Dissecting My Photo Set

The photo series of my mother doing work on her computer, with earbuds connected and cell phone close by, reveal the perpetual state of being “plugged in.” My mom is fully ingratiated into her technology, literally being plugged into her computer with earbuds. I chose her as my subject as she was the closest person to me and seemed to be using a few pieces of technology. The photo that depicts the subject using her computer in the right profile view spoke to me, as it showed multiple things. While she is using her computer her back straightens, illustrating her professionalism. The work she was doing on the computer was volunteer work, proving she was invested in the task even though it was not her job. The back straightening is the only physical change to the subject. Although she changes physically, her professionalism and composure capture in the photo are staples of her character. The photo set suggests a community as the people on the Zoom meeting can only interact with each other through the use of the technology showcased. The large subject in this photo set is the connectivity that technology can bring at the cost of being dependent on it. My mom is hooked up to her computer with her phone next to the computer, all so she can connect with others. In my opinion, taking pictures is not writing. Photography is expression but writing is a written or typed composition – this has the same effect that writing does, it’s just not writing. The maker, me, fits into the expression by being the lens. The way I take the pictures allow the viewer to observer the subject in a specific way, one I dictate. I choose what is in the frame and what angles are seen.

Answering the Right Questions

Question: Why is rhetoric so important in what we read, and how does rhetoric change the readers opinion?

Rhetoric has a unique importance in writing and reading, as its job is to convince the reader of the writer’s point. In the case of Jia Tolentino’s writing, rhetoric is significant has her points are novel and do not enjoy the luxury of being widely accepted as mainstream. Rhetoric changes the reader’s opinion by convincing them that the point being made is correct, which is achieved by an appeal to the reader’s logic, emotions, or ethics.

Question: Do you agree or disagree with the needs in the Abraham Maslow Hierarchy of Needs? Or is there something you would take out of the pyramid and replace it with another type of need?

The Hierarchy of Needs is an interesting concept. I believe that stage theories such as that are true, but let’s take a closer look at this one. I agree with it, as human needs can be separated into the following categories: individual survival, group survival, and identity. Humans are social animals, so it makes sense that the first need we have is to survive and the next need we have to be secure in our social structure. Once one is secure, they can aim to improve their situation. Having a relationship or love is a better standing in the social structure than just being safe. Once we reach our full potential in the social structure, we seek meaning so we try to create something or distinguish ourselves.

Question: Is rhetoric unique to humans because of our complex system of communication or is it possible for other animals to have their own styles of rhetoric based off of their communication?

Rhetoric is unique to humans because of our complex communication system and the lack of a need for it in other species. Our language allows for argumentative communication unlike animals, however some species could develop arguments such as chimpanzees and dolphins. their languages are primitive but can grow and be rhetorically viable. However, no animal needs rhetoric. There is no animal that needs to convince another animal of an argument. Simple things such as where to go next for food or which animal should become pack leader is decided on by the animal that has established dominance. More individual decisions such as mating or fighting are made by force or display. The male with the prettiest feathers or toughest disposition gets the female. As for combat, it boils down to smashing heads together or an analogous display of force rather than convincing the opposing animal that they are not worthy of the food or mate.

Tolentino Using Women’s Treatment as a Litmus Test for Culture

Since culture is reflected in the treatment of women, women’s rights and treatment are a litmus test for culture. Jia Tolentino’s “Trick Mirror” attempts to discuss culture through the experiences, plights, and societal standing of women. Tolentino chose to use women as the main subject for multiple reasons, including the ease to which she relates as she is a woman and the fact that culture is the relationships between people in society and women are the largest disenfranchised group in the world, a group that has faced countless slights in society. Women are culture, as half of American culture is how women interact and are interacted with. It is easier for Tolentino to write from the perspective of a woman as she can relate to the tribulations of her gender.

The essay “The Cult of the Difficult Woman” accomplishes the goal set out by Tolentino to discuss culture through the experience of women. Cultural fixtures, such as events and objects, are brought up and discussed through the eyes of women who were disenfranchised or whose stories were never heard. She uses the examples of Hillary Clinton, Monica Lewinsksi, the women who came forward against Harvey Weinstein, and Delilah from the Bible. Delilah overcomes Samson’s strength, a story never told as it paints the woman as the hero. Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinksi were victims of a man’s ambition – a take on recent history that is never told as out culture does not often view them as victims.

Similarities Between Tolentino’s “Always Be Optimizing” and “I Thee Dread”

There are many similarities between Jia Tolentino’s “Always Be Optimizing” and “I Thee Dread,” man of which connect the pieces, showing that they had been written by the same author to a reader who had never read Tolentino.

In terms of theme, the essays share that of feminism through the lense of a young modern woman. Both reflect the gender roles of women in society that Tolentino is trying to break out of. “Always be Optimizing” establishes the idea of the “ideal woman,” showing a preconceived notion of perfection that Tolentino argues is unattainable and unfair to be held to. Another standard women are supposed to be held to is their desire for a large wedding, family, and a domestic life – something she opposes in “I Thee Dread.”

The unique marks of Tolentino are recognizable in both pieces. They are written with a lax tone, looking more like a blog or casual journal than a novel. Both pieces also contain the plentiful use of dashes to insert thoughts in the middle of other thoughts rather than traditional syntax. Neither shy away from using explicit language. This comes across as Tolentino’s attempt at bringing a human element to her work, accentuating her feelings with emphatic swearing – the use of swears to convey how ones emotions matter more than their social conduct, thus proving the importance of her points. It also shows her confidence as she does not tip toe around the conventions of literature, she just says what wants to say.

Tolentino also marks her work with references to her life, allowing readers to know it is her and not just someone who writes like her. She mentions people in her life, such as her boyfriend or her friends, who would not be in anyone else’s story. Both essays mention Tolentino’s time in the Peace Corps and what she did afterwards, clearly an important time in her life.

Project 1 – Object Essay – Old Rusty Light

Section 1 – Physical Nature of the Object

This light is decrepit, dim, and rusty. The cylindrical golden shell that would house the light is inside of a rusted cage – an apparatus comprised of two perpendicular bars crossing each other over the shell, connecting to a ring at the base. That ring has a plastic base, although that has been chipped as it has multiple jagged edges and holes. The inside of the shell is empty. It is supposed to be the home of the light when attached to the Public Safety vehicle from which this object was taken, but this one is merely a husk. The light also makes squeaky noises, and the parts have the ability to move in a limited fashion. The modicum of movement accompanied by the squeaking accentuates the broken nature of the object.

Section 2 – What it Meant to me Then

When I first saw it, the light was off in actuality but on in my head. It was a cold night, one that I was spending with friends exploring Hofstra’s campus. We had been playing in the snow and messing around when I suggested climbing a snow mountain. When at the top of the hill, I saw the light on a nearby peak. This was a new opportunity, a glimmer in the night. After trekking to the treasure, I picked it up and help onto it the rest of the night. It was a fun challenge, to keep the item trough the night and not to lose it to my two friends who both had an interest in it. Eventually, I did get some pictures with it, showing its value as an instrument of amusement. In fact, one photo I had taken of me wearing the light as a crown, with my smartphone light in the shell to illuminate the object, illustrated the extent to which the object elevated me. It was special, and it made me special. The dim light was able to illuminate my night although it could not light up the night. Since its discovery, it was a defective light, but a beacon of entertainment and lighthearted fun in a cold, restrictive night. 

Section 3 – What it Means to me Now

Upon returning to my dorm with it, I stared thinking about the light. The light was out, after its brief ray of entertainment. Figuratively and literally. It was a broken shell of a an object that was once bright. Even though it no longer shined, it was still a reminder of something great. COVID-19 has ruined many things, including the college experience. What I had that night was a moment of brightness, or escape. While masks were worn, we had a great time. This experience was punched up by the light, as it brought some fun, but the light’s main contribution was its service as a trophy and reminder of the experience. It still sits in my dorm, reminding me of that time I went out with my friends and explored. The figurative light took over when the physical light went out. Once separated from the vehicle, it blasted figurative light as described in the above section, but now that that has been extinguished, it shines no more. The thing is though, it does not have to. A light does not have to shine to have purpose, as this one demonstrates by being a symbol of something great, a souvenir.

Section 4 – Closing Remarks and the Life of the Light 

This light exuded brightness and served a literal propose. That was taken from it when it was ripped from its car and landed in the snow. Then, in literal darkness it gained new purpose with figurative light that one cold night. Having served that purpose, not needing a shiny exterior or an intact base, it reached its new destination as a souvenir. When my experience seemed like an unending darkness, I happened upon this object. It could have been anything – any object in the snow that we could have fooled around with. It seems poetic that it was a light, as its journey with me reflected in my journey with it. My college years should have been unhindered freedom, but they are a prison. The pandemic has locked away my experience, like the weather, an uncontrollable force, changed the course of the light’s existence. However, the light found new meaning and I found new enjoyment in our broken, decrepit state. Our purpose and what we do may be affected by circumstance, and not what we originally intend, but great nonetheless.

Works Cited

De Jong, Elisabeth M., et al. “From Shattered Goals to Meaning in Life: Life Crafting in Times of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Frontiers in Psychology, Front. Psychol., 15 October 2020 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.577708/full

My Writerly Self

I am many things – but unfortunately I am not a writer yet. I am a student at Hofstra University, a hopeful entrepreneur, a former high school athlete, among many other things. My life experiences have been rather vanilla compared to those of others, but I have always had the gift of expressing myself and telling a compelling story. This building block of communication and storytelling is what I hope to build my writerly self on. I have attempted to write before – it has been wildly unsuccessful but I did try. I find myself overwhelmed when trying to formulate a piece, as I have so much information in my head that I would like to dump onto the page, but I can never come to an appropriate method by which to do so. I do aspire to improve my writerly self, but an issue I face is not knowing what genre I wish to enter or how to get my ideas out of my head and into my work. One interest that I have neglected to discuss so far is history. I attempted to write a book on WW1 that aims to teach young people about the event and get them interested. This ambitious project has since been shelved as I realized that the work I must do to create this piece is beyond what I am capable of at the moment. My writerly self is young and overambitious, but knowledgeable of shortcomings and hopes to grow over the next few months.

My Small Object – A Rusty Old Light

The light from Hofstra University’s Public Safety vehicle is an unassuming object. At first glance, it’s a rusty old light detached from the vehicle to which it belongs. It’s a dysfunctional illumination device, one that by definition does not even light up. But it is so much more. I found the light while exploring campus late one night with my friends. This exploration was an expression of freedom from the monotony of staying inside, not even being able to leave my room to be with friends due to COVID-19 restrictions. We found a small sliver of freedom and brightens in the dark situation, going out, exploring, and being beholden to no rules – except for the mask-wearing, which we all did. The glimmer of light from that one night was not perfect. Having to wear our masks and even the cold biting air and the hard frozen snow degraded the experience somewhat. Just like the light itself. It was a ray of hope during our adventure, as it was an unexpected find that we took joy in discovering. However, it was broken, dark, and rusty. Both the object and the journey were a dimmed light. A bright essence dulled by circumstance. Our semblance of freedom and fun, darkened by the harsh weather and the prohibitive but necessary masks. The once bright light, extinguished by the same weather, detached from it’s car, just like we were detached from our free lives before the pandemic.