Category Archives: 101 in 1001

83. Whiten my teeth

Dear Weblog Superfans,

I don’t know why, but my teeth are not really white. Not really. I don’t drink coffee or much dark soda, which are the only two things I know that really stain teeth. My dad’s were sort of yellow, too, before he whitened them.

In any case, they’re not much whiter now. Those freakin White Strips hurt, man. Add that to the fact that I can’t remember to do anything for more than two days in a row, and there’s a recipe for a 101 Failure. I started on my latest kit about two weeks before the wedding, hoping to get through at least half of a box. Nope. No go. Every once in a while I start it again, thinking that that’s just Day 1 of the next half, but I never remember, and doing it for just one day doesn’t do a damn thing anyway. So slightly yellow teeth, you curse me. (Maybe I should get the manual…)

I have to get them at least one shade whiter, or else this is a bust… (at least in the literal terms of the goal, as stated in The List.)

Love,
msb

65. Read a second book by Chris Ware

Dear Weblog Superfans,

From Jimmy Corrigan

From Jimmy Corrigan

A few years ago, when I was still in college and decided to be a writer instead of a lawyer, I took a class on basic literature studies. As a part of the curriculum, we read a graphic novel by Chris Ware called Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. And I loved it. It was strange and quirky and hard to read–I can’t find a decent picture of any of the difficult pages, but you can sort of see it in the one I’ve put up here. I hadn’t read a graphic novel since the Maus books years before, and I was excited about all the things it could do. There wasn’t much comic-bookiness about it; it was just the story of a kid who grows up and that kid’s family history. And the questions in this literature studies class were whether it was a “real” novel, whether it was literature or of one of the the less-austere “genres,” how, generally, such a thing as Jimmy Corrigan should be received.

Anyway, I wanted more of this graphic novel thing, but not too much, because I wanted to write non-graphic-novels and I didn’t want to lose my focus, man. So I decided to look into Chris Ware some more and see what came of it. Well, the Acme Novelty Library came of it. That’s a series that he did, in the fashion of comic books, I suppose, but without the regular super heroes, etc. Just awesome drawings about people who might or might not have maladjustment issues. That series was trimmed and anthologized, in a “best-of” way, I believe, into the Acme Novelty Library book. And my sister purchased that for me for my birthday a while back.

So I have my second book by Chris Ware; now all I have to do is read it.

Love
msb

34. Let’s call them helped.

Dear Weblog Superfans,

My #34 (Truly help a student) doesn’t really conform to the rules of the 101 in 1001 Big Idea in that it’s not very specific. You might ask, What does “help” mean? And rightly so: there’s no criteria for it; its ambiguity is contrary to the very notion of a 101 list, which is–at least in my mind–to establish a set of reachable goals. Goals that traditional resolutions, such as the New Year kind, in their audacity and fairly preposterous life-changing, revolutionary breadth, fall far short of establishing.

And then I went and put on #34 (as well as a number of others, I believe you might have noticed).

So. Here I present an argument as to why I have, indeed, accomplished this goal.

Background information: I established #34 thinking that I had plenty of time to do it–and I was right; I had exactly 1001 days. I would be working at my school’s writing center during that period and, hopefully (see #52), teaching on my own. Turns out I don’t need to have completed #52, although I might offer an update of #34 upon the completion of #52.

I worked at the writing center for about 12 months, and in that time, I have nominally “helped” hundreds of students. They came in with papers they’d written, or assignments for papers they hadn’t, and we talked about what they wanted to say and how well they had said it. Most of the time it was fine–not a job I would ever really apply to do full-time ever again, but something I think I was good at and enjoyed on a moderate level. Writing is, after all, MY LIFE!!!!!1.

But there are a few students who I believe I helped more than most. And that’s what I wanted to do here: help someone with something more than a paper, or at least with understanding something that would go beyond whatever it was they were working on that day. In rough chronological order:

Student #1, Last fall (several times). A girl whose name I cannot spell, but which is pronounced Phone, came in several times to work on papers for her Freshmen Comp class. We worked on all sorts of things, and I enjoyed it when she came in. Phone was always happy and enthusiastic, and even if it took her a while to catch on to things, she did catch on, and she was excited when it happened. We conducted a few surveys in the WC to see how people were responding immediately after consultations, and on one of them–they were anonymous, but I’m sure it was her–wrote “Matt is the best!”

Student #s 2, 3, and 4, the Powerpoint Girls, also last fall. These three freshmen were in that same Comp class and had to give a presentation on an essay they had all read. They’d discussed it a bit in class, I think, and the three of them knew what the author was trying to say well enough to create this OK Powerpoint presentation on it, but it wasn’t all that exciting. And their discussion of it wasn’t all that deep. So we talked about the article (I can’t remember what it was about) and it came out that they actually didn’t understand it very well, because even though they picked up on his premise and understood the layout of his argument, there were too many jumps in logic for them to follow along with him. They told me what these jumps in logic were, fairly clearly I thought, but hadn’t discussed them anywhere in the Powerpoint. And so, very simply, I told them to talk about why the author messed up and how saying that is a perfectly valid thing to do. These girls, being freshmen, were astounded, I think, and they left seeming pretty excited about what they were now going to do. Namely, tear the author a new one.

Student #5, Esther, last spring. Esther was working on an application essay for medical school. I hate application essays. There are so many different ways to write them, and the students really don’t like hearing that. They want to be told exactly what to do and how to do it, or else they leave angry and never come back. But Esther wasn’t like that. She was very into the experimentation of it all, was never wedded to what she had written just because she had written it, and it was a lot of fun. There isn’t any big inspirational story here; she came back probably six times or so, and between each session she would work on the essay and make it better until we got to the point where the only things to really “fix” were the little grammatical ones. Which is exactly what the writing center is all about! Yay!

Student #6, Natasha and the Matt Method, this summer. Natasha was working on an essay on a novel for some class that should not have required its students to write essays on novels. Political science, I think, because the essay had to discuss how the novel was politically Platonic, which confused the hell out of her. And I had no idea what a politically Platonic novel was, really, so I was kind of stumped. But we talked about how her class discussed Plato and his philosophy (I figured it had something to do with the Republic, and she sort of remembered having to read that). So I just gave her a basic approach to try–list all the characteristics that Plato designates as good things for a government or society to have, and then list all the characteristics of the society in the novel, and then connect the characteristics in one column to the ones in the other. Not a mind-bending strategy, I didn’t think, but she came back in a few days with a written essay, all excited because my idea worked. So well, apparently, that she was now calling it the Matt Method. So there you go. I think I should patent it. Or whatever.

Student #7, George, this summer. George was working on a handful of short essays for medical school. These ones were a bit easier to handle than the bigger application essay is because they actually gave him questions to answer. So we went over the essay that he thought was his best. He had put most of his energy into that one, since it was the only mini-essay that that particular school required. And it was a mess. He had been reluctant to come in, he said, because he was nervous about losing his personal voice, so I trod gently at first. We went over general ideas for the first half of the session and kind of revamped the whole thing. Then he told me he wanted to go over it with a fine-tooth comb rather than doing the same general-idea thing for the rest. And so we picked apart every phrase that didn’t quite make sense and ended up with a pretty different essay in terms of language, but seemingly the essay that he had intended to write. I think he was pretty excited when he left, or at least aware of what he needed to do for the other essays to make them a bit better, as well. And when he left, he said, “You are damn good at what you do.”

Thus, Weblog Superfans, I am calling #34 complete.

Love
msb

6. Angus MacGyver: Always prepared…for a lame storyline

Dear Weblog Superfans,

For a very long time, my favorite crappy/awesome ’80s TV show has been MacGyver. I don’t know why; it might have been the amazing hair. In any case, I loved it. Once, when I was fourteen and was on a school trip in Kuala Lumpur, I watched an episode of MacGyver dubbed over in Malaysian. True story. Continue reading

Various potential hitches

Dear Weblog Superfans,

Some things have come up that might preclude a clean completion of much of my 101 List. Most of them are school related, since I’m busier than I thought I would be and am taking Novel Workshop instead of Short Story Workshop. Continue reading

16. The Human Factor

Dear Weblog Superfans,

I could have sworn I wrote about this already, but I can’t find it. A few weeks (months?) ago, I read The Human Factor by Graham Greene for one of my unread books. It’s a spy novel that was intended to be a more realistic/literary spy novel than the more popular ones of the day–it was written in the 70s, I think. Those other kind were generally more exciting super-spy-type books, such as the James Bond series by Ian Fleming. Continue reading

One game, two completions.

Dear Weblog Superfans,

As I related some days ago, I have lately taken a wife. A common precursor to the day of the marriage itself is an evening of merriment attended by the bridegroom and his good buddies–that is, a bachelor party. Continue reading