Thursday, May 7, 2009

Course Evaluation

This semester has been both an infuriating and a progressive one to me. My time in English 111 has been anything but easy, and yet it has remained one of my favorite classes. Unlike nearly every other English class I have ever taken, the assignments in this course have actually proved to be enjoyable, as well as informative. It’s also been refreshing to have a teacher that appreciates writing that isn’t the stereotypical paper; facts, facts, boring monologue, facts, end.

Throughout this semester I’ve dealt with setback after setback, which has put me constantly behind where I should be. Unlike the majority of teachers I’ve had in the past, Mr. Gasparo actually seems to give a damn about more than how you’re doing in his class. In addition to saving my grade, this has managed to instill a bit more faith in the education system.

I came into English 111 expecting another standard, boring class about writing. I’ve actually taken a course with the exact same title, English Composition, at my former school in Florida. It was nothing like this class has been. Whereas the assignments in my former class were cut-and-dry, boring papers with no personal interests even considered in their being handed out, every paper I have written in this class has not only allowed, but demanded a personal touch. Even the dreaded research paper was about a topic that interested us. Not a choice by the teacher, even if it did have to be approved by him, but a topic that we actually want to have discussed. The papers you have to write have a specific format that must be followed, as well as individual requirements that are outlined, but overall the writing style is whatever you choose it to be. Writing in a way that would normally not be allowed is fully acceptable, and if done well appreciation will be given. In my experience, this is not the norm, and it is to be commended.

The papers I have written for this class have allowed me to learn more of my own writing style, and to improve upon it. I can’t recall ever getting above an 80 on a writing assignment before this class, let alone positive comments. Since I’ve been in this class, however, I’ve received several decent grades, as well as commentary that has boosted my confidence as a writer. The revised diagnostic essay was actually one of my favorite assignments to write, because you essentially have free reign of the entire paper. With at least half the paper being required to have entirely new material than the original, this allows for an almost complete rework of the diagnostic essay, if you so choose. I did, and I had a blast writing it. Second to the revised diagnostic essay is the restaurant review. Throughout my entire review, I was offensive, mildly obnoxious, and pretty much an asshole. As opposed to former papers I’ve written in this style, where I received failing grades and negative feedback, I was actually told Mr. Gasparo enjoyed reading it. This is a welcomed surprise for someone like me, who has real problems adopting their writing to a more “friendly” style. My formatting may still suck in a lot of regards, but being told that not following MLA format is the real problem with my paper, not the content, is pretty damn good to me.

Overall, I’ve greatly enjoyed my time in this class. It’s been far from easy for me, and I’m sure I’ve given Mr. Gasparo multiple headaches from all the problems I’ve run into. I’ve never had an academic class I enjoyed as much as I have this English Composition course. I highly recommend this class to any that either need it, or want to improve their writing abilities without the stifling environment brought about by many classes like it. Hopefully soon, the student I’ve already told has to take this class will be enrolled, and enjoying it as much as I did.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Diagnostic essays: Original and Revised


The Day of Super-Awesomeness

I awoke with a start. A million thoughts blew through my head. Something was wrong, but what it was, I could only guess. Slowly, cautiously, I rose from my bed and looked out my window. Nothing out of the ordinary, just an average day, in an average town. Muttering to myself about paranoia, I walked outside to the balcony for a smoke. I scanned the area once more, searching for anything to let me know I wasn’t crazy. One second, two seconds, three seconds.. Nope, crazy.

Sighing to myself, I crushed my cigarette, and started to walk inside. I was almost halfway to the door, which is only about two steps (Still moving slowly, cautiously, lazily), when something struck me in the back of the head. BAM! Laid out flat. Grunting, I rose and looked around, dazedly, and spotted a ridiculously odd creature staring at me. Describing this creature; impossible. Easiest solution: think Cthulu, but smaller. He screamed something at me, resembling “Oogity boogity!”, then smacked me once more with his powerful octopus-tentacle-arm-thing.

Rising, several hours later, I was quite confused. Deciding not to question it for the moment, I lit another smoke and began to ponder my current state of obvious insanity. Suddenly, as if by some dark voodoo magic, I knew the answer. I was, quite obviously, some sort of superhuman being.. by way of squid-like being.

I left my home, considering what I could do with this new octopus-granted ability, whose granted abilities I had not even speculated upon. Eventually, after quite a bit of aimless wandering, I arrived at the nearest Chic-fila-a, and purchased a delicious sandwich. As I began to consume this sandwich, I thought to myself “Man.. I really want some pizza.” Going to take another bite, and expecting the goodness that can only come from chicken, I was surprised to instead taste the goodness that comes only from pizza. It was then I realized, I could change any piece of matter, into any other piece of matter I desired.

Exiting the good Christian establishment that is Chic-fil-a, I quickly turned all of the chairs into manta-rays and made my way down the street, considering what to do with my newfound gift. Unsure of what to do with such an amazing amount of greatly unexplained power, I did what anyone who could suddenly transform matter would do: went to the place with the highest concentration of randomly assorted matter I could find.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived at Wal-Mart. In retrospect, I could have transformed my shoes into something more lazy man friendly, but the time was passed, and there was random changing to be done. Walking from aisle to aisle, I contemplated where to start. Judging from the incessant chatter emerging from the toy’s aisle, I decided on my first target. With a swish of my hand (for dramatic, jedi-like emphasis of importance) all of the toys were now living versions of themselves. Light-sabers chased/swiped at children, toy cars chased the kid’s parents, all the essentials. Deciding my work here was done, and sporadically choosing aisles to walk down in order to avoid the security team that was now following me (apparently the jedi-move was a bad idea. People tend to notice that kind of thing) I departed the store.

This time doing the energy efficient thing, I transformed a wandering feline into a much, much larger version of itself, mounted, and darted away towards my home. Arriving safely, I transformed the cat into a seagull, and sent it on its way. Considering my job well done, I went back to my balcony for a victory smoke. First step out the door, déjà vu. BAM! Tentacle.

Two hours later, I awoke, this time with a much angrier octopus-being standing over me. Apparently in the time I was out doing pointless things, it had learned English, and it now set to berating me for poor power usage. Smacking me upside the head with its tentacle, it declared my powers now inert, and the upcoming invasion by its people. Then, abruptly, it was gone.

Considering it a good day, all in all, I went to bed. Yes, that’s right, no more than two hours later I went back to sleep. When I awoke, once more going to my window, I saw the buildings all around me turned into giant assortments of children’s toys, food items, and a great deal of other random objects. The squid being from before reappeared once more, exclaiming “You passed the test!” It then proceeded to give me a high-five, a low-five, then turned me into a newt.


And so the World Ends, With a Bang and a Boom

Darkness. The sensation of falling, the world spinning around me, a cyclone of nothingness. Unsure of whether this is merely a dream, or the end of it all, I flail my arms out to the sides; grasping for anything to convince myself that it isn’t already over, a black limbo being the true afterlife. A shattering sound echoes in my ears, followed by the return of light and a sharp pain in my right arm.

“Shit,” I mutter, slowly opening my eyes as the longing for the darkness I so desperately wanted to escape, just moments ago, pervades my thoughts. Half of a bottle of whiskey juts through my forearm; my swinging arm having both broken the bottle, wasting the last three shots I had left, and impaling itself on the spear-like point. Muttering to myself once more, I rise from the bed, locate my pack of Royals, and light one, taking a long drag of the sweet poison. Resting the cigarette between my lips, I take the bottle in my left hand and give a strong jerk. A ripping sensation overrides my other senses as the bottle comes free, my mind registers what this should mean half a second later, and the pain that had turned to numbness immediately following the initial pain returns, this time stronger. A sudden boom of thunder mutes my next few words. I think to myself, “Probably for the best… Ms. Cardigan would stop bringing me clients if she heard me talkin’ like that.”

Shrugging, I make my way to the patio; a narrow river of crimson forming in my wake. I lean against the rail, watching as the remnants of some turf war finish off their enemy’s living and loot anything of value off the dead. Laughing to myself, I take a final drag from my Royal, flicking it at the closest of the vultures below me. “Another day in Shithole City,” I say to myself, watching my arm and grinning as the last centimeter of my wound finish sealing themselves. Flexing my fist once, just to make sure my gift hasn’t forsaken me yet, I fling myself over the patio railing; down into the city where nightmares walk freely and even the word justice has been forgotten…

The air is cold, and the streetlights have all been broken for months, if not years. I wear a pair of black jeans and a white tank top; looking upper class compared to most of the filth I pass as I walk through the alley. Pockets of light persist through the otherwise eternal midnight that plagues this city, mostly from the “offices” of the higher-up Arsonists; a gang notorious for their use of pyrotechnic prowess.

Turning to face the largest of these pyre-like command centers, I pull another cigarette from my pack and place it between my lips, taking slow, deliberate steps to place myself directly in front of this district’s Flame Warden (the rank given to whichever of the bastards could control the other freaks the best.) A Firestarter (the lowest of the low) steps out in front of me, doing his damndest to look confident, and waves his personal flamethrower in my face. His lips start flapping, but I already know I don’t care about a single word he’s going to say. I hold up a finger for him to be silent. He lifts a finger of his own, before pulling the trigger. A skeletal grin becomes the only expression I can make, as the skin is melted off my face.

By the time he releases the trigger, the first layer of flesh has already replaced itself. Chuckling, I step through the lingering flames and passed the thug. Now standing directly in front of the man in charge, I seat myself across from him at the desk. Gesturing at the bottle of scotch on the desk, he gives me a nod and I help myself to a drink, straight from the bottle. I relish in the burn for a moment before speaking quietly to the man across from me “You know why I’m here, Gordon. Your name’s been turned in to me. Nothin’ either of us can do about it at this point, it’s too late for you to torch anybody.. But, you’ve worked with me enough to know the rules. You’ve got a last request, of anything I can manage to get my hands on, or you get a counter-hit. I gotta tell you though, Gordon, this contract expires in two days. Not a lot of time to make decisions like this, but that’s how life goes. Make your choice, and make it well.”

Grimacing, Gordon motioned for me to hand the bottle back to him. I complied, and he drew deeply from it. Belching loudly, he spits to his left before saying to me “This ain’t right, and you know it. I got burned who I was ‘sposed to get burned, damnit! The hell they doin’ callin’ you down on me?”

I shrug, fighting the instinctive urge to just kill Gordon and get it over with. “Just how it goes, Gordon. Now tell me what it’s gonna be. I got places to be, jobs to do. They’re callin’ in a lot of hits this time, and I’m on a schedule

He sighed, nodding “Yeah, alright. You ain’t the one doin this, even if you’re the one doin it... You serious about goin’ after ‘em? I mean, I ain’t doubtin’ you or nothin’, but that’s suicide.”

A chuckle and an amused expression from me cause him to laugh as well. Taking another drink of the bottle, he starts talking again “Yeah yeah, I know. You’re a regular superman. Can’t nothing kill you. That shit ain’t gonna fly forever though, and we both know it.”

Another shrug, and I rise to my feet “That you’re answer then, Gordon? Take ‘em down?”

He nods “Stick it to the bastards. Go ahead get this over with, too. You’re a busy guy.”

A final nod, and the blade comes out “Walk proudly through the shadow, Gordon”

One strike, and it’s over. I turn and make my way out of the hell-hole that this group of freaks call home, back into the alley.

The stench of death and a thousand sharp, metallic clicks greet me. A quick scan of the area shows me the bodies of a dozen or so Arsonists, many of them still struggling to rise and being immediately gunned down by the men in black suits encircling the area. A more intricate scan shows me the guns of most of these men are now trained on me.

I chuckle, taking another Royal out of the pack and lighting it. Fittingly, the last of the pack. I call out to the group “So, you’ve got me bugged. Quick response time, for a bunch of lackeys.”

A man steps out of the group, a tommy-gun remaining fixed on me “You fucked up this time. No goin’ back. This time it ends.” He reaches in his pocket, pulling a metallic sphere from his pocket “Know what this is? It knocks out those “powers” freaks like you got. Means when I tell these boys to light you up, you won’t be comin’ back at us.” A near maniacal laugh erupts from his diaphragm as he launches the sphere towards me; a blinding flash following contact with the alleyway.

I shield my eyes, the phantom pains of a thousand past wounds coming to life across my body. Blinking my vision clear, I stare back at the man “You’re not my target, we can all walk away fro—˝ The men start shooting, a thousand fires light across me. The world starts fading, everything going dim. I feel the ground getting closer, and then I feel contact. Nothing matters at this point, numbness pervades the senses.

Darkness. The sensation of falling, the world spinning around me, a cyclone of nothingness. Unsure of whether this is merely a dream, or the end of it all, I flail my arms out to the sides; grasping for anything to convince myself that it isn’t already over, a black limbo being the true afterlife. Nothing happens. Even the darkness falls away as all senses collapse.