Monthly Archives: November 2012

5 Things You Shouldn’t Say (or email) to your Professor

1. “Oh, is today the midterm?” If this question escapes your lips then that is a bad sign.  Don’t make it worse by advertising it to the professor.  Just do your best.

2. “I went to your office and you weren’t there.” Professor is aware of her location.  Try “Sorry I missed you.”

3. “I don’t write good.  It’s not my thing.”  You don’t write well.  And, if Twilight can get published then you can crank out an essay.

4.  “I gotta be honest.  I got wasted last night.” No, you do not need to be honest.  Drink some coffee.

5. “I didn’t know what you wanted me to answer on the exam.”  Professor is not a dictator, but thanks for the implication.  Try “I was unsure how to approach the question, and I’d like to do better on the next exam.”

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Six Sentences

*Posts from my 6S (Six Sentences) Blog

The Take Over

Undetected, I slither into the depths of your being, transforming serenity into a volcano of emotion on the brink.  Your concentration paralyzed by a tsunami of anxieties swirling around your platform of ego.  Grocery clerks appear menacingly slow, the traffic agonizing, your husband seems to be a stranger, and nothing tastes quite right except for ice-cream and Taco Bell.

I enforce a fog to diminish your inner mute button just when a conversation desperately requires it.  Fatigue replaces the beauty of sleep; you desperately wish I were a mere vodka induced hangover.

My name is S: PM, S.

Missing You

There was a time when you showed the utmost devotion, and I would surrender in sweet peace upon your arrival. I barely needed to call on you; yet, without a miss there you’d be, cradling my exhausted body, shushing my woes away, marking the end to another day.

Now I stare at the ceiling longing for you, my eyes sometimes bouncing from corner to corner in anticipation, wondering what I did wrong for you to abscond. Perhaps this is punishment for ignoring you (but I didn’t mean it!); staying online, absorbed in the noise of the internet…a google here, a tweet there…

Now I cast my gaze to the crack of light peeping out from behind the curtain, my stare numb but not relaxed enough, a scatter of thoughts flutter about in my mind, the rhythm of my breath my only company.

Please come back to me, for I miss you terribly, my dear beloved Sleep.

Ode to Leuven, Belgium

Soft sounds of Flemish float through the air from those bustling along on cobblestone streets, winding around and about towards the center of town.

A lavish Town Hall pierces the sky; a masterpiece of detailed work calling upon the observer whose gaze cannot bear to rest on just one spot.

Sweet aroma from Bakers’ shops infiltrate the senses, draws one in without mercy, lining their windows with enticing treats sinfully sparking a pang of hunger unnoticed just moments before: “Een chocolade broodje, alstublieft.”

At the heart of several buildings sits a white brick embossed with the year 1914 above flames; a haunting reminder that the work was once the object of destruction but built anew; a historical signature memorializing the despair of war and the dignity of repair imprinted on the consciousness of all who pass.

Gray skies perpetually hover, threatening rain, teasing umbrellas to unleash their protection and force a hasty skip in one’s step; no matter,  because a café around the corner invites shelter, offering strong espresso, Koffie verkeerd or an impressive array of beer that imbues power to erase any hint of discomfort from the cold.

Church Bells chime, monopolizing the pulse of the town, and alerting the denizens of the hour as they continue about on foot or bicycle through this lovely little place, Leuven.


My Brief Stint As An Actress, Producer, Screenplay Writer

My childhood-friend-turned-actress (known to me as Giovanna, but changed to Gia for glamorous Hollywood persona) called me up with a proposal.  It was summer 2009. Would I be interested in writing a screenplay with her?  Flashes of fame and fortune a la Ben Affleck and Matt Damon hit me.  Indeed!  We settled down to work right away, meeting at a little restaurant in Pasadena toiling on the screenplay and consuming unholy amounts of coffee.

The premise of the film was floated to Gia by another friend. Given my love of the mystery genre this seemed ideal: an odd woman envisions herself normal but, by the end, the audience discovers her true self in an utterly disturbing big reveal.  We see an existential, psychotic divide. Maybe a hint of Norman Bates-ish for the finale.  I loved the idea of creating a haunting twist.

Actress friend found a director interested in the project, a soft spoken guy she’d met a few years back shooting a music video.  At our first (and unbeknownst to me only meeting) she informed him that she would star in the short film.  Then pointed to me and said “She can do a small part.”  He eyed me dubiously.  “Have you any experience?”

“I teach Philosophy,” I responded as though that made perfect sense.

A few weeks later a revised script arrived via email.  The director added some ideas.  Actress friend forwarded me the messages of her glowing appreciation for his dedication.  In the middle of putting together my syllabus for the upcoming semester, I paid little attention to the new script.

My big acting debut part: a store clerk named Claudine.  Claudine?  The director named my part, and judging by his choice that should have been the first sign of something amiss because one can’t even say Claudine without appearing to have just inhaled a stale fart.

Film day I was all a flutter.  The woman in charge of hair and make-up straightened my hair to resemble Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel in the latter years of Friends just after the show jumped the shark.  This was nothing short of miraculous; my hair looks like I routinely put my fingers in a light socket for kicks.  It suits my Philosophy Professor day job well.

But today I’m an actress!

It’s time for my scene.  The director calls “Action.”  Within a split second he yells “Cut!” followed by, “Gwendolyn, could you not touch your face?”

“Oh, okay.”

“Action!”

Scene begins.  Gia enters, delivers line to me.

“Cut!”

I give unsure smile at everyone.

“Gwendolyn, could you not look directly into the camera?”

“Oh, of course.”

“Action!”

Filming going fabulously.  Feeling like Meryl Streep.

Little girl actress interrupts the scene with: “Mommy, I have to poo!”

Ha!  This time it was her fault!  I wanted to point and gloat but, ever the classy gal, I refrained from doing so.

“Let’s film you biting your nails.”

Nail biting ensued.  This was top notch acting.  Truth be told, I love my nails.  Even the camera guy found it formidable and I don’t think he was being sarcastic.

Once filming ended I didn’t hear from Gia for a very long time.  Not knowing much about the business I assumed this to be par for the course.  I finally did touch base and tried nonchalantly to squeeze in questions about the editing between segments of small talk.  She said: “The director and I were looking at it.”

“Could I see?”

“No, he wouldn’t want that.”

Mild stomach churning.  Something didn’t feel right.  I chat with a friend over Starbucks lattes who knew a few writers in L.A.  She warned: “What you wrote could look completely different.  Don’t get your hopes up.”  This seemed too ominous.

I busied myself with my usual work to alleviate the butterflies over the film. Months passed.  Then, one day while checking Facebook (you know, the immensly personal means of communication) I noticed Gia’s status update : “I just saw the movie I made and I’m so excited!”  An abundant amount of “Likes” and comments followed.  Stomach no longer churning but in full revolt.

I called and asked if I could see the movie, supressing my annoyance that I needed to put in such a request.  She invited me over for a viewing.  In the beginning of the film everything ran smoothly.  Yay for us!  Then a character entered the scene, who the hell was sheA sister?  Oh no!  Our psychotic protagonist has family?  The sister is crying?  Why is the protagonist staring at a box of photos in her living room?

Midway through the film, my dreams of a Norman Bates-ish character wilted.  Hand over mouth, I cringed as it dawned on me that this film was nothing more than a big steamy pile of poop.  The disturbing script we put together in Pasadena morphed into a wannabe-after-school-special before my very eyes! This was the opposite of creepy.  It was extremely un-creepy.  Somber music played. Movie done. Gia beamed with pride.

I drove home perplexed and in need of generous helpings of wine.  One possible bright side occurred to me; Gia’s love of self allowed me a graceful out.  No need to push for credit on this.

Oblivious, Gia fancied I’d be on board for more projects.  While at the university, between lectures, I shot off a quick email to her declining any more movie making.  “You can keep all of the writing.  You’ll do great,” I wrote.

I listened to my messages when I arrived home from work.  Gia’s voice shrieked  in full disappointed actress mode: “I don’t know what to say to you.  Wow!  Don’t call me back!”  I obliged.  Three days later she emailed me: “How could you not call knowing how upset I was?”

Nothing ever came of the film.  And, thus, my brief career in the film business came to an uneventful close.


Term Paper Ideas

The professor passes out the term paper prompt.  You glance at the requirements, cue the heart palpitations.  What to write?

Writing essays is a means for you to demonstrate knowledge of the course and to engage in the learning process.  What if the paper is for a General Ed course that falls outside the bounds of your major (and comfort zone)?  Link the ideas from the General Ed course to your major.  By making connections between subjects you will enhance your work, ease the stress of research, and construct a paper that interests you.  In fact, most university course subjects are not independent of each other but rather topics that imply and/or depend on each other.

For example, if you are a Science major in need of ideas for a History term paper, then research scientific advancements that impacted the historical time frame you are currently studying.  A Literature major taking a science course?  Look into science fiction novels that alluded to scientific discovery or technological possibilities.  Brave New World or  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea could fit nicely.

Other subjects that comfortably intersect:

1. Economics, Geography, Political Science.

2. Women’s Studies, Literature, History, Sociology, African-American Studies.

3. Philosophy, Psychology, History, World Religions.

Do not be afraid to take what you have learned from one course and inject that knowledge into your term paper for another course.  I’ve read fantastic Philosophy papers that draw from Engineering Case Studies, Women’s Studies, Biology, and History.  To begin, try typing two subjects into the university library search engine and see what pops up; for example, “Virtue Ethics and Business,” or “Utilitarianism and Engineering.” Chances are a journal article will appear that will launch ideas for your term paper.

In my Philosophy class, students linked the following subjects: an aerospace engineering student used Utilitarian Ethical Theory to justify government funds funneled towards space exploration.  A student interested in Biology examined the implications of genetic engineering in conjunction with Ethical Theory.  A female athlete used our reading on Feminist Theory and applied it to women in sports.  The implications of Determinism were highlighted in a paper by a Psychology Major.

Again, the notion that your undergraduate studies are discrete from one another is disingenuous.  You have a lot of material right at your finger tips!  Write an essay that interests you and it will translate into a well crafted paper.

Finally, professors look for a proper organization of ideas in students’ papers.

1. Be sure to proof read your work for grammar and structure.

2. Do you have an introduction that clearly lets the reader know of your paper’s intention?

3. Check and re-check the order of the paragraphs to ensure a logical flow of ideas.

4. Print your work, step away for a few hours, and then read the paper out loud slowly.  This helps you to spot grammar errors and awkward sentences.

5. Have you considered more than one point of view?  Is there an opposition?

6. Do you have a conclusion?  What did you learn?

Good luck on your term papers!

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