All posts by Colin Worthley

Progress…

     I was blessed with two snow days this week. Unfortunately, my wife and kids only had one. On Wednesday, I had the house to myself for several hours and was able to get some work done. Not enough, but still. We've all had those writing sessions. The type where you feel as though you just haven't written enough.

     It's hard to look at a few paragraphs and rationalize the hours it took to write them. What was I doing the whole time? Is the clock wrong? On these occasions, it's helpful to remind yourself about the process you just went through. You may not be able to see all of the deleted work you were forced to abandon because it "didn't lead anywhere."

     But in truth, it did lead somewhere. Sometimes growing from an initial idea can be misconstrued as going off topic. Well, your topic just changed is all. You had a kernel of an idea that decided it wanted to be something different. Don't fight it. See where the writing takes you and what develops from it. It's finally starting to hit me that being stubborn stunts the process.

     My wife came downstairs after I had been writing for an hour. I felt embarrassed to show her the half page I had written, feeling it was unworthy of the time I had. An entire page that wasn't working for me had to be deleted and what remained looked pathetic. The abundance of white space on the screen mocked me, daring me to fill with amazing writing. When a new idea surfaced, I began to read about it so I would sound somewhat intelligent. This "research" took up most of my time.

     I looked at her sheepishly, expecting her to react negatively. Would she assume I've been spending all of my time looking at sports news? Instead, she said nothing. I confessed to her, "I had to change a lot of this, I've deleted about an entire page."

     She looked at me and said, "Isn't that how writing works?"

     I'm glad she already understands what I'm finally starting to.

Feeling Pretty Good

     I'm feeling better about this project after my group's last meeting. I received a lot of good feedback and indications that I was heading in the right direction. The finish line is in sight. The list that I was given of things to work has dwindled and what is left is extremely manageable. Here's to hoping I don't leave it all to the last minute.

     The project finally has a shape to it that I can look at and be proud of. Up until now, I knew the topic I wanted to write on, but I couldn't get beyond the general idea. I'd heard stories of how some people change their ideas completely and I was worried I would have to go down that road. Luckily, I'm still writing about my initial topic, but in ways I didn't think I would be.

     I knew I wanted to address fear, but I assumed I would be focusing on urban legends for the duration of the project. Little did I know that urban legends would be a section of the project, and fear would take center stage. If you had asked me if I planned on researching fake news for this project, I would have said no. Luckily, for the sake of my project, the country has gone to hell in a handbasket, providing me with material (believe me, I wish this were not the case).

     Funny enough, getting started on the last section has found me dragging my feet. Just like not reading the last chapter of a book you don't want to end, putting off writing it has prevented me from saying goodbye to the project. Trust me, I know how ridiculous that sounds. I'm free to revisit it whenever I want and can change whatever I want about it.

     But it also means that I am done on this journey to get my Masters. While I feel that I am a student at heart and enjoy going to classes and completing assignments (really), I will miss the people I've come to know over the past year and a half. Among them I've found encouragement and support that I (unfortunately) don't feel from my colleagues. I didn't mean to get too sentimental about this, but I had no idea where this was going when I started. 

An Interesting Day

     When my phone rang on Wednesday night, I checked Caller ID to see if I should avoid the call as per my routine. I was curious as to why my school was calling, but let it go to voice mail anyway. The district was informing everyone that due to the day of protest, taxi would not be operating in town and to adjust travel plans accordingly. I was quite confused by this bit of news, so I checked Facebook.

     I soon found out about how Thursday would be a day to protest the treatment of immigrants in this country. All businesses in Perth Amboy would be shut down as a sign to the president of just how needed immigrants are in this country. While I admire the intent behind what was being "organized", I couldn't throw my support behind it.

     For one, the organizers were actively encouraging people to: a) skip school and b) keep their kids home from school. This interruption of education (especially in a group that is behind as it is) serves no real purpose. Participants were not marching, holding rallies, or in any other way actively protesting. Over half of my students were out today, only to sleep in and watch television according to the students who did show up.

     It's also very dangerous to only use the term "immigrant" to define participants in the protest. By doing so, organizers are not recognizing the difference between immigrants who are here legally, and those who are here illegally. That leads some people (my easily-excitable students included) to think that America is against immigration. Whatever your thoughts on the president may be, I have always understood him to want to go after the "bad guys."

     The other issue is that it was for one day. No lasting message can be sent when the powers-that-be know you intend to return to work tomorrow. An indefinite strike would send more of a message. Unfortunately, most participants in Amboy can't afford to miss more than a day's pay. My students also seemed to think that shutting down Amboy's taxi service was going to send a message to Trump. I somehow think he was unaffected. In fact, I think no one in the establishment was affected. Only students who rely on taxis to get to school.

     So I'll return to work tomorrow to hear how kids took the day off and spent it doing nothing. I can only imagine the outrage when I let them know that the day may not count since over half the students were absent.

Well, I’m Just Terrible

     I can't believe I've forgotten to post an update for the last two weeks. As soon as I mentioned it this evening, my wife made sure I sat down to write one. At least one of us has it together. My trusty MacBook Pro proved to be anything but by completely crapping out on me early last week. As in, it won't even turn on. I would take it in to the Apple Store, but I've replaced the hard drive on that thing twice in the last year and I'm traumatized to waste any more money on it.

     So I'm writing to you from my brand new Surface Pro 4. So far, so good. I'm still trying to get used to all the new features. I definitely like how it can go from a laptop to a tablet. Plus, the pen is really cool. Ok, did I convince you to buy one yet? Moving on.

     So I already established I wasn't working as effectively as I could have over the winter break. I tackled the scientific look at fear as my last section and I think it made me hit a wall. It was the most academic and technical of the sections I'll be writing and I think it momentarily derailed my motivation.

     Our class didn't meet due to illness (hope everything is all better) so I didn't get the normal feedback on that section. I'll pick the next section and start working on that on Sunday. Hopefully it will rekindle my passion for this project again. Don't worry, this is not my despair blog. I'm just putting it into words that I need to step it up.

     I also want to put it out into the world that I won't miss another week. With the amount of work I've put into the classes for the last year and a half, one blog post each week shouldn't be as difficult as I'm making it.

On the Road Again

   

   I have a newfound respect for anyone disciplined enough to commit time to write each day. Using life as an excuse isn't fair since everyone has one of those; we're all busy. Over break, I was guilty of assuming I had so much more time left. I remember my wife asked me at the beginning of January when my first class was, and shouldn't I be writing (yes, the answer is always yes). I saw that the first class was the 19th and thought I had so much time left. Then I blinked and it's January 26th. Like George Carlin said, "This shit is moving, Ruth."

     I didn't waste all of my time. I did an incredible amount of reading about my subject matter. In fact, the more I read the more I realized that my original idea had to change. A point I have been preaching to my students ("Don't stay married to an idea kids. You reserve the right to change your mind") is proving to be easier said than done. But, it is laying the groundwork for the ideas that will spring forth soon.

     I started writing the next part. It's the technical part that discusses how our bodies react to our perception of fear. It is a challenge to match such dry material with my writing style. Luckily, I work with a great group who I know will help me out tremendously. I look forward to reading what everyone has created.

     On a personal note, Maddy has joined Daisies so I've been pimping out cookies for the last few weeks. I never thought I would be that dad, but I want that damn badge.

Two Weeks Left

     I embarked on a truly terrifying venture that many would think insane. I took thirty high school freshman on a field trip to an out-of-state college. My new principal mandated that all students be exposed to a four year school. She also required that it be outside of New Jersey so the students could see what is out there for them.

     A few reasons this is well-intended, but missed the mark. First, the kids are only fourteen years old; they aren't thinking seriously about school yet. Some of the female students swooned because a college guy said hello back to them. I tried explaining it was truly reflexive, but I swear some of those girls were ready to marry him. Secondly, we went to Temple University which is extremely urban. The campus was not too different from what they encounter everyday. Some greenery would have been nice. Thirdly, the trip consisted of a 90 minute bus ride, 30 minute tour (the students asked no questions, because, well, see my first reason), a 60 minute lunch, then another 90 minute bus ride home. They really got to see three lobbies and a cafeteria.

     I think a longer trip to Kean or Rutgers would be way more beneficial to the students. Maybe they could sit in on a class, see the dorms, speak to some club and organization leaders. The out-of-state trip should come when they are juniors.

     One reason I bring this up is because the founder of Temple is apparently buried on campus. There is a campus ghost hunters society who regularly patrol the campus for signs of hauntings. Oddly enough, they claim cell phone reception is strongest at the burial site. Every ghost hunting show I've ever seen has claimed that spirits do nothing but interfere with electronic devices. Perhaps I can use this experience for my paper at some point.

     Speaking of, I've started writing the section about urban legends to be discussed at our meeting next week. I was unsure what direction it would take, but once I started writing, it started to take shape (go figure, right?). I'm really looking forward to what it will look like in one week.

Urban Legends

     So apparently I'm having trouble remembering to blog until the day it is due. Hopefully I can snap out of this and get this work done on time in the future. November, when teachers have more days off than in school. It's hard to believe that time has moved so fast.

     I haven't started writing my next chapter about urban legends yet, but I've been doing quite extensive research on them. By research I mean reading about them. I don't think I'll ever get tired of reading about urban legends. There is something about the urban legends or anecdotal stories that commenters relay that are more appealing than the creepy pastas. The creepy pastas are submissions by users of websites. They have a lot in common with legends or myths, but they come across as being too contrived and rely on jump scares that most tweenagers find terrifying. But I still enjoy them to an extent.

     I browse Reddit on a daily basis. I come across a lot of threads where topic posters will ask for users to share a) the most creepy thing they've seen b) the most creepy thing that has happened to them c) creepiest local legend etc. The submissions on these threads are always so fascinating.

     I've even come across some ideas that inspired where I might take the chapter. There are several instances of the legend being based on reality, but with some alterations. In one, there was the legend of a man without a face who would stalk you at night and attack you. In reality, a man had his face severely burned so that it was covered in a mass of scar tissue. You could, in fact, encounter him at night, but only because that was the only time he could go out for a walk without being harassed. He had reasons for his behavior, but they were misconstrued for the sake of a good story.

     I'm excited to sit down to write out some of my ideas. Here's to hoping I don't forget.


Off the Path I’m Beating

     I absolutely apologize for being so late. I know some of you guys can't sleep at night until you've read what I have to say. My wife and I are on vacation this week and I completely lost track of what day it was. We were on our way home from Adventure Aquarium today when it dawned on me that I forgot to blog. I figured I would veer from discussing my thesis to talking about something even more frightening- the election.

     I don't want to focus on how terrible it is that Trump won. Let's be honest, he had a 50/50 shot and it's not like our other option was no Abe Lincoln. Truthfully, he hasn't even taken office yet so no one has any clue whether or not he'll be horrible at the job or not.

     Instead, I wanted to look at the aftermath of the outcome and how some people are behaving like petulant children. Protests? Riots (because what else should you call destruction of property)? Demanding an overhaul of the electoral college? Okay, maybe Al Gore would support you on that last one.

     What is causing these people to behave so poorly? This is the same behavior they most likely ridiculed at Pro-Trump rallies prior to the election. What happened to "When they go low, we go high"? So far it seems like Trump is throwing everyone for a loop by acting, well, unTrump-like. He seemed gracious and wasn't gloating in his acceptance speech. He's confusing me; I'll just wait for the other shoe to drop and hope to be surprised when nothing bad happens.

     First, I blame the media for portraying him as a boogeyman. Don't get me wrong, he seems downright deplorable at times and has said some pretty heinous stuff. But I've heard that multiple media outlets really tried to slant things in Clinton's favor. This type of propaganda causes those who don't fully read up on what's happening (unfortunately most people) to use sound bytes as the bedrock of their beliefs.

     Some people think that now Trump is President-elect, we are all racist now. As is the coast is clear and we can drop the charade. My wife has a friend on Facebook who posted an angry reaction to the election, warning people not to tell her "to be angry with white people." Why are you mad at me?

     I also blame people for not remembering anything from civics or government classes they took in school. Sorry if Clinton won the popular vote, but we were all taught about the electoral college and we can't change it just because the person we wanted to win didn't. It seems that most of these people (who all grew up getting ribbons and medals) can't handle being on the losing side of a vote.

How millennials saw the election going

     These riots and protests won't change anything. A radio host on 101.5 put it best when he said that America isn't a Banana Republic that will have a redo just because you don't like the outcome. If anything, these people are becoming the havoc and doom they were worried about. And don't say that Trump isn't your president, he is. Stubborn refusal to accept this fact will only lead to disappointment.

     So that's it. That's the rant. And I didn't vote for Trump.

   

How is it November Already?

     Wow, time flies. I can't believe we've been in school for two months already. The first marking period is over and the holidays are fast approaching. Think about it; we're closer to Christmas than to the first day of school.

     Things have been crazy busy at work. I not only took on an extra class, but I've also been put in charge of the school newsletter. Thank God it's quarterly. Our new administration has a new policy that every failing student must have some form of intervention. In order to do so, we have to show that we've contacted the parents at least three times. Most phone numbers either don't work or they go unanswered. Maybe that fact alone is scary enough for me to write about for my thesis.

     Speaking of which, it's proving harder than I thought to write what I think is "thesis worthy". I'm not 100% sure that what I'm producing is... good enough for lack of a better term. Don't worry, this isn't another despair post. I'm just looking forward to meeting with Dr. Zamora on Thursday so I can get some direction.

     I've never been one to take much initiative. I'd much rather take direction than provide it. So to set off on my own to write this thesis is leaving me constantly guessing. I know that my group will provide with great feedback, as will Dr. Zamora.

     Actually sitting down to write my passage has been a great experience. I know the time will come when I have to sit down and weave all the pieces together into a cohesive unit. Even still, I'm trying to keep that thought in the back of my mind so that it will be easier to do when that time comes.

On With the Plan

     One of my directives was to create a list of critical lenses with which I'll examine how fear plays a role in our lives. Each lens will be paired with an experience of my own. These are still tentatively titled, but it looks like the lenses will be: the thin divide between fear and pleasure, the social aspects of fear/role of the media, the body's role in how we experience fear, the catharsis we feel in being scared, the uncanny, and the visualization of fear versus the narrative of fear. These were all developed by Dr. Zamora and seem to cover all of the major areas I would like to address. Some may be excised depending on whether or not I'm happy with how that section turns out.

     I wanted to try to develop an idea I had. I'm thinking I'll combine the uncanny with the catharsis of being scared. An experience I'll attempt to pair this with is when my best friend Anthony and I would sneak out of his house and one o'clock in the morning. I would sleep over his house every weekend, normally going to bed extremely late if at all. One night we got the idea to sneak out and explore the town.

     The first step in beginning our journey was getting past the gatekeeper, which took the form of a large cowbell that hung from the breezeway door. This was easily remedied by placing a piece of tape inside the bell to prevent it from waking up the whole house. Eventually our early morning jaunts were ended when we forgot to remove the tape one time. Anthony's grandmother wondered why her bell wasn't working and quickly discovered the cause. To save his own skin, Anthony ratted me out as the culprit who liked to sneak out after he had fallen asleep to meet up with my girlfriend. Some best friend.

     The reason our excursions felt uncanny was because of how still everything was. Normally busy roads were deserted. Sidewalks were devoid of people. What normally bustled with life was now completely still. It seemed odd that traffic lights still worked, even though there wasn't anyone there to wait. The world was carrying on even though no one (but us) was there to see it. It isn't often that you find yourself the only person around, witness to the world moving on.

     Every once in a while we'd see headlights. Eventually we turned it into a game of running from the car for as long as possible, diving for cover at the last minute. We'd try to outdo each other with the method with which we hid; one time I almost jumped over the railing of a small bridge, chickening out at the last second. In our minds, any car we saw out belonged to an authority figure who could get us trouble. It never occurred to us that only weirdos were out that late.

     We ventured into the woods, completely unaware of how pitch black it would be, the moonlight unable to pierce the canopy of trees. On one of these trips I saw a chair in the pathway. It still bothers me to this day. The best way I can describe it to people is that a chair is for people to sit in, so someone must have been there to sit in it. Someone in the woods at the same time as us. I know that isn't logically sound, but it fits the definition of uncanny. Something normal (a chair) in an abnormal setting (the woods at 1 AM).

     This was all done to create excitement for us. Maybe we were in danger, maybe we weren't. The thrill of potentially having something bad happen was appealing to us. It's what made us sneak out time after time. Until that damn piece of tape.