argues that these lazy rich kids were simply banking on their daddy’s money getting them through life and that the education system failed them because it never forced them to think for themselves, I argue that this is a load of malarkey, and in all actuality the education system has simply set them off on a track for success. While it would appear that these students are just horrendously lazy, I believe that they are simply developing time management strategies that the straight-A “geniuses” are too stupid to ever adopt. When Dante sees lazy rich kids, I see students who prioritize the more important aspects of college such as shot-gunning PBRs with their buddies at tailgating parties over useless assignments like honors theses or papers for “a masters degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate studies in international diplomacy.” I think Dante is struggling to see the forest through the trees, because although the education system fails to teach the future leaders of our country how to construct a coherent sentence, or accomplish any work on their own, or teach students who literally can’t speak English how to write the 20 page research papers it so abruptly demands of them, it does an excellent job of teaching time-management skills, resourcefulness, and metacognitive skills.

These students who have supposedly been failed by the education system and are forced to hire others to write their essays for them are actually just students who went through a metacognitive process and determined that they are bad at writing, and therefore use their resourcefulness to develop a solution to their problem so that they can spend more time doing what they do best: getting wasted! Absent this supposedly flawed education system America’s students would not be blessed with this beautiful resourcefulness that is a necessary component of being a top level professor, business(wo)man, scientist, doctor, artists, musician, athlete, or any other career. Dante claims that he chose to write this article because after year after year of writing essays for students who can hardly spell their own name due to such a neglectful education system, he finally lost it and thought that something needed to be said to create a change. To better understand what leading institutions in the country thought about the article, we interviewed some of the top professors in the country. When asked about his opinions of the recent article, Dr. Paul Spellman, published professor of Behavioral Genius at a random community college in Mississippi was appalled at Dante’s piece and was quoted saying, “Never have I ever read such a naïve article in my life! Dante clearly has not had an up-close and personal experience with the genius that is, cheating, and he should think twice before throwing around such idiotic accusations again.” I think Dante’s push for an educational reform will simply cause the brightest students our country has to lose track of what is important and begin prioritizing their essays over their partying, thus reducing their incentive to be resourceful. While Dante believes that his article will create a positive change that will lead to better future leaders, I think this article simply disincentivizes creative thinking and resourcefulness that we as a society claim to support. I think by publishing this rubbish article, Dante single-handedly caused the downfall of our excellent education system, which will in turn create idiotic leaders, and will likely cause a collapsed economy, global war, and who knows what else.

Essay Revision Number 3: Gender Studies

Ewwwww Cooties!: How Women and Men Differ in Their Cinematic Portrayals

Although the classic 1959 romantic comedy, Pillow Talk, might seem to be just that, a romantic comedy, it is so much more. If you have never seen the movie, Pillow Talk, it is a hilarious rom-com portraying lives of Brad Allen, played by Rock Hudson, and Jan Morrow, played by Doris Day, who have a shared party phone-line and just can’t seem to get on the same page. Brad Allen is your stereotypical suave lady-killer who seemingly never stops seducing attractive women over the phone, while Jan Morrow is an independent interior decorator who is driven up the wall by Allen’s inconsiderate use of the telephone. Director Michael Gordon expertly weaves together their two entirely different lives and creates a clever take on the classic hate turned to love story. Entertainment aside, what makes this movie so interesting is it’s portrayal of men and women and the different roles and stereotypes associated with being a man vs. being a woman, and primarily the sexist attitude toward women at the time. Although the study of gender roles in films has certainly been discussed before, I think this movie provides the opportunity for a unique discussion of gender studies that other articles have excluded.

What makes this movie such an excellent piece to analyze is it’s usage of the split screen to provide an extremely clear depiction of the lifestyles of the two characters and how they differ and interact. I will first focus on Brad Allen’s house, which is a traditional bachelor’s pad. When looking at Brad’s apartment, you immediately notice a dark color scheme on the walls, with lots of greens and browns as well as bare brick, often with dead animals mounted on them, dark leather chairs and couches, a bar, and complex electronics and electronic systems, many of which are designed exclusively to provide easy access to a romantic environment with a comfortable bed. The dark color scheme and dead, mounted animals indicate that this apartment is supposed to be a manly environment, which is enhanced by the other amenities of Brad Allen’s apartment. The brown chairs and the bar are textbook elements of a mancave, and the romantic electronic trickery is just the icing on the cake. Turning the lights off, playing romantic music, and producing a bed, all at the flick of a switch? Although that may not be the largest turn-on for the women he brings back to his apartment, this fancy set-up definitely improves Brad Allen’s ability to score, making it ideal for his apartment. Finally, he keeps a large piano front and center that he uses to write songs as well as romance women. In contrast, Jan Morrow’s apartment is what you would stereotypically expect from an independent, female, interior decorator. He house was painted in bright and pleasant pastel colors with a lot of white accouterments filling the apartment. Her apartment had nice mirrors and ruffled curtains and pretty plants to add some decoration. And most importantly, her bathroom is large and well equipped for Jan to participate in her daily toilette. By using the split screen view of these two apartments side-by-side, the viewer is able to see how starkly the stereotypes of a woman and a woman’s apartment contrast with those of a man and a man’s apartment.

While watching the movie, I believe that there are two specific examples of this split screen view that best depict the dichotomy between two different apartments and their respective stereotypes. The first is when Jan, Brad, and Brad’s lover are all on the phone at the same time and the screen is divided up into three triangles, one for each of them. In the lover’s and Jan’s triangles, the colors in the backgrounds consists of pretty purples and blues, lots of nice pillows, bright blue bookcases, and pretty plants and flowers. In contrast, Brad’s apartment consists of a dark brown wooden piano, brown walls with old traditional paintings hung on them, and dark lighting everywhere. When looking at this picture, the hue of colors takes a dramatic shift from Jan’s apartment to Brad’s apartment. This contrast is also starkly visible during the bathtub conversation scene, where the scene is split between Jan’s bathroom with her in the tub, and Brad’s bathroom with him in the tub. On Jan’s side of the screen, her wallpaper is a pretty pale blue design, she has a brighter color brown shower curtain with her initials monogramed into them in blue, and she has jars of assorted shampoos and body washes on the edge of the bathtub. In Brad’s bathroom however, his wall is designed with grey tile and a picture of some leaves, he only has soap, and his curtain is a plain dark brown. These stark contrasts are representative of the stereotypes of women and men respectively.

In an effort to find an explanation behind the different portrayals of men and women in this movie, I began doing research about the reasoning behind the bachelor pad depicted in the film and stumbled across and outstanding article by Jessica Sewell titled, “Unpacking the Bachelor Pad,” that describes why men have this desire to create a bachelor pad like Brad’s. Well, according to Sewell, men during the 1950s had a desire to lash out against women, who were considered controlling, and design an apartment to be the antithesis of what a woman would like. This concept is especially perpetuated in Pillow Talk through the assorted interactions Jan and Brad have, in which Jan tries to act rationally and proposes plans to Brad on how to share the phone, but instead of cooperating, Brad gets sassy and defensive and deems Jan’s requests as nothing more than nagging, and therefore lashes out and uses the phone even more. Although all of these different interactions and portrayals of Jan and Brad’s relationship are important, the most significant event in the movie as far as gender roles are concerned comes at the very end. After Brad tricks Jan into a romantic relationship and Jan finds out, Jan gets really upset and refuses to continue the relationship, but somehow, by the end of the movie Jan and Brad end up in bed together. This ability for the man to seduce the woman after behaving in a terrible fashion demonstrates how women are portrayed as controlled by the man, and how if the man doesn’t get exactly what he wants, he will just behave in an inappropriate manner until he does.

Although this film is over 50 years old, these gender role stereotypes are still very much a part of modern society and Pillow Talk is one of the best examples possible for clearly portraying these gender roles. I hope this will increase your awareness of these gender roles so that you can identify them and avoid them yourself, because they force women into the role of a nagging nuisance who is able to be controlled to do whatever the man pleases with enough prodding.

Essay Revision Number 4: Facebook Usage

The Power of Facebook: How One Post Can Change the World

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s how powerful of a tool Facebook is in provoking social change, so when news of a local dognapping spread, Facebook users around the country made sure to tell people. I was so moved by the constant posts of miscellaneous news articles telling me that poor little Doge was taken from his estate in Texas that I nearly broke into tears. I was so happy that everyone felt compelled to show me that they read the news, it was just so overwhelming. Absent the moving posts on Facebook, social change would be non-existent. I mean, when Hurricane Big Boi leveled Florida, Facebook users were so upset that they began posting videos of themselves standing in the rain to demonstrate how they felt the same suffering those in Florida felt. If that’s not social change, I don’t know what is. I’m just thrilled there is such a good platform for creating change and conversation.

As the search continues to return Doge to his owner, local Dallas billionaire, Jeff Franks, Facebook users continue to voice their opinions. Here are some of the more meaningful posts we have collected over the past day: Chote social activist Jimmy says, “Look at this news article about Doge, I just wish I could do something,” Bel Air Academy head cheerleader Rachel says, “I love Doge soooo much! This is just so sad! Like, I can’t even!” Columbia sophomore James says, “I am just so upset by Doge’s kidnapping that I am going to let my dog run away from me in Central Park so I know how it feels.” Those are just three of several million posts by concerned citizens. James’s release of his dog tugged at so many heartstrings that dog lovers around the country began to lock their dogs up in cages with muzzles on and no food and water and vowed to keep them there until Doge is returned in and effort to protest the mistreatment dogs in this country. The efforts to spread word of the terrible mistreatment of dogs by kidnappers in this country has been mitigated though by contrarians starting fights all over Facebook. With each post by someone expressing their angst over the recent dognapping comes a slew of angry arguments in the comments feed. My Facebook wall is filled with my assorted college and high school peers making sure their thoughts about everyone else’s opinions are heard. While these arguments may seem to slow down the process of finding doge, it is so helpful to bicker back and forth in comment feeds while angering all your friends on Facebook. Although all that anger may seem silly at first, everyone knows it will eventually translate into positive social change. As soon as national news sources like CNN and NBC get ahold of these Facebook comment threads, and they relay them to the government, the headlines practically write themselves. “Local 18-year old kids at East High School End all Animal Cruelty World Wide,” “16 Year Olds in New Jersey Stop World War 3 With Self-Expressive Comments on Facebook,” “Outraged 20-year old Students at Family Money University End Poverty With Heated Facebook Conversation.” The headlines are endless, the change is not.

Although some experts might claim that rather than conversing about each other’s opinions on Facebook, people should donate money, food, water, shelter, or in the case of poor Doge, their time to search, to those in need, those experts are extremely misled. Think about it. It is far more productive to lock one’s dog up in protest and post a status about it than it is to help search for the lost dog, and it saves a lot more lives by spreading the word of the pain experienced by those whose lives were uprooted by Hurricane Big Boi via a video of one in the rain than sending care packages. Frank Mickelson, local dog lover in Texas said that “I think that rather than taking a few hours out of my hectic schedule of eating BBQ and watching UT Football this weekend to help find Doge, my time is better spent by posting videos of me angrily yelling about the mistreatment of dogs.” This is just such a clear example of one of the many ways Facebook can be used as a tool for reform as opposed to simply a social media site.

Although Doge was never found, it was certainly not due to the lack of effort from Facebook users across the country. People tried their darndest to make their opinions known by locking their dogs in cages without food and water for days at a time, but the only change that happened was a massive spike in doge malnutrition issues. At least these dog’s anorexia is for a worthwhile cause, and people will know in the future to take better care of their dogs.

Why I chose the blogs I did:

The four blogs I chose to revise were my Facebook Representation blog, my Investigations blog, my Bachelor Pad blog, and I re-revised my already revised “Shadow Scholar” blog. One of the primary reasons I selected these blogs is that I felt like they were four of the most interesting topics we discussed throughout the course and I thought that given the guidelines for the portfolio they provided me with the most material. I felt like the Facebook blog was interesting because instead of talking about how I use Facebook like I did in my original blog, I morphed the blog into a satire about how Facebook is used by people today. I didn’t want my blog to just be a basic description of what I like to do on Facebook, because that is not a very exciting piece to read, which is why I chose to change it into satire. I liked the Bachelor Pad blog because I could turn what was initially a simple comparison between the movie, Pillow Talk, and an article about the bachelor pad by Jessica Sewell, into an analysis of gender studies and how they are portrayed in film, which is essentially a more in depth and specific version of my initial blog. I thought the Investigation blog was a good one to discuss because it is a really fun and interesting topic that can be applied on a larger scale in an article setting to create a larger impact than just a short analysis in my blog. Finally, I chose the “Shadow Scholar” blog because I thought it was a really interesting topic that is especially pertinent to a college student and that I can turn that blog into a satire to make it more appealing to some readers, yet still get the intended message across. As far as how I went about revising the blogs, I began by re-reading my blogs to determine which blogs I thought I wanted to revise. After determining which blogs to revise, I decided which topics from each blog I wanted to revise. I then began reading articles from the different news sources we were supposed to mimic to learn how they portray their articles. After selecting which news sources I wanted to replicate, I revised my blogs according to their different styles trying to keep a similar topic to my original blog. Although I thought there were several good blogs I could have revised, I thought those 4 blogs gave me the most material to work with and were the blogs that I found most interesting.

Collaborative Composition:

I enjoyed using collaborative composition as a means to improve my writing and help others improve their writing. I particularly enjoyed providing comments as a peer reviewer because it allowed me to read over my peer’s work and figure out what they wrote about and how they wrote about it, and how my writing differed from theirs. It also gave me the ability to provide, hopefully, insightful feedback for other students to use, and recognize what I liked about their writing and didn’t like about their writing and then apply those concepts to my own. I also found it helpful that my peers would comment on my work too thus allowing me to get a new opinion on my writing. Reviewing my own work can sometimes be rather difficult because after writing a piece the last thing I want to do is discover all of the bad aspects of it and then spend time changing them and tearing apart the work I spent so long completing. By working in a setting where other kids review my work I am able to get that advice from a third party, which makes it easier to change. I also find that there are sometimes parts of my piece that I like and I therefore think others will like, when in all actuality others don’t, and absent that peer review process I would have never known. I think group work was excellent at providing me with that extra evaluation that we ordinarily wouldn’t get by just reviewing our own pieces. I think my writing has become more concise because I have tried to condense longer analyses into a blog length piece, which can be difficult for me to do. My primary shortcoming is that I often write long wordy pieces that could easily be cut down with more revisions, which this peer review process and the blog process has really helped with. By being constricted by a 500-word blog post, I am forced to condense my writing and make sure that I only get the most important elements out of my writing and get rid of all of the fluff. I think this has improved my writing because now it is more concise. I believe that my reading habits have also improved because my annotation quality has increased. I primarily found the reading of the Ginzburg piece helpful in improving my reading habits.

 

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