Final Papers and You: A question of tone

Ben Hur Rowing

Pictured: An Adjunct

 

Academic writing is notorious for being dry as a desert. We’ve all felt our eyes glaze over during a particular sentence in an assigned reading. Our pen hangs in the air, paralyzed by indecision. What do we underline? Everything? Nothing? What’s the important information here? Resigned to our defeat, we move on to the next sentence, hoping we haven’t strolled right past something significant.

This is the path that will lead to rereading until you realize that you don’t know dick about what the paper was trying to communicate. Now, imagine for a moment that you are a professor (or, to be truthful, a professor’s lowly squire). You’ve been assigned a whole stack of student papers to grade. In a fate crueler than any Lucifer could design, you must sift through a mound of stilted undergrad academic prose. Visions of banned stimulants dance in your head, then vanish. You begin to think fondly of the good old prehistoric days, when language consisted mostly of pointing, grunting, and screeching. What a world it was, untarnished by the verb “facilitate.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. Academic writing doesn’t need to have its mailing address in its own rectum to communicate its points in a clear and articulate fashion. If you’re arguing a point, it can be made in lively and interesting splendor. If you’re analyzing a text, you don’t have to drain the blood from the entire work. There’s room for levity and entertainment.

We must acknowledge, though, that not every paper will be a barrel of laughs. Perhaps your subject matter is very grim, and you don’t trust yourself with dark humor. Perhaps you’re writing a research paper, and there’s not much breathing room for creativity. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices. Still, depending on what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your writing, you just might be able to brighten someone’s day. That said, there are different standards for different assignments.

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Blog’s NBA Playoff Rundown

We at BlogDailyHerald have been enthralled by the first round of the NBA playoffs. Here is why you should be watching too.

Western Conference 

Western-Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs (8) New Orleans Pelicans

Tucker Iverson: Anthony Davis isn’t human. At the very least, he is a demigod in the vein of Hercules or Percy Jackson: capable of towering over mere mortals and dominating anything in his path, blocking everything and ruining players’ nights with his dunks. Perhaps he is even a minor god, like a Pan or a Nike–achieving feats most demigods couldn’t.

But Steph Curry is Zeus. Sorry Anthony Davis…

Steven Dowd: I’ll come clean and say that I’ve been a Warriors fan since I started watching the NBA semi-consistently two or three years ago. It used to be fun to tune in to Golden State and watch them not bother with defense, preferring to simply zero in on shooting. Maybe they’d lose, but if you see a team lose a game 130-125, you sure as hell have a good time. The Warriors showed great promise last season, but this season has been a thing of sublime beauty. This team is somehow disgustingly good and just as fun to watch as the old Warriors. They play elite defense now, and the offense has only gotten better. Curry is on the road to being possibly the best shooter in NBA history, and he and Klay Thompson put the fear of God into defenders on every possession. “How can I defend Steph without ending up on his highlight reel?” a defender asks himself. You can’t. There are a certain number of absurd 3-pointers that you must accept that Steph Curry will drain over your outstretched hands, and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

Credit where credit is due: Anthony Davis is an incredible talent, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become the NBA’s best player in the future. He is remarkable in all facets of the game. But the Pelicans don’t have enough depth to hang with the Warriors. No one man can beat Golden State in a 7-game series. Davis can’t do it. The maniac cyborg Russell Westbrook couldn’t have done it. I don’t know if any roster in the NBA can do it (though I’ll never, ever, count out the Spurs, and the Cavs look fearsome). Who’s next on the list to have Curry rain fire on them like Mt. Vesuvius? Watch the Warriors to find out.

(2) Houston Rockets vs (7) Dallas Mavericks

James+Harden+agVue935Eg1m

 

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Album Review: Sufjan Stevens’ “Carrie and Lowell”

Carrie and Lowell

It’s been four and a half years since Sufjan Stevens last released a studio album, and the folk singer’s latest offering is worth the wait. Carrie and Lowell, Stevens’ seventh album, named for his mother and step-father, is a return to more familiar sounds for Stevens.

Stevens’ 2010 album The Age of Adz was a radical departure from his previous works, blending electronic sounds with his more traditional instrumentation to create a booming and, at times, disquieting experience. While I thoroughly enjoyed the new direction, it seems that Stevens has decided to put that style on hold for Carrie and Lowell, instead favoring a more subtle acoustic approach to the music. The moniker of “folk music” certainly fits this album more than the last. Yet, Carrie and Lowell does not feel similar to Stevens’ 2005 smash hit Illinois, either, which prominently featured layered orchestration and a bombastic, energetic sound on many of its tracks. Carrie and Lowell feels most similar to his 2003 album Michigan to me. Stevens’ voice is central in most of the tracks, and the combination of it and his acoustic guitar provide a soothing atmosphere throughout the album.

Stevens’ talent for lyrics has not left him, and his curious talent for mixing his religious experiences into his songs without making “Christian music” still serves him well. Carrie and Lowell, as the name suggests, was prominently inspired by Stevens’ experiences with his family. His mother passed away in 2012, and this provides context for one of the album’s standout tracks, “The Fourth of July.” The theme of reminiscing on childhood, and about wondering if one has made the correct choices since then, is another important aspect of the album.

With eleven tracks, the longest of which just surpasses five minutes in length, Carrie and Lowell is a faster listen than other of his albums, but rewards repeated listens. Standout tracks include “Should Have Known Better,” “Fourth of July,” “The Only Thing,” and “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross.” I can’t recommend cherry-picking songs, though; Carrie and Lowell is best experienced as a whole.

Image via


Iron Maidens: A Spring guide to cardio machines

superbad-running

March is upon us, and the weather is getting slightly more pleasant. Soon, it will be so warm that it will be difficult to justify eating macaroni and cheese three meals a day (difficult, but not impossible). As you emerge from the dead of winter, idle thoughts of going to the gym may float across your mind. Supposing you decide to get the blood pumping in service of your vanity health, you will be faced with a wide variety of cardio machines in the campus gyms. If your diet is 120% protein and and you can discuss the finer points of squatting form, perhaps these machines are of little consequence to you, but for the rest of us who answer “Do you even lift?” with, “Well, no, now that you mention it,” cardio is our bread and butter. Or method of burning the bread and butter. Clichéd metaphors aside, there are a variety of options for your distance workouts. Like other areas of life, most of these choices are wrong.

Treadmill

Old reliable. The treadmill is the bane of excuses everywhere. “It’s rainy.” “It’s -2 degrees Fahrenheit out.” “I went to Kabob and Curry last night.” Whatever reason you can come up with to dodge running outside, the treadmill is always there to remind you that you’re a lazy bum. The only excuse left is that the weather is too poor to even get to the gym, which is unlikely in the event that the gym is actually open. The treadmill offers the wonderful experience of turning oneself into a hamster, running forever while gazing at the same stretch of wall (though many models come equipped with TV screens). On occasion, you meet the person, clearly the scourge of public restrooms everywhere, who elects to use the treadmill right next to yours, despite the fact that there are a dozen others available. Miscreant.

In spite of its monotony, the treadmill does have several key upsides. The first, which it shares with running in general, is that your treadmill music can never be too ridiculous. Running is a stressful enough activity that no one can ever give you shit for your tune choice. If “Call Me Maybe” dubstep remixes are all you want to listen to, the treadmill is your machine.

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Another advantage of the treadmill is that it puts less strain on your joints than running outdoors, which is great if you, like me, are secretly a geezer in a 22 year-old, hip injury prone body. Also, the machine takes care of your pacing for you, so you can run more or less without thinking.

Bear’s Lair Treadmill

These deserve their own section, nestled as they are in the carpeted-gym madness of the Graduate Center. Firstly, only 2 of the 4 will be functional on any given day, so either run in the wee hours of the morning or perfect your cage fighting skills to capture one by force. If you live near or in Grad Center, there’s probably  part of you urging you to put in some extra effort and go to Nelson Center for your workout. Pay heed to that voice; it is your friend. Continue Reading


FlogDailyHerald: VDub fruit

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the VDub is a better dining hall than the Ratty. While the lack of weekend hours can be a real bummer, most of the fare is of consistently higher quality than Ratty analogues. The bagels, for example, are massively superior at the VDub. I need not even mention the glory of Chicken Finger Friday, which consistently draws an enormous crowd. Unfortunately, all is not beautiful and pure there; something sticks out of the the rest of the scrumptious offerings, impinging upon the senses with its low quality. I speak, of course, of the fruit.

VW Apple

Lucifer’s going to have a hell of a job getting me to eat this one.

Green, brown, the occasional odd shade of orange. Most of the fruit at the VDub is stunted, sour, and inexplicably substandard. Where the fruit at the Ratty is usually high quality, the counterparts at the VDub at like some sort of twisted reflection of what fruit should be. Of all the fruit that gets put out, only the oranges and, on occasion, the bananas have been satisfactory on any consistent basis. I recall one halcyon day when there were actually good apples, visions of beauty that shall not come again.

Is this simply a matter of balance in the world? Must the rest of the VDub’s greatness come at this terrible price? No, I can’t accept this. I know it can do better. Is this like a sibling situation, where the VDub gets the hand-me-downs that the Ratty won’t use? Surely some of the Ratty’s golden apples could be spared for our favorite Pembroke dining hall.

Disappointing fruit is a terrible thing. Crisp, fresh fruit can be the factor that makes a breakfast worthwhile. I don’t see any reason why the VDub ought to languish in mediocrity. Whatever harvest deity watches over Pembroke needs to get of their lazy ass and do something about this.

Image via Steve Dowd ’15


Hipster How-To: Being “over” snow

hipster-snow

Supposing you’re one of the hip young people, you need to be able to act like you’re an old pro at everything. In the icy grip of February, long after winter break has ended and the holidays are a distant memory, you need the ability to be casually dismissive of snow. Perhaps it’s your first winter in the northeast, and you grew up in Texas. Perhaps snow is familiar to you, but not quite familiar enough for snide condescension. Not to worry, you’ll be intolerable in no time.

Step 1: Deny the beauty of snow

This past Tuesday, I was walking back from work through a shower of large snow flakes, the type you see depicted on unsigned paintings in your grandma’s house. I looked up, and beheld the SciLi, crusted with fallen snow. I caught myself thinking, “You know, that doesn’t look half bad at the moment,” so the snowfall was aesthetically miraculous. However, if you want to be over the snow, you have to envision the weeks ahead, in which the once beautiful precipitation transforms into piles of concentrated grey misery on the sides of the roads. T.S. Eliot was off by one; back in Buffalo, where I come from, March is the cruelest month by far. It’s a monument to a hideous winter that has overstayed its welcome. Once this month is upon us, the idea of a winter wonderland will connote all the grace and beauty of a stubbed toe.

(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

That lucky bastard Caesar got to duck out on the 15th.

Step 2: Think about the time invested in travel

I don’t know about you, but I find walking to be my favorite method of travel in Providence. Unfortunately, the recent storms have made traveling on foot through Providence untenable. Want to walk to Stop & Shop to get some groceries? Fuck you, go to Whole Foods and double your bill. After a few days of trying to navigate all the narrow old roads of the surrounding town only to find that, whoops, this sidewalk is also not clear, looks like you’ll be turning around again, you’ll be hating winter like a 10-year veteran.

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