Saturday, October 31, 2009

On Creativity

The following e-mail exchange is one of my proudest accomplishments. On my last History of Creativity exam I lost four points on the take-home portion for not "illustrating" my booklet. In these e-mails, you will see me pleading and arguing like an idiot for those measly points. The miracle is, it worked.

Dear illustrious teaching assistants,

You are wise. You are just. You are creative.

It is because of these attributes that I come before you to plead my case. I pray that my words will have reason in your ears.

I had an exceptionally pleasant experience during the last exam, especially while completing the take-home portion. For my project, I designed and constructed a pamphlet for a fictional organization called the Society of Modern Gods. I wrote an introduction to the pamphlet, gave vivid descriptions of five of the gods that govern our modern world, and included a professional conclusion inviting the reader to learn more, suggesting that the pamphlet was not a stand-alone book, but a single reference in a vast collection of knowledge about modern gods. My pamphlet was generally well-received, but four points were withheld from me. The explanation left by the illustrious assistant was just one word; one question:


My claim is that I did, in reality, illustrate my pamphlet, and thus, I deserve those four points withheld from me. To illustrate my claim, I point to the ambiguity of the following statement:

"Illustrate your gods using any method you see fit and turn in the completed
project as a book or pamphlet. Have fun with it!" (emphasis added)

These are the closing lines of the instructions for the take-home portion of the first exam. The instructions were clear, for the most part, but that word - "illustrate" - is ambiguous. Below are two definitions of, "Illustrate," together with their sources:

–verb (used with object)
1. to furnish (a book, magazine, etc.) with drawings, pictures, or other artwork intended for explanation, elucidation, or adornment.
2. to make clear or intelligible, as by examples or analogies; exemplify.
3. Archaic. to enlighten.

"illustrate." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 29 Oct. 2009.>.

v. tr.
    1. To clarify, as by use of examples or comparisons: The editor illustrated the definition with an example sentence.

    2. To clarify by serving as an example or comparison: The example sentence illustrated the meaning of the word.

  1. To provide (a publication) with explanatory or decorative features: illustrated the book with colorful drawings.

  2. Obsolete To illuminate.

v. intr.
To present a clarification, example, or explanation.

"illustrate." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 29 Oct. 2009.

Obviously the noble teaching assistants considered the first definition of "illustrate,"referring to furnishing a book with drawings, pictures, or other artwork; however, these dictionary definitions illustrate quite clearly the variance in meaning of this fine word. And is there any doubt that I illustrated my gods? Or said another way, isn't it clear that I presented explanations of my gods, that my vivid descriptions created clear mental images of how these gods live and how they influence our world today? I included histories, interviews, and scientific theories. Did these not illustrate my gods, according to at least one of the definitions I have included above?

And then there are the next words:

"Illustrate your gods using any method you see fit." (emphasis added)

As the creator of this pamphlet, I saw that my method of illustration was adequate. My descriptions were detailed and my imagery was good. According to the instructions, that should be sufficient.

In closing, I wish to say that I have enjoyed this class immensely and I feel that my personal creativity is becoming enhanced as a result of the things I have learned. I believe that my pamphlet was quite creative, in that met the requirements outlined in the instructions while employing a very lateral form of thinking. Please do not punish me for my creative efforts. Reward me. You have taught me well.

Thank you,

Michael Wood


The noble TA's have heard your plea. Because they are wise, just, and creative, they have graciously decided to reward you with the points you so eloquently and humbly requested from them. They are impressed with your ability to wrest the words of their otherwise simple take-home project instructions. Do not be surprised or alarmed if they contact you when they need to eek points out of their less wise, just, and creative professors and TA's in other subject areas. They commend you for your language abilities and exhort you to put your creativity to wise and good use during the remainder of this course.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

On Cleaning


What do you do when there is an unclaimed bowl of chili in your kitchen that has been left to rot for a whole week?


Let the chili speak for itself.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Three Rules You Must Know!

The following paper was an assignment about status for my social inequality class. Before you read, please know that while there is some truth to these rules, they have been highly exaggerated. The dinner group I was a part of, while excellent, was made up of fun, wonderful people who really loved food.

And so without further ado, I present:

A Guide to Fabulous Flavor:

How to Woo your dinner group

During my time at BYU, I have seen the rise of informal organizations known as “dinner groups” among students and newlyweds of all backgrounds. Although many of the less-informed claim that the purpose of the dinner group is purely economical, the truly educated understand that it is much more than that. The dinner group, ideally, is a rich cultural and social experience – an opportunity for sophisticated chefs to gather and counsel together and share wisdom. For some, the idea of such a group seems daunting, and perhaps it is for the hopeless mac-and-cheese aficionados. Nevertheless, I will attempt to outline a few of the morals we hold high in our kitchens.

Rule 1: Only use the best and freshest ingredients.

If you ever hope to impress the other members of your dinner group, you must never use anything that comes in a can. Similarly, frozen or processed foods are also despicable. When preparing vegetables or using herbs, only use the freshest produce available. Don't even think about using dried spices! Whenever possible, buy locally at the farmer's market. Buy organic, even if it costs twice as much. You are a sophisticated chef, and you cannot afford to use second-rate ingredients. If you do, your guests will surely be disappointed, as their palates have been trained to detect such sloppiness.

Rule 2: Use recipes from a trusted source.

Your dinner group is well-versed in cooking literature and is up-to-date on all of the new recipes outlined on the cooking network. They have memorized last year's cookbook from America's Test Kitchen and they have marked The Pioneer Woman Cooks as their home page. Follow a recipe from a chef they admire. If you must be creative, prepare an unusual ethnic dish that you learned from a native. I, for one, found success by preparing baked chicken wrapped with bacon and drizzled with a tomato cream sauce served over warm rice with a hint of garlic and a side of slow-simmered beans. And a salad.

Rule 3: Be informed and engage in enlightening conversation

This rule, while important, is not as important as the previous two. Fortunately for you, assuming you have obeyed the first two rules, you will have an ample list of topics from which you can draw. In essence, you have gathered all the essential ingredients, making it a simple matter of reading the recipe. Tell your friends about the special ingredients included in your elegant meal. Like Homer of old, assume the role of the bard. Relate your epic search for the whole native pepperberries used in your cream sauce, or share your technique employed in the preparation of the basil chiffonade. When you have exhausted your ingredient-stories (which is unlikely) you may move on to the next subject – the chefs and shows that serve as inspiration. Have caution here; conversations like these can last the whole night. I know.

I wish you the best of luck as you seek to earn status in your very own dinner group. Remember: Fresh is best. Learn or burn. Share if you care. Follow these and you are guaranteed to succeed. Now, excuse me – I must return to the kitchen. My ramen is burning.