The Last Assignment. Ever.

The year is drawing to a close (about 5 months too late on my internal clock) and as such end-of-the-year things are happening. This post is the last of my portfolio requirements for the Journalism and Media Studies Writing and Editing three course I’m doing.

The brief was hideously simple – reflect on the semester. I was expecting to write a long, formal academic essay, referencing ‘writing theorists’ (actually, do these exist?!) and generally not being allowed to express subjectivity 😦 .

But, thankfully, we had free reign with the form and structure of the essay. I’ve written my essay just as I write my diary entries – time, date, place at the top, and a short sentence contextualising the diary entry (think of it as a very informal sub-heading).

I just love this picture. It bears no relevance on anything in this post, really. Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/1448155188803544/photos/pb.1448155188803544.-2207520000.1414785269./1493636920922037/?type=1&theater

I just love this picture. It bears no relevance to anything in this post, really.

I’ve attached a pdf of my final assignment.

[Note: It’s kinda sad and a bit ranty so read it at your own peril.]

The writer’s beach

zadiesmith

Zadie Smith, English novelist, essayist and all-round literary bad-ass wrote a brilliant essay that was recently published din the New York Times. Called “Find Your Beach” this relatively short essay is, according to Brian Pickings, “about Manhattan, about our modern compulsions, about the artist and the anguish of the American Dream.

Now, I’ve lived in South Africa my entire life and have never been to Manhattan ever, or to England (which she references in juxtaposition to America) yet I find her words surprisingly easy to relate to. Any wordsmith can identify with what Smith says on the supposed need for self-actualization and how that need is a delicately constructed ‘want’, or how the Self reigns Queen in a society that prioritizes the individual over the communal, without authentic integration with the Self..

The society we live in is paradoxical and nonsensical – for many writers, including myself, we write to make sense of it all. This essay succinctly highlights those dichotomies and weaves in the narrative of the good life to boot.

5 Reasons Buzzfeed Isn’t Actually Journalism

[Warning: rant]

Social media platforms are saturated with content with Buzzfeed and I hate it (Although as this video shows, I’m not the only one who hates it). Buzzfeed propagates and disseminates some of the most useless and annoyingly shallow information I have ever had the displeasure of reading.  This article about Kim Kardashian’s supposed Blackberry hoarding is just the tip of the iceberg (of bad writing).

Buzzfeed never proclaims to be a bastion of journalistic integrity but seeing as they use words to peddle their wares, I take offence at how poorly constructed most of their content is. Buzzfeed is the popular kid who doesn’t have innate talent or skill – popularity for popularity’s sake.

So in true Buzzfeed style, I present you with a list of reasons why Buzzfeed isn’t actually journalism, nor good writing.

  • Many articles function as teasers to other media, which isn’t multimedia journalism. It’s more like a goodie bag of disparate forms of media.
  • Many stories deal with celebrity inanities – unproblematised and without any sense of nuance.
  • Stories are packaged in a visually attractive way  but the structure of writing renders the meaning and angle superfluous. This ties to my belief that words arranged beautifully and eloquently need less bells and whistles.
  • Their relationship with the advertising world is quite sketchy. Objectivity and neutrality cannot be sustained in such environments.
  • Valourisation of popular culture does nothing for the collective internet intellect. Good writing isn’t boring or dull.

Clothes for a cause

[PHOTO SERIES: Pop-up Street Store]

A pop-up store that provides for street people instead of hipsters starved for vintage hand-me-downs

This concept was created by Max Pazak and Kayli Levithan, two Cape Townians who came up with the idea of ‘the world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free pop-up clothing store for the poor’ when observing street people on their way to and from work. This video explains more behind the two philanthropists and their intentions with the open-source project.

The Grahamstown rendition of the Street Store was an altogether less friendly space than that described in Cape Town. A small group of concerned Rhodes University students ran the Street Store and although eager to help, their efforts seemed to aggravate some Grahamstown residents, especially those whom the store was targeted at. These photo’s illustrate some of the highs and lows from the day.

All pictures taken by Youlendree Appasamy (yes, that’s me).

The Street Store took place on the 11 October on High Street, Grahamstown.

The Street Store took place on the 11 October on High Street, Grahamstown.

A view from above the bustling Street Store. Turn-out to the store was deemed "better than expected" by one volunteer.

A view from above the bustling Street Store. Turn-out to the store was deemed “better than expected” by one volunteer.

Many residents disliked the fact that a queue was necessary. The queue to receive clothing peaked at around midday.

Many residents disliked the fact that a queue was necessary. The queue to receive clothing peaked at around midday.

Although not without it's problems, the Street Store managed to partially deliver on its promise of "uniting the 'haves' with the 'have-nots'" in Grahamstown.

Although not without it’s problems, the Street Store managed to partially deliver on its promise of “uniting the ‘haves’ with the ‘have-nots'” in Grahamstown.

Two children excitedly scramble to find a warm item of clothing in the Kid's Clothing section.

Two children excitedly scramble to find a warm item of clothing in the Kid’s Clothing section.

Winter seems a warmer prospect to this young child.

Winter seems a warmer prospect to this young child.

Gazing onto the Sea of Quotes

4. Any items that illuminate your day, your understanding, your relationship with the world, your life as a writer

Under this missive, I present to you A Sea of Quotes.  This clunky looking website contains a plethora of beautifully and skillfully arranged words that re-inspire me to write and read as much as humanely possible. A Sea of Quotes consists of extracts from books and quotes from poems. This website is a compendium of reader’s favourite passages and lines.

This is from Neruda's poem "Clenched Soul".

This is from Neruda’s poem “Clenched Soul”. A Sea of Quotes consists of pages and pages of the best pieces of writing and poetry in the English language.

The gems I find on this website usually lead to me writing my own prose, so take a look and it may cure your writer’s block 🙂

Writer’s tightrope act

Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15) by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I was exposed to this poem in my last year of high school by my inspirational bare-footed English teacher. At first I looked at the free form poem with disdain. Poetry is nice to describe nature. And love. But I never took poetry seriously as an art form outside those two spheres. It could never describe or explain anything else without sounding overwrought (or so I thought).

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, credited as one of the architects of Beat poetry, wrote this poem in ‘classic’ beat style – no noticeable form, rhythmic structure or decorative words.  Its straightforward meaning is conveyed through typographic gymnastics on the page. As with all good poetry, the scaffolding of the poem is pivotal to the meaning it contains.

Ferlinghetti owned the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco which helped catapult many Beat Generation writers into the literature world.

Ferlinghetti owned the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco which catapulted many Beat Generation writers into the literature world.

Ferlinghetti presents insight into the performance of the poet. The poet is likened to an acrobat, teetering on a tight-rope of her own making, juggling perspectives, trying to entertain an audience whilst still trying to hold onto Beauty and Truth. She constantly risks absurdity in trying to convince others of her vocation. The job is a dangerous and public one.  Ferlinghetti speaks about the conflicted position of the poet, but I believe his words resonate with all creators of written word.

When I was still young enough to believe in mystique of the circus, Brian Boswell’s performing troupe pulled up to an empty lot in the small farming town I grew up in. It was widely advertised in my primary school and I nagged my parents until they relented.

My childhood ideas of circus acrobats was a little bit like this image.

My childhood ideas of circus acrobats was a little bit like this image.

The acrobats were my favourite – I was going for gymnastics lessons at the time (and had been for around 3 years) and my mom encouraged me to pursue gymnastics so I could become like one of the wildly swinging women I saw at the circus.

In a way I have.

If you would like to find out which Beat Generation poet you would have been, take this hilarious quiz.