Writings on Readings

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Writings on Readings (with dated entries) and

Other writings on readings, including a book reivew, brief literary review, and writings that are non-academic and not assigned (descriptions & links at bottom)


Nov 2, 2010

Commentary on McCloud’s

Chapter 7, The Six Steps


McCloud certainly does have an interesting way of looking at the world, art, and the world as art.  He describes art as “any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species’ two basic instincts:  survival and reproduction!” (164).  His basic concepts? 


  1. Art exercises our minds and bodies (e.g., games and sports)
  2. Art is an outlet for our emotional imbalances (i.e., self-exploration)
  3. Art leads to useful discoveries (167)


This got my mind rolling.  Since lately I am focusing on ‘all things community’, this immediately brought me to thinking about my neighborhood during the five years I resided in Manhattan.  New York is an interesting place.  There may be a multi-million dollar penthouse in a pre-war building on one side of the street and something diametrically opposed directly across from it.  I lived in the neighborhood that is referred to as Gramercy Park.  I did not live across from the park, but within the few blocks surrounding the area of the park.  At one time, the pre-war building I lived in consisted of luxury garden apartments.  By the time I moved in, these apartments had been cut-up into smaller units, including some studio apartments.  This, of course, would be much to the dismay of the original architectural artist. 


What moved me to think of my former neighborhood though, was not the architect as artist.  It was the occupants in the building across the street.  The small low rise of apartments housed young transsexuals in varying processes of transition.  These individuals had aged out of the traditional foster care system and were now living in this half-way house.  What amazed me is that, in spite of whatever less fortunate family, financial or emotional circumstance brought each of them to become a resident there, these people were almost always dancing in the street.  Literally!  Most evenings, I could hear their music blaring as their laughter wafted up to my eighth story window.  Even on the days where I thought I would prefer an atmosphere that provided a little more quiet, it never ceased to amaze me when they were out there laughing and dancing in the street.  Dancing was apparently their chosen art and outlet to release their emotions.


When McCloud mentions that even a bike messenger’s personal cruising style is an art, I again reminisced about my time in New York since bike messengers are utilized there (168).  This opened my mind to consider other forms of art in life.  A few months months ago my primary care doctor suggested I have an endoscopy.  This procedure is one that is performed under sedation vs. general anesthesia.  However, undergoing any anesthesia, even conscious sedation, is something I truly dislike.  The recent experience made me think back to previous times I had to endure anesthesia.  Since my first experience was less than ideal, I had a conversation with the anesthesiologist prior to receiving general anestheia for the second time.  Then this second time, I woke up in the operating room.  You might think that’s outrageous.  I did not.  In light of my previous experience, this doctor was managing my care in the best way possible.  It was an interesting experience, one most people don’t have the opportunity to witness unless they are a medical professional.  And then, with this doctor’s expertise, I returned to sleep briefly before the breathing tubes were removed and I woke up again in the hallway on the way to the recovery room.  This guy was an artist!


McCloud discusses how some occupations have greater latitude for self-expression (168).  Yet, if we open our minds, we can see how almost any occupation has the ability to be viewed as an art.  For the creative mind, to be able to secure a job where earning a living and the creative process intertwine is ideal.  However, we all don’t obtain that balance, nor does everyone desire to.  McCloud describes the varying degrees that individuals pursue or abandon their art (173-177).


My mind harkened back to high school when, because I came from a less than affluent family, guidance counselors steered me away from my interests of art and writing and moved me toward courses in office procedures and typing.  Matriculation into a Mass Communications program required a typing test, and I survived for a time earning a living as an office manager, so what I learned was useful.  However, I would have preferred some guidance in the direction of how to utilize my creative skills to earn a living while practicing my art on the side.  As a student growing up in a low income household, survival became ingrained in my psyche and later in life probably inhibited my creative growth as I vacillated back and forth between various disciplines and careers as I pursued my dreams, panicked, and then pursued survival.


Not everyone needs guidance, however.  Some people are better at being able to imagine ways to utilize their talents and create their art simultaneously.  I think of my cousin’s husband who is a welder by trade for survival.  He has now created enough artistic pieces on his own time to sell his works at local art shows.  He prefers to create abstract pieces of metal art.  However, he also engages in commissioned work where he is able to mix survival with some creativity.


McCloud describes six steps on the artist’s path:


  1. Idea / Purpose – impulse, emotions, philosophy to form the content
  2. Form – e.g., furniture, painting, photography, writing, drawing . . .
  3. Idiom – styles, subject matter, genre
  4. Structure – composing, arranging, what to leave in / what to take out
  5. Craft – skills, problem-solving, inventions, completing the work
  6. Surface – the most apparent aspects on first exposure (e.g., the book’s cover, the apple’s shine, a person’s mode of dress) (170)


As artists and writers we are storytellers.  Whether we create art through words or photographs we may want to stop to consider what we want to say and ask ourselves if anyone will listen (178-180).  This does not mean we have to abandon our creativity and sell out our personal values.  In fact, we may even choose to promote our personal values through our chosen mediums.


We have the opportunity to be artists every day and in many ways.  Art and creativity do not need to be separate from survival.  There is art in conversation*, art in friendship, art in driving, art in teaching . . . the way in which we live our life day to day may become an art. 

~ ~ ~


*  "The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”  - Lady Dorothy Nevill




McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics:  The Invisible Art.  Kitchen Sink Press/ HarperPerrenial, A Division of

     HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.  New York, NY, 1993.




Sep 7, 2010 (portions also included on a community page)


First, I’d like to comment that I found it hilarious that April’s husband thought she purchased a marriage (rule) book when he saw her copy of A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston.  What a hoot!  Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the read because the first page had WEE BITS! 


Winston Churchill – “I am an optimist.  It does not seem to be much use being anything else.” 


As I read the book’s introduction, I thought of the implication of even using the word argument.  Our PiratePad notes from class on August 31 show comments on using the word ‘debate’  – like debate was a bad thing.  There was banter suggesting that maybe a more pleasant word to use would be ‘discussion’.  Then, here we are, reading a book about rules for arguments.  Semantics, schmantics!  No where in the Merriam-Websterdictionary.com definition of ‘argument’ did I read a reference to a ‘fight’ or anything else with a negative connotation.  My favorite definitions listed were “a reason given in proof or rebuttal” and “a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion” and even “discourse intended to persuade”.  Discussion?  Mirriam-Webster defines it as a “consideration of a question in open and usually informal debate.”  Debate?  Mirriam-Webster defines it as “a contention by words or arguments.”  Interesting.


The Appendix definitions had me thinking in many directions.  Non sequitur (77) made me think of the time my cousin blamed her husband when she decided not to sponsor my participation in a run with a donation to the Revlon Run Walk for Women.  She stated that her husband handled their household donations since he was the sole breadwinner in the family.  I (rightly) assumed that he would be responsible for any donation of a large sum.  Yet, I felt compelled to inform her that her argument held no validity.  She was never without (generally sizeable) personal discretionary funds and her husband would have no input whatsoever on whether or not she choose to fork over $10 or $20 to my charitable fundraising endeavors.  The conclusion she wanted me to draw (she had no money to donate) did not reasonably follow the path of her inference; I knew better.


Of course, not all arguments are this simple and not all rhetors’ are equal.  Some rhetors’ are experts in their field and their opinions may hold more weight than others.  Much of what I read in Unit One of English in the Research World was directed toward non-native speakers of English (NNS), but the book at least got me thinking about “positioning” oneself as credible when writing for a chosen discipline, whatever that discipline may be (3).  I will trust my yogi’s opinion when it comes to strengthening or relaxing my body and mind; I will trust my cousin’s opinion when it comes to training a wolf.  (That comment was thrown in to show I was paying attention in class.)  Both have positioned themselves as experts in their field.


In The Craft of Research the authors state that we write to remember more accurately, to understand and discover, and then to test and evaluate what we think (12-13).  This leads me to believe that journaling as writing will, in fact, be a useful tool in my personal mission to work with women in transition.  By accurately documenting an experience, one can refer to the documentation when someone else possibly tries to deny the past.  Additionally, the experience can be evaluated more objectively to discover one’s own personal misconceptions or valid conclusions. 


The authors go on to state that when writing to understand, careful researchers do not wait until they have acquired all their data.  They write their ideas from beginning to end.  Later they can evaluate their arguments and rewrite when necessary.  It makes sense, then, that when exploring one’s own life it would be helpful to write it down.




Booth, Wayne C.; Colomb, Gregory G.; and Williams, Joseph M. The Craft of Research.  The University of

     Chicago Press, 2005.


Feak, Christine B and Swales, John M. Positioning of the Research Writer, English in Today’s Research

     World, Writing Guide. University of Michigan, 2000.


Feak, Christine B. and Swales, John M. Academic Writing for Graduate Students, Essential Tasks and Skills

     University of Michigan, 2004.


Weston, Anthony. A Rulebook for Arguments. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2009.



"Older & Wiser" and "The Walking Cure" - commentary on Whole Living Magazine articles

Writings on Readings "Right on the Border" - review of Community Literary Journal article

La Clinica: A Doctor's Journey Across Borders - book review (approved substitute for one literary review)

Commentary on "The Love Experiment" - commentary on an appreciated Whole Living Magazine article


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Comments (1)

H.I.M. said

at 7:32 pm on Sep 26, 2010

I was actually the one who said I preferred the term 'open discussion' but I do not see argument or debate as a bad thing when putting it into the context that the book is talking about where we are making assertions, defending them with logical and rhetorical backing. Though my comment on Pirate Pad was actually very tongue in cheek but most people thought I was being dead serious, I realize, as argument and debate don't have to resemble flame wars or mean that one person holding a given position has to shove their view down other people's throats or even rigidly hold to one side when the other side makes points the other person agrees with or else can see as being valid (though not necessarily true).

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