Prepping for Week 3 – Evocative Object pieces

Each of you as an author has been asked (like the writers included in Turkle’s collection) to chose an object that is somehow related to your semester-long topic and to follow that object’s associations: where does it take you; what do you feel; what are you able to understand?

Please post one paragraph from your draft of proposal-part-one by 9PM on Sunday night. It need not be obvious what your topic is, but it should be apparent what your object is. Don’t worry about making a big social argument (yet)—instead, enthrall us, make us want to keep reading.  Before class on Tuesday, please read your peers’ paragraphs. Reply to at least two with: a specific question you have as a reader and/or a comment about something in the paragraph that makes you want to know more.  

*** If you’re having trouble selecting a topic and/or an object, I encourage you to email me. Tell me what you’re considering and/or a little bit about yourself. (What do you study? What kinds of things are you passionate about? What do you wish you knew more about?)


51 thoughts on “Prepping for Week 3 – Evocative Object pieces

  1. It was the first time I have ever taken an international flight. It was August 22nd, 2008. The summer heat had slowly left Beijing and the air was filled with cool breeze. I was sitting on the plane, holding my passport. It had my national emblem, along with the Chinese and English translation of my country’s formal name “People’s Republic of China” and the word “passport” printed on the dark red cover. It was my first passport ever, brand new. On the first page, there it was, in black and white, my visa stamp. I was only fifteen then, I have no idea what it meant for me and how much my life would be different by spending the rest of my teenage years in the US. Six years laster, it was summer again, I was on the plane looking at my passport. The passport still has the same words printed on the cover. But the little book is a little worn along the edges, the pages are no longer as smooth and filled with the smell of ink as before. The pages are crumpled and almost every page has a visa stamp on it. This was no longer just a passport. It holds my memories and my journey to the US. It is also a key to the door of a world full of possibilities and dreams.

    • Why are you going back? And how did the passport get so worn down, have you been using it a lot, visiting places other than America?

    • The description of the weather and the exact date of your departure from Beijing really helps to set the scene in the beginning and it would be helpful to have the same effect for the end of the story too. What was the weather like that summer when you were returning? Was there summer heat and a cool breeze then as well? Where were you leaving from?

    • I think it would be interesting if you wrote what you felt when you realized that you were going to stay in the US for the past 6 years. How this passport truly affected you when left your homeland and what you expected from this experience.

    • I really like your decision to use the passport. Something really cool that you could do is use it as a metaphor for your own changing with time in the U.S. (how did the experience change you?). If you could reflect this in the changes in the passport that would be really artistically beautiful and pretty neat.

  2. Pale yellow and rectangular, the chalky pill seems innocuous enough when it is resting in the palm of my twelve year old hand. Split down the middle with a line, there are words etched on both sides that designate the name and the amount of the chemical compound contained within this particular antidepressant. The transparent orange cylindrical bottle which houses the rest of my medication sits nearby on the nightstand. It is not a dense rectangle, and I could easily crush the compound if I so much as made a purposeful fist. The temptation is always there, but nevertheless I insert the pill in my mouth and swallow carefully with water. Even at an early age, I recognize that this routine is life-saving for me.

    • What other routines have you adopted that could be defined as “life-saving”? Or is this one symbolic in the sense that it is the only one you could label as such…?

  3. The shop sat at the end of a long, winding alleyway in the heart of the city. I tiptoed through the entrance and was immediately struck by the shopkeeper’s boisterous voice. The woman, a graying woman in her 60s, was yelling at a young boy who had just made the mistake of walking too close to a glass case full of menorahs. The woman’s rant was a mix of Hebrew and English, though from the boy’s snarky response I could tell he was American like me. I continued, cautiously, through the store, stopping briefly to look at the menorahs and Seder plates before arriving at a small, glass jewelry case. The case was filled with hundreds of charms: gold ones, silver ones, big ones, small ones, colored ones, and ones covered in gems. Many of the charms showed the Star of David, others the hamsa hand, each sporting a different kind of jewel. I perused the charms, struck by the mere number the tiny case could hold, until my eyes finally settled on a tiny charm in the bottom left hand corner. The charm, a silver Star of David, was covered in nine tiny gems of all colors. Beneath the Star of David the metal twisted to hug a tiny red garnet stone. My eyes settled not on the gems or the garnet, but rather the Star itself, a symbol that I had seen plastered all throughout the country during the last nine days of my journey through Israel.

    • I like your introduction with the woman and the boy. It really sets the scene rather well. But if you could somehow include her at least later on that would be really cool. Maybe do some comparison between her and yourself and connect that to your trip and the Star of David charm somehow.

  4. Passports are legal forms of identity. By creation they make you a part of something; they make you accountable. I was born without a sense of belonging. I wasn’t anybody’s, somebody, for the first six months of my life. It wasn’t until the Chinese government warranted me a passport to travel to the United States with my newfound family that I suddenly existed to someone other than myself. Although I am no longer a Chinese citizen, as China doesn’t allow dual citizenship, I keep my Chinese passport to remember an important element of my history. While people can go their whole lives without claiming one, mine marked a new beginning. It not only represents the life I have now but the life that could have been. China’s One Child Policy wasn’t enacted out of malice but it forced orphanages to flood with almost exclusively baby girls. Cross-continental adoptions saved hundreds of babies and I consider it my own personal miracle that I was one of them. The Chinese passport that documents Xiabai as a Chinese citizen is unfailingly connected to who I am today.

    • Is there anything specific about the physical passport that “does” anything for you? Does the color, a symbol, a picture, the feel strike any particular emotion or memory in you?

    • I did not see a strong connection between the passport and what made you who you are today, can you maybe say something more about the passport, like specifically how it affected you?

    • In this paragraph you said, “By creation [passports] make you a part of something; they make you accountable.” What other forms of identification or objects make you accountable? How has your Chinese passport made you accountable?

  5. We had a routine. Breakfast. Free play. Snack time. Playground. Story time. Lunch. Nap. Snack. Free play. This routine was just as important for me as it was for the children at the daycare I worked at all summer long (emphasis on the long). The fights and meltdowns, often concerning one bouncy ball or another, frequently brought me to think, “at least there’s only 40 more minutes until naptime!” Something I did not consider as much then as I do now were each child’s motives behind the screams. Was it a coincidence that the little girl, Addie, who was almost 2 years old and spoke no words, was the one to scream the most when she wanted to play with a ball? That ball and the meltdowns that occurred because of it taught me more about the importance of child communication than any other stream of tears and screams had. It wasn’t just a ball to those kids. It was a need they were expressing. And with that need unsatisfied, it my job to bring a resolution.

    • What kind of bouncy ball was it? A big one or small one? What color? It maybe beneficial to explain what the ball looks like to give the readers a better picture!

  6. As I squirm in my seat, I anxiously await the arrival of the exam booklet. I clutch my number 2 pencil with clammy palms and white knuckles, and scribble my name onto the scantron. This scantron, this one little piece of paper, could hold the key to my future. What if I fail this exam? What if my GPA drops below the point where I need it to be? And what if because of that, I don’t get into the right graduate school, and don’t get the right job? I have spent my entire life reading, learning, and studying, yet all of that hard work could mean nothing if this I am unable to succeed at this one task. This little scantron holds all of my potential, but also all of my fears, my doubts, my stress. The pressure to perform toils in my head until I can’t think, I can’t breathe, I can’t even see without random bits of information clouding my vision. I try to tell myself that I did all that I could to prepare, but somehow it never feels like enough. The scantron rests on my desk, smirking at me, taunting me with its blank answers. All it takes is the right combination of A’s, B’s, C’s and D’s. I am haunted by the fact that in my eyes, the grade I get on this test is directly proportional to who I am as a person. Perfection is the golden standard, and I refuse to let this scantron stand in my way of reaching it.

    • What does the scantron look like? How would you define its purpose? (I know this seems obvious, but not all readers may understand)

    • What type of test are you taking and how does that play into the anxiety that exists in this piece? That’s really what I would be most curious about. Also, I think that when you’re describing how you’re feeling, I would be interested to see what your reaction was as it pertains to the end result (test score).

  7. I find myself absentmindedly playing with that football while I’m sitting on the couch. The smooth, brown leather is covered with tiny grooves and the printed words, once bright and bold, are wearing off. The green grass stains from years of use, while faint, are still slightly visible. The raised, white lace is not quite as white as it once was, and is speckled with green and brown where you can tell it has torn into grass and dirt. I have played with that football in the front yard, on the beach, on the playground, even inside–that football has been everywhere my family has. Though my hands have never been big enough to properly hold it, I never gave up on trying to throw the perfect spiral with my modified grip. Throughout my childhood, that football started and ended fights between me and my older brother. It brought us outside and would keep us entertained for longer than just about anything else could. It taught us lessons about how to fight and how to compromise, how to make rules and how to break rules, and how one seemingly indistinguishable object could serve so many different purposes.

  8. Chock full of deep-fried, golden and greasy French fries, surrounded by oil-and-vinegar ‘slaw and thick slices of tomato wrapped in provolone cheese, these sandwiches are far from healthy but absolutely appetizing. With your choice of really any type of meat, (capicola, salami, chicken, beef, pork, etc.) you can stuff the two slices of Italian bread until it becomes a necessity to compress the sandwich before you attempt to fit it into your mouth.

    Frequently referred to as “Pittsburgh, in a sandwich,” this is a traditionaly “yinzer” delicacy that tourists enjoy experiencing while in the Iron City. Myself included.

    When my family and I first made our trip to Pittsburgh, all my Pittsburghese relatives insisted that we sample the “Primantis”. We ventured to the Strip District and made it inside a bar-style restaurant that reeked of deep-fried goodness and contained customers that ranged from tourists to construction workers. The 60’s script font listed the multitude of potential sandwiches, sides, and options and wrapped around a variety of classic Pittsburgh illustrations. Bill Mazeroski grinned on one wall, brandishing a baseball bat in front of a background of Forbes Field. Roc, the Pitt Panther, is accompanied by big figures in Steeler Football such as Mean Joe Green, Franco Harris, and Jack Lambert. Among the great Pittsburgh people, there was a sandwich crafted carefully to satisfy big western Pennsylvania tastes.

    That sandwich (mine complete with a fried egg and extra old bay seasoning, among the rest) was truly an introduction, a memory, and an experience. Being surrounded by family, encompassed by such rich and original culture, I cherish the memories that it brings to me. My mom, so heartbroken that we were visiting colleges, my dad, so excited to explore sports and share history, and my sisters, acting insane and making me laugh so hard that tears fell into my parchment paper and dripped onto my sandwich. It was then when my love affair with the city of Pittsburgh began.

    Despite the lack of quality nutritive content, the power of the sandwich (and notably food in general) is immense. In terms of geography, key foods make up a large part of the culture of that area. With that said, Pittsburgh does not have the absolute best reputation for being a healthy, organic, geographic location. What they do have is food that allows for experience and memories.

    • First off, this makes me SO HUNGRY. A Primanti sandwich sounds delicious right now. Anyway… What else about the sandwich evokes a memory? The smell? The taste? I’m looking forward to seeing how this ties into your topic.

    • Great job with explaining your object!! It instantly made me connect to the last time I had one of those sandwiches. Looking at how far the city has come in terms of its eco-friendly efforts, do you think this will transcend into the food industry as well?

  9. Surrounded by hundreds of people, the air became eerily calm as if before a storm. The rhythm of my heart beat louder than the chatter surrounding me. I clenched my fists as my muscles tensed and my body immersed into fight or flight mode in intense anticipation of the seconds ahead. I then looked down at the white square pinned to the front of my grey t-shirt. The four bold black numbers shone brightly in contrast to the stark white background. A golden bridge stood at the top of the square underneath which I could read “NOHTARAM HGRUBSTTIP.” This moment, this piece of paper, these numbers, and what was about to be a memory, was not for me, however. In this physiological catastrophe of a moment I reminded myself that the numbers on my shirt were not for my accomplishment, but rather my friend. To my left stood the friend I had spent months training with. Over the weeks, he had progressed more than I could have ever imagined, and today, on this cool May morning, was to be the symbol of his efforts. His bib, along with everyone else’s, had a different series of numbers, but provided an identity and a goal. Today, despite the plethora of roles we possess in society, our role was to be runners and motivators. The bib’s we wore, held together by four small silver pins, possessed the key to success, the map to the journey ahead. I shot my friend one last encouraging smile, as we pounded fists, and the crackle of the gun broke the glass between the runners and the starting line.

    • What about the bib possessed “the key to success?” What makes the bib the symbol of success and not, say, your running shoes or the medal at the end? I’m a little confused by the sentence “Over the weeks, he had progressed more than I could have ever imagined, and today, on this cool May morning, was to be the symbol of his efforts.” I know what you’re trying to say, but is there a different way you could say it to make it clearer for your readers?

  10. Inside my closet, which lacks a door that probably wouldn’t otherwise be able to close anyway, I spy my favorite summer dress jammed in the back entangled in a heap of clothing. The rod at the top of the closet supporting all of my clothes is filled with an overlapping variety of clothes hangers that I was able to rummage from my mom’s home. I tried to only use the sturdy blue and white plastic hangers but a few others snuck in the mix as well—some still wrapped in the advertising paper from the dry cleaners and some clearly from a department store with the plastic sizing label still attached. One classic wire hanger protrudes from the closet after I ripped the shirt from it last night while I was in a frazzled rush to pick out an outfit. The exposed and empty metal clothes hanger has played a much more powerful role in the lives of women throughout history than simply just organizing their adorned clothing in closets.

    • What powerful role have the hangers played in your own life other than holding your clothes? Is there a certain memory that you associate with them? I’m curious as to why the hangers are your object, rather than the clothes themselves.

  11. The mass media plays an astoundingly influential role in how young women view their bodies. Advertisements, television shows, movies, magazines, and many other media platforms are bombarding young women with images of unrealistically thin (many times digitally distorted) actresses or models who set the standards for the perfect woman. But this ideal body type that is so often depicted in the media is only naturally possessed by five percent of American females, according to the Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders. This is putting unnecessary pressure on young girls to fit an idealistic and unrealistic body image, causing many negative implications as a result such as eating disorders and other mental and physical concerns. It also objectifies women, telling them that it is not who they are or what they do that is important and of value, but rather, the way that they look. The manner in which the media portrays and objectifies women has been stirring up much controversy from both ethical and legal standpoints.

  12. Tick, tock. Its now four a.m. and I have been trying to sleep for the past two hours. Every time I come close to blissful unconsciousness I remember the work I need to do. Its junior year of high school, the “most important” time of my life. The work for school is overwhelming, each and every single one of my teachers runs through my head and reminds me of how my future will be determined by how well this year goes. I was even told in the beginning of sophomore year that if I had not picked out my college and major, I would never get a job or go anywhere in life. The burning red of my clock changes to 4:04. If I fell asleep now, I would get one hour and fifty six minutes of sleep. That would be enough to carry me through the day, that and coffee. But I am not falling asleep, I am thinking about the test I have that week in one of my AP classes. And two essays due by Friday. I really need sleep, enough that I walk downstairs and open up the medicine cabinet. Sitting behind the Advil and Band-aids is the Nyquil- guaranteed to help me fall asleep. Two pills fall into my hand, the clear green liquid inside a rather large shell. I know this will work, I am not the first of my friends to try it. And this will not be the worst of it, because when I hit college, taking one dose of the pills will not help. I will buy sleeping pills, and toss and turn when they do not work. But this is much safer than what others are doing around me. Drugs, for sleeping, waking up, and concentrating, become a part of everyday life. I feel horrible swallowing them down. Did school used to do this to its charges? The movies do not portray it that way; there is not the casual popping of pills for school, to handle the pressure. And deep down, I feel like this is expected of me, to focus on all of my work, because if I fail one thing, I will get nowhere. It really does not matter if I get sleep if my work is not done. A thought pops through my mind- I still do not know what my major might be. How will I get a job if I do not start now? The drug kicks in though, and I start to drift off into my hour and a half sleep.

    • Do you think there is more pressure on younger ages now than there was even 10 years ago? Do you think drug abuse for academic performance purposes is on the rise in college/high school settings?

  13. Evocative Object
    Income inequality is rapidly coming to the forefront in many Americans’ minds. According to the Los Angeles Times, President Obama specifically labeled the growing gap as a serious threat last month, and the World Economic Forum has consistently placed it at the top of their global risks list. Both experts and amateurs alike recognize that a leading cause to this disparity is educational inequality. Unfortunately, here is where the agreement comes to an end. There seems to be no agreement as to why educational inequality exists or how to fix it.
    I do not propose that I am setting off to close the income gap or solve the problem of inequality in education. Nor will I address the American education system and all its problems as a whole. Instead, my humble project will simply look at a single issue: funding for primary and secondary schools in Pennsylvania. In order to explain why this is an issue worth addressing, I will narrow the scope of this particular paper even further to describing what I see as the key object in understanding the current plight of Pennsylvania’s primary and secondary education systems: the young and aspiring teacher.
    No classroom is complete without a teacher. Indeed, the teacher is more than likely the most important object in the classroom. Some would say that it is wrong to treat a human being as an object. They would say that people are more than just their function. I do not disagree with this, but it is equally wrong to fail to recognize this function. Any attempt to describe a classroom without objectifying the teacher is sure to fall short.

    • Why is this issue important to you? Did you have a particular teacher that inspired you? How have teachers and schooling affected who you are?

  14. The thin device slowly vibrated twice against my stomach. Not surprisingly, I left this smooth square in my sweatshirt pocket.I felt separation anxiety without it near. All my peers quickly glanced around the classroom, and a few faces turned red as they anxiously scrambled around in their backpack to check if their vibration disrupted the class. Our teacher glared at us, and firmly said, “all cellphones on silent. You know the rules”. The picture of my best friends and myself at our 7th grade soccer game lit up. The message was from an unknown number and read “new iMessage”. Like the jocks and the popular kids, I did not fear the unknown number. I felt excited and I had butterflies in my stomach. I waited until my teacher began to write on the dry erase board, and checked my cellphone under the desk. My excitement subsided as I realized it was only my neighbor explaining where she would meet me after school to get on the bus.

    • Why is it important to include the “jocks and popular kids”? Is there an importance of you keeping the iPhone in your pocket compared to those who have it in their backpacks?

  15. As I sat down, I heard whispers continuing behind me. Whispers between classmates with talks of how ugly and Asian I had become. Did they forget about the girl who used to play with them on the playground and share secrets with? I hated the way they talked about me. I blamed the frames that covered my face; this item that allowed me to see, but stopped me from being seen. It fed into the stereotype of my culture and made me feel a sense of blinded hate for who I was. Was I not the same girl they had seen yesterday? Did wearing these glasses make me a completely different person? I didn’t realize that getting glasses at the age of eight would make me scorn myself. I used to always think that being pretty was better than being ugly; that being popular was better than being a nobody. At that point in time, I didn’t realize how selfish and petty I was for viewing life like that.

    • Since you focus a lot on how others perceive you, why not describe yourself, how you see it? In this paragraph you are reacting to others’ ideas, but it would be useful to the reader if we see from your perspective.

  16. To study Pittsburgh is to study its rivers. How could we separate a city from its surroundings, its geography? The elements that have shaped the city’s growth, opened it to trade and avenues of travel, are those that have experienced its growth and its failures. What have we out into the rivers, and what have they given us? Would Pittsburgh be recognizable without them? The three of them–the Allegheny, Monongohela, and Ohio–look out upon three very different aspects of out metropolis and the areas around it. They speak three separate stories of this place and its inhabitants. By turns slate or sky-like, they both reflect and determine the land mass around them. They have divided the city on all sides, and we have built above them. It would be easy to write a few paragraphs about how the rivers have stood the test of time, have watched over our development through the years like three stoic centurions. It would also, however, be wrong. They have lived and changed alongside the city, reflecting and sharing its eras of growth and those of loss.

  17. Somewhere, in a bag nestled in the recesses of my closet, tucked behind a rack of heels and flats, is another pair of particularly special shoes. Their faded pink canvas exterior, lovingly worn-through leather soles, and crisscrossing elastics that wrap the arches of my feet in a soft embrace are familiar and comforting. These ballet shoes (and their many tiny, pink leather predecessors) have molded me into the person I am today. They have seen me through good days and bad – my first time doing pliés and battenments at the barre, tripping and falling rather ungracefully in the middle of a performance, and landing my first tour jeté in my small hometown studio with my arms held high in a triumphant fifth position. They saw my transition from youth to upper-level classes, from ensemble member to soloist, and to my final tearful performance my senior year. With these shoes, the stress of whatever I had been feeling could melt away, and I could become anything and anyone I wanted with a quick flick of my feet.

    Fast-forward to college. Amid the juggling of classes, an on-campus job, and volunteer work, I am still dancing, and I could not be more thankful for the things my ballet shoes (and the training that came with them) have given me. My feet, bony and flexible and calloused, are like badges of honor, bearing battle scars from corrective surgeries. My legs, long, toned, and hyperextended, can propel me further and higher when I leap. My posture, the first thing people seem to notice, is straight and tall. They have brought me so much joy, even in the presence of physical and emotional pain. And even more than that, through the past fifteen years, they have given me confidence and faith in myself, and the knowledge that hard work and determination will always pay off.

  18. Sometimes I just sit and twirl the circular object around in my hand. Slowly rubbing the raised red laces from seam to seam, I flash back instantly to a random memory. Sometimes its flashbacks of my old playing days, other times its of my dad and I playing catch in my back yard. I quickly come back to reality as my fingers graze a small sore of ripped leather. The defect in the ball could have been caused by anything: the powerful force of a homerun swing, harsh contact with a fence, even the sharp teeth of your dog. That’s what I love about a baseball though. While each one is the generally the same shape, same color, same feel when you unwrap it from its plastic packaging; each ball develops its own story from that moment on. Every spot, every dent, and every discoloration has its own personal meaning. Each time I touch a baseball, those memories swarm back into every facet of my mind.

    • How does the baseball (or a certain baseball) contain meaning in your everyday life? I would be curious to see how maybe it compares to an event or a theme in your life.

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