Behold the majesty!
Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun—such are the ingredients of the colossal, legendary burger known as the Big Mac. Before the mass invasion of sandwich shops (I believe there are ten in close proximity to UC’s campus. Insane.) and burrito joints (in which there are three), there was only the Big Mac. Oh, what a milestone, a step into adulthood, when I—weary of the singular cheeseburger and small fry in the Happy Meal—was no longer tempted by the cheap plastic toy and instead opted for a real meal: A Big Mac. A tasty tortoise.
Yes, the Big Mac has fallen on hard times since then due to the massive amount of competition that I alluded to earlier as well as the general realization that some of the more health-conscious among us may have acquired: that our bodies really aren’t made to scarf down this saturated fat stack. Nevertheless, the Big Mac still serves as a fine metaphor for college writers everywhere for what is known as source synthesis. The left one is made from plastic.
Source synthesis is a practice commonly applied in research papers where multiple sources are integrated in the same paragraph. Now a little known rule in the burger biz is that the bread makes the sandwich. This is obviously true in regards to the Big Mac with its sesame seed bun (although I am not sure what difference it actually makes). However, in the compositional counterpart, the “bread” in this case is your own analysis and the “meat” is the quotations you employ to back up your analysis. Let’s take a look at the example below: Super Big Mac? Don't do it.
The role of a commercial artist is integral to food advertisement. If fast food organizations offered truthfully rendered images of their food options, the result could be disastrous. In “Food Facsimiles,” John Dreiser argues, “Commercial artists access the Platonic ideal of the food we consume” (32). Indeed, the real-life smashed-up burgers offered at your local fast food joint are often in grave need for a drastic reimagining, thus distracting us from the fact the food is not only bad for consumers in terms of health, but often just looks disgusting. Wilson Graves, in “Fast Food Simulacrum,” argues, “Marketing in fast food is all about deception. Consumers must be deceived into thinking there is some positive benefit from eating it” (99). Commercial artists thus remain a staple of the fast food landscape. They serve as convincing answers to the argument that we should probably not being eating fast food, even if their answers are often laden with trickery.
Notice the interplay between the content of the paragraph and the quotes. First we have a statement, then a quote supporting it, followed by analysis (the mysterious third hunk of bread in the Big Mac), another quote, and lastly, some concluding thoughts. Ideally, your paragraphs should follow a similar model, incorporating different ideas and combining them with your own analysis. When writing, follow the way of the Big Mac, friend. When seeking lunch, perhaps consider something else.
Are your threatening me or asking me directions?
In the second part of our installment, Fallacies and Batman Villainy, I am covering the next set of devious fallacies and the Batman evildoers that best represent them. I pray that this post will not lead to Bane giving me a stern talking to. Good career move.
One common fallacy is the faulty appeal to authority in which the author of the argument appeals to an authority that is well-known, but is not an authority on the manner. Consider this example: “When one considers the treachery of Batman villains, many people, such as Lex Luthor, think them chumps.” Although Lex Luthor is something of an expert on treachery, he is also somewhat biased against Batman villains. If you were to ask a true authority on these matters, you should instead consult The Riddler who is an expert in all things. Clocks? I have a cell phone, thanks.
Another fallacy is known as the hasty generalization. This fallacy typically revolves around stereotypes or generalizing one example as the norm. An example of this fallacy would be “Bane got the better of Batman in the first half of The Dark Knight Rises. I guess Batman villains win more often than not.” You never want to be too hasty when it comes to generalizations. Instead, learn how to be cool, calculating, and always on point like the villainous Clock King.
The final fallacy of this post is known as the red herring. In this fallacy, the author of the argument employs a tangent to distract the audience from the primary argument. For instance, we have this example, “Batman is a big jerk. He’s supposed to be this great hero, but look how many villains hurt Gothamites on his watch!” Clearly, a villain who has a taste for herrings, like The Penguin, is behind such fallacious comment. Then again, it could be The Joker who is no stranger when it comes to using fish as chemical weaponry.
I'll have the steak.
Not remotely nutritious.
In honor of Halloween, I thought I would ruminate on the haunting parallels between compositional fallacies and Batman villains. Let’s look at the villainous dossier, so you can trounce these fallacies in your writing like the Cape Crusader vanquishes his foes on the big screen, the small screen, comic books, and on the back of the Batman cereal box. Can I borrow that quarter...Nevermind.
Fallacies are wicked things. They are weaknesses in your arguments, and they are as numerous as the depraved evildoers in Arkham Asylum. The first fallacy we’ll look at is known as a false dichotomy. False dichotomies occur when the author sets up a scenario where there are only two choices, and then proceeds to construct an argument such a way that there is only appropriate choice: the author’s belief.
Take a look at this example: “Kids are pretending like they are Batman and jumping off the roofs of houses. Either we get rid of Batman forever or all of our children will have broken legs.” No salt for California!
In this absurd example, the author, who clearly wants to get rid of Batman, has set up an argument where the audience has to choose between Batman and saving the injured children. I would still choose Batman in this case, but more mature audiences, tricked by the fallacy, may choose to save the injured children. Clearly, such as a fallacy is the work of the Two-Face, the dichotomous villain who can either be good or evil (mostly evil) instead of just a good-natured slacker who watches Batman: The Animated Series well into his thirties.
Like that fallacy? How about another? The slippery slope fallacy is often used in political rhetoric. The slippery slope is based around a faulty chain reaction in which the author makes a claim that we must do something or there will be dire consequences. More smelly than scary.
Take a look at this example: “Our city needs to be sure that we purchase the necessary amount of salt for the winter. If we do not and a blizzard occurs, we will not be able to drive to work. We will be locked in our houses for days at a time. The entire city will shut down, and Mr. Freeze will take over and lord over us with his icy fist!”
No slope is too slippery for Mr. Freeze, my friends.
In the last fallacy of this post, I point to the straw man fallacy. The straw man fallacy essentially works in the following manner: an author disagrees with a certain party, so he or she puts depicts that party in a weakened position that is often untrue or exaggerated.
Take a look at this example: “Batman is not a hero, but a vigilante! He just drives around town (not paying attention to the speed limit, mind you) in his bat mobile and causes a ton of damage to our city. Last week, he blew up my favorite vegetarian restaurant. What a menace!”
Yes, Batman may have wrecked that restaurant, but the author, in this case, is neglecting the fact that he did so in order to capture the villainous Scarecrow, the undisputed master of the straw man fallacy!
That wraps up this edition of fallacies and villains, all composed without the help of Robin, the Boy Wonder! Happy Halloween!
Yeah, don't need your help...AT ALL!
At least Pigpen has manners.
The five page argument paper is a bit of a bear. So many words to write, ugh, and you have to incorporate all that research. In that research, you found a beautiful long quote, totaling some 53 words. You could just slap some quotation marks around that bad boy and stick it in your paper, but before patting yourself on the back and congratulating yourself on the 53 words you didn’t have to write, you may want to keep some tips in mind regarding long quotes. Lest you become a blockhead. The prophecy is realized!
First, remember that writing is the product of numerous rhetorical choices, and while placing long quotes in your paper is easy, you should probably have a stronger rationale for choosing to do so. Ask yourself: what purpose does this quote serve and can it be shortened in any way? If your quotation has a lot of fluff in it, then you’re probably better serve to trim it down a bit. I am just gonna walk under ya. Man!
If you find that all that quoted information is vital to your paper, then you can incorporate it as a block quote. Block quotes are typically quotes longer than four lines and are formatted differently than regular quotes. You do not include quotation marks, but rather indent the entire quote one inch from the margin. Block quotes are double spaced like the rest of your paper and the period placement goes before the parenthetical citation. Less block quotes. More wood blocks!
Block quotes are helpful rhetorical choices that incorporate substantial blocks of research to bolster your argument. However, use them sparingly. Although there are no strict rules regarding the number of block quotes, I would limit their use to one block quote per every few pages. Using too many block quotes is usually a signal to your professor that you may not be giving your best effort in the paper. Write the best paper you can. Then you can play the wood block all you want!
Oak, just give me squirtle AND charmander, jerk.
You have a choice, and it is an important one. There, sitting on Professor Oak’s desk, are three pokeballs, containing a bulbasaur, a charmander, and a squirtle. Now is the time to make the most important decision of your life.
You have another decision, and it is an important one. There, sitting on your desk, is your laptop. You have to write a paper, and you can emphasize logos, pathos, or ethos. Now it is time to make a somewhat important decision in your life.
Bulbasaur is a logical choice. The grass-type pokemon employs a balanced attack and will serve you well against the rock-type pokemon in the Pewter Gym and the water-type pokemon in the Cerulean Gym. But who wants a pokemon with an onion on its back?
Logos is always a strong tactic to utilize. Hard facts and statistics along with a strong logically-argued setup yields great success in numerous paper situations. But who just wants to write a paper populated with a bunch of facts?
Charmander, now that’s a pokemon. The fire-type struggles initially against the initial gyms, but has a fiery personality to overcome virtually all comers. Also, charmander evolves into charizard, a straight-up fire-breathing dragon. Don’t be a fool. Choose the dragon! Leonardo always was a jerk.
Pathos is a powerful rhetorical tactic that employs strong emotional appeals. No matter how logical an argument may be, if the conflicting argument’s pathos is strong enough, it will incinerate it since humans are emotional creatures who tend to think dragons are cool.
Squirtle, now there’s a dark horse. The water-type pokemon can immediately douse charmander’s flame, reducing him to a puddle of wet ashes. Also, with his strong defensive shell, squirtle proves quite sturdy against blunt physical attacks. Squirtling ain't easy!
Ethos can employ a fortress of credibility to protect itself against strong bursts of emotion. Although arguments heavy with passion can appeal to human nature, a credible author often quells even the fieriest emotions.
Of course, with all things, balance is key. Sure, ethos can quell pathos, but can a low-level squirtle beat a mighty charizard? I think not. Ideally, you want to ensure that your paper represents all three of these elements, not to mention a sense of chairos, best represented by the awe-inspiring Gengar.
Disclaimer: This article’s message, meaning, and utility is based entirely on whether or not you are familiar with the 1986 action-fantasy film, The Highlander. If you are unfamiliar, I suggest you educate yourself and treat yourself to fine cinema. The 1980s were a strange time.
There can be only one… "Sword fight, anyone? I'll wait."
The tagline from The Highlander is true for all things (except in the cases where the can be more than one thing, which is actually quite common). Spoken by The Highlander’s protagonist, Connor MacLeod (as opposed to Fox McCloud from Starfox. Man, a battle of McClouds, I am about to lose my mind!) as he dispatched immortal baddies with a swipe of his sword and a lightning bejeweled decapitation.
There can be only one…
The same holds true with the revision process. For your papers, there can be only one, one paper that you can submit to your professor, one paper that will be graded and live on for eternity (or until the end of the semester). If you are diligent, you will slay inferior drafts with your editing pen, the compositional equivalent of MacLeod’s Scottish Claymore, and with each defeated draft your paper will become stronger.
Sure, you can submit a singular draft and not participate in the revision process. However, your draft will be an inferior highlander; it will be littered with numerous problems like a weak thesis, structural issues, content problems, incorrect citing, missing citing, a faulty works cited page, bad introduction and conclusion paragraphs, comma splices, sentence fragments, run-on sentences, poor word choice, informality, an incorrect heading, a generic title, poor transitions, a missed Oxford comma, the wrong punctuation of titles, no signal phrases, incorrect semicolon or colon usage, poor verb tense, poor development, and I am just getting started. How will such a paper stand up against The Kurgan? How will it survive the immortal endgame and save the world? Don’t you want to be the last highlander standing? Don’t you want to be the immortal of immortals?
The Kurgan will thrash weak essays!
There can be only one…
So don’t hold back your editing pen. Mercy is for the weak. Slay those inferior drafts! Off with their heads! Be like Connor MacLeod! Absorb the power of your inferior drafts into your own mighty draft that will make even The Kurgan quake in his boots. There can be only one!
Nice haircut, Scotty.
Yesterday, F. Scott Fitzgerald ran into me on the street. I knew it was Fitzgerald because I had just composed a five page essay on The Great Gatsby for my American Literature Survey course, and his dapper mug was on the side cover, which I found to be a bit pompous. “Oh, look at me, I am a famous dead author fancy boy.” Give me a break. I was going to do what I typically do when I run into famous dead authors: ignore them, but Fitzgerald grabbed me by the arm. Redford>DiCaprio
“Hey, old sport, I got a bone to pick with you,” he said. Is that Fitzgerald or Loki?
“Wait, you actually say, ‘old sport?’ That’s pretty lame,” I retorted.
“Your face is pretty lame,” Fitzgerald replied, quite smug with his
comeback. “Is it true that you titled your pathetic essay on my book, ‘The Great Gatsby?’”
“Hey man, I got a B+ on that paper, and I didn’t even read your book, but watched Jack Clayton’s 1974 film, The Great Gatsby with the incomparable Robert Redford in the starring role.”
“That movie is terrible,” Fitzgerald sneered before taking a swig from his flask. “It doesn’t have a cool hip-hop soundtrack like the latest Great Gatsby movie.”
At that point, I started to flee, but Fitzgerald once again grabbed me by the arm, which apparently besides being a great writer was another talent of his. Some people are truly blessed. Hemingway will coldcock you.
“Answer my question,” he demanded.
“Yeah, I did title my paper, ‘The Great Gatsby,’” I admitted. “That was what I was writing about after all. What of it?”
“You can’t do that,” F. Scotty Too Hotty admonished. “You can’t just reuse my title for your paper. That’s bad form. I wrote The Great Gatsby! Me! Me! Me! Think of some other title when you write about another author’s work."
“All right. All right,” I said. “What about ‘This Side of Paradise?’ Is that a good title?”
“I wrote that too!” he yelled.
“What about ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button?’”
“That movie didn’t have a hip-hop soundtrack either!” Fitzgerald cried. “Why is Baz Luhrmann the only person who understands me?!”
“Look over there. It’s Ernest Hemingway!” I said, pointing in the opposite direction.
Fitzgerald yelped in terror, allowing me adequate time to escape. As I fled, I thought to myself that The Great Gatsby was actually a pretty lame title anyway. Not as a lame as my face, of course, but still…
Oh, so that's how it's played!
Oh yes, the great decider! The oracle through which the fates’ intricate tapestry can be discerned! A game of chance or a game of absolute right?! Of course, I speak of janken; ro sham bo; rock, paper, scissors. What better way to decide who drives to Starbucks or who starts in a tag team wrestling match? Such elegant simplicity, such beautiful concision, if only all my decisions could be decided with a game of rock, paper, scissors, at least I would get my way 50% of the time, which are far gentler odds than the current, less noble means of decision. No A-bombs, Jeffery!
I have emerged the victor in numerous gains of rock, paper, scissors. I deftly utilized subtle paper to smother rock’s brute force. In the next game I would favor scissor’s swift precision to slash through paper’s flimsy defenses. And if the situation called for it, I would call on the violence and ferocity of rock to smash the mechanical machinations of scissors into shrapnel. No, gentle reader, I would not reduce the game into mockery by countering someone’s carefully chosen rock or paper by shouting “atom bomb” like Jeffery Totters did in 3rd grade for a laugh. As it turned out, he was seriously injured when he, while running with scissors, slipped on a piece of paper into an avalanche of boulders. Coincidence? I think not.
When thinks of the world of composition, we have our own counterpart of ro sham bo in the world of transitions: addition, contrast, example. Each one should be utilized in your papers to build organization, but unlike in janken, these transitions come in numerous forms. The Rock says, "Use transitions."
When I think of transitions implying addition, I think of the rock. Adding layers of compositional sediment to your papers, transitions implying addition come in the following forms: furthermore, moreover, additionally, in addition, and indeed. Starting a sentence with these words in the right context enables you to build upon ideas not only paragraph to paragraph, but within paragraphs, thus generating a better flow among ideas. A battle of wills!
In addition to these additive transitions (see what I did there?), there are transitions implying contrast. These transitions acts as scissors, cutting through the preceding argument to make a new point. Examples of these transitions are however, in contrast, conversely, and phrases that start with although, while, or despite. I totally made that.
While these transitions prove quite helpful (man, I am on fire!), the transitions introducing examples prove just as useful when moving from the general to the specific. These transitions consist of phrases such as for example, for instance, such as, especially, particularly, and illustrating. These transitions remind me of paper, for they can be molded into anything like a beautiful origami sculpture.
There you have it. Transitional rock, paper, scissors! In retrospect, this analogy may not be particularly strong; therefore, I am going to distract with this link where you can play rock paper scissors against a computer. Don’t let the machines win!
This is how the world will end!
Disney strikes again!
Once upon a time, King Arthur—after completing the feats of Arthurian legend that are regularly the fodder for inaccurate movie portrayals (Sword and the Stone, anyone?)—in an uncharacteristically composition-oriented quest, asked his three knights, Gawain, Lancelot, and Sagramore, to compose a paragraph on the importance of knighthood. After an intense period of composition—briefly interrupting by lobbing off the heads of heretics—the three knights returned, ready to present their documents before the king. The Ringo of the Round Table.
First up was Sagramore, the most obscure of the three knights, a Head-to-Head with GK.
man preoccupied with grammar, but who had the tendency to be redundant. His composition went like so:
Knighthood is of great importance to the kingdom. For the
kingdom, there is little of greater importance than knighthood. A knight is a person who performs knighthood for the kingdom, and the kingdom thinks knighthood is important, which is why important knights perform tasks of important knighthood.
“Well, you really drove the whole knighthood-being-important-thing home,” King Arthur frowned before turning to Gawain, a nervous fellow, recently returning from his crazy quest with the green knight, to see his composition. Like Sagramore, Gawain was also obsessed with grammar, so his composition was flawless in that regard, but held a pretty informal style. It went like this:
So you see everybody, knighthood is, like, really super-duper important. We help, you know, all the maidens, kill all the dragons, and stuff like that. It is pretty cool. One time, Sagramore and I went to this kingdom and partied all night and lost our swords in the moat. We had to swim in there for, like, hours, which sucked because people frequently used the moat for a latrine. Otherwise, being a knight is totally cool.
“Geez, did you really have to write ‘like?” King Arthur groaned and then turned to Lancelot. Now Lancelot was prone to having a few typos in his writing, but otherwise wrote solid compositions. His paragraph proceeded thusly:
Knighthood is the foundation on which the kingdom is laid. Their is little doubt that throughout the land, we inspire the people to work hard, do their best and take care of one another. As role models for the kingdom we knights endeavor to perform what is necessary, putting the people before ourselves. If every man and woman were to perform the same humble task, Camelot will stand for centuries.
“You used the wrong ‘there’ and missed a few commas, but otherwise, it is excellent,” King Arthur beamed. “I declare Lancelot the winner and thus forgive him for his adulterous ways!”
Gere as Lancelot=Bad news for Sean Connery.
+ Lessons Learned:
Grammar is important without a doubt, and papers littered with several grammatical errors will most likely fail. However, grammar is often a secondary issue when one considers clarity of ideas, organization, and formality. Focus on those issues first and save grammar for last.
You see some funny things in English 1001. When I was a freshman not too long ago, the professor had the class exchange our papers for peer review, something I was none too thrilled about since as a timid young fellow, I was sensitive about other people reading my haphazardly written compositions, particularly when all they would say is “Meh, it’s pretty good, I guess.” To be or not to bee's knees.
This time proved quite different, however, as I exchanged my paper with a flapper.
I kid you not. She stepped right of the Jazz Age with her bobbed hair; elaborate dress, jewelry, and makeup; and her predilection for, despite the professor’s continual remonstrations, smoking cigarettes (or “gaspers” as she called them) in the middle class. And indeed, when we exchanged papers (that assignment was to review a film or play that we had seen recently), her paper positively reeked of smoke. While that somewhat offended my sensibilities, her review of Hamlet was perhaps even more offensive:
So me and my beau, Tommy, donned our glad rags and laid a few Abe’s cabes down to see Hamlet by William Shakespeare. I kept hearing that the play was the cat’s pajamas. My friend, Trudy, kept telling me, “You gotta see Hamlet. It’s the berries, the total bee’s knees.” Well, I saw Hamlet, and applesauce, it was all wet. Hamlet is just all balled up, beating his gums. He is a total flat tire. Ophelia is a real bearcat, I guess, and Laertes is a kinda of a cake-eater, but my advice is don’t take any wooden nickels. Skip Hamlet. It’s all chewing gum without any sockdolager. Spend your dough elsewhere. I am going to stand over there now.
I read her paper a few times and comprehended little of it. After seeing her taking a swig of what she referred to as “giggle water’ and breaking out into the Charleston, I carefully placed her essay back on her desk and said, “Meh, it’s pretty good, I guess.”
+ While you do not have to write in an overly formal, stilted style, try to avoid slang or other informal language in your college writing. When in doubt, it is often best to leave it out.