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Please enjoy these blogposts, written between 2011 and 2015. Find newer posts soon at my forthcoming blog, Revolutionary Time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Talking to Myself


5 May 2011. I’m teaching a spring-quarter English class on writing research papers, at a community college on Whidbey Island. It’s a required class, and some students put it off until their last quarter. Nobody likes to cite sources, I guess. Noting the date of a web post and the date you looked at it is one thing. Remembering to abbreviate all months except May, June, and July, and to reverse month and day in the citation are another. Where in the citation do you put the number of volumes in a specialized encyclopedia? Is it necessary to spell out the names of well-known government agencies like the FDA?

Some of this stuff can be memorized, but I have to look a lot of it up again and again, and I suspect my students do, too. Even with grades as a motivator, it’s hard to make the case that the difference between April and Apr. in a citation is an important one. They know that I have to teach this stuff, and they have to learn it, but none of us is excited about it. I’m emphasizing other skills: pulling together information without plagiarizing, making sense of it, considering your own experience, writing something new and valuable.

Once I read that Sophia Loren believes that people won’t see you as old if you don’t make an old woman’s mistakes, namely, farting in public and talking to yourself. How do I cite this? I can’t find it on the web. Do I really need to go to the library and comb through biographies?

I’ll worry about that later. Meanwhile, I'll make notes for a future paper entitled “Signs of Aging or Just Living?”

Farting: it does get harder with every passing year to prevent untimely outbursts. Can't argue with that. I don't remember Loren giving any tips about how to avoid doing this in public. Stay home?

But talking to myself? I’ve always done that:

·      When I’m weeding and lift my head into a rosebush.

·      When I’m watching television and someone says, “Don’t try it, dirtbag.”

·      When I’m in the kitchen getting dinner and can’t find the mozzarella I’m sure I bought at the grocery store, or any of the slotted serving spoons.

·      Does talking to cats count?

·      During every State of the Union speech when GWB was president.

·      When I’m doing work that’s mind-numbingly boring, like ironing. I complain.

·      Answering questions on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

·      When the kids were home, and the pair of scissors with my name on it wasn’t in the kitchen drawer.

·      Does singing count?

·      When I’m doing something strenuous, like climbing multiple flights of stairs.

·      In tight spots—thinking out loud, praying.

·      When my feelings are hurt.

One of the things I’m supposed to teach in “The Research Paper” is how to evaluate the quality of a website, given that on the Internet anyone can hold forth about anything. Look for documents, I tell my students, that list authors, have been recently updated, are sponsored by nonprofit rather than commercial enterprises, cite sources, and so on.

Just now I googled “talking to yourself,” and right away I found a clearly sensible remark by one Robinson: “Scientists advocate talking to yourself, believing it to be perfectly normal as well as having phenomenal emotional benefits.”

“Robinson”—no first name, but is that important?—does not bring up the issue of aging at all: “Children also stand to gain by speaking to themselves” (2009). 

Work Cited 

Robinson. “Talking to Yourself: Is It Normal?” HealthMad. 18 Oct. 2009. Web. 4 May 2011.