A Nation Without Vision: A Return to Principle

“I stand for _________”

Dear Students,
There is crazy stuff happening in the world right now; I am appalled by the president’s comments this week concerning the NFL and Stephen Curry. Not only this, but over the weekend, a US bomber jet flew right off the coast of North Korea. North Korea’s foreign minister has made a statement that Kim Jong Un considers Trump’s recent actions as “a declaration of war”.
Dear students: this is the time to bring it in. If I feel scared about all of this, I imagine many of you do, too. I don’t know what to do about the North Korea issue, however, I do know that we need to come together as a nation. We need to heal, as a people, before we can pursue a vision for our country. American politics is so unstable right now because the American people are very confused. We are not choosing our politicans out of principle… we have been choosing our politicians out of utility or out of fear. Our government represents the people, and our congress is a mirror that we can’t stand to look at.
We are very confused about our vision for the future. As we become increasingly aware of our place in history, the weight of centuries-worth of human error is suffocating us. As America has become a more educated populace, we are plagued by the anxiety of knowing exactly how far previous generations have fallen. Slavery, torture, corruption, and manipulation, are among the many traumatic realities we’ve had to confront about our government. Trauma is repetitive in nature, therefore, constantly revisiting it triggers tremendous anxiety in us. We need to acnkowledge the trauma, and then choose something better in order to move on. So what will we choose?What are we about? What do we stand for? What would we like the 21st century to look like? We have to figure that out together. America needs group therapy because we are all very confused; we need to return to principle.
The best option we have right now is not to be afraid or angry, but , rather, to choose something greater: compassion, gratitude, or a dedication to liberty and justice for all. This choice is important because there is a profound difference between being for something and against something; there is a profound difference between being pro- something and anti-something. That is, all I’ve seen in our political discourse is people being againstsomething else. All I’ve seen are messages against “the other side”. I’m not seeing many messages for a better vision. First of all, there is no other side; the idea of “the other” only divides. There is no “other side”, only people. Fundamentally, we are not the demons we charaterize eachother to be; we are all human beings, and it seems as though many of us have forgotten that. To see a better world, we need to stop asking ourselves what we are against, and ask ourselves what we are for. Without a vision for what we want, rather than what we don’t want, we are a directionless and suffering people. I believe it’s possible for us to turn things around because I know what’s in the Heart of this country.
I believe that we are capable— as a generally loving, generous, hard-working people— of making our Democracy work. Our founders had a seemingly impossible vision of a nation-state where people could live with dignity, as individuals together. Humans have practiced democracy for thousands of years: evidence exists that some ancient hunter-gatherer tribes used democratic methods for decision making. That is, decisions were reached by consensus or majority. These tribes were usually made up of people with familial ties. From this, it is logical to assume that democracy, in various forms, arises naturally among a well-bonded group or tribe. Although we aren’t a blood-related tribe, we are relatives in terms of values and principles. At least, that’s what our founders envisioned. If we returned to principle, I think we’d be less inclined towards war and violence. Instead, we might prioritize humanitarian efforts, diplomacy, or even neutrality in response to our most primal instincts. I don’t know if we’re all capable of prioritizing our principles, but I believe we could all benefit from trying.


-Ms. Truly

I’m Not Penalizing My Students for Spelling and Grammar

I’m not penalizing students for spelling and grammar because:
This world isn’t about standard-issue methods anymore.
This world isn’t about fitting the mold anymore.
All of the molds have been blown open and shattered by the internet.
The very nature of commerce and work is different:
App Delivery Services
These are examples of jobs and work available to everyone—this is 21st century, digital capitalism; if you have access to the internet, you can participate in it.
But what does this really mean?

It means we don’t need to just buy what’s at the store anymore. We can buy anything we like. Anything we damn well please. We’ll order stuff from Russia; we do our own importing. Traditional systems cannot interfere with this basic economic phenomenon: importation. With that individual consumer freedom as importers, no government embargo nor sanction can affect our individual relationship with foreign markets. We don’t have to buy what’s given to us by traditional systems.
Money generally means power in society. Status. What’s happened is the full spectrum of capitalism has become more accessible to everyone. Internet is very much a democratizing force. We saw that democratic influece  when Arab Spring happened, an article from the Pew Research Center pointed out that  “media focused heavily on young protesters mobilizing in the streets in political opposition, smartphones in hand.” And I think it was a very pertinent observation on the part of the media.”[1] “Networks formed online were crucial in organizing a core group of activists, specifically in Egypt.” And, of course, that resulted in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, their dictator. An entire government was toppled with the nudge of the internet.
That’s why this world is about figuring out what works for us, now. The molds, our very economic system, our governments, our way of interacting with the world is different. And the 20th-century rule-book is no longer so helpful. Genres are emerging and chaning rapidly: the genre of “Facebook Profile”, or “Tinder Profile” are perhaps the most widely practiced in today’s society. And language is changing rapidly; cross-cultural communication on the internet has resulted in a sharp spike in word coinages and borrowings. The case of the English language is very interesting because it represents the confluence of global ideas; there are more people who speak English as a second, third, or fourth language than there are ‘native’ English-speakers.
When someone is really cool, or when someone is making a lot of money or, I call them a “baller”. I’ve borrowed that from African-American vernacular. And not because I’m appropriating it as a white person, but because that’s what I grew up saying. I grew up in a more inclusive society than previous ones, with more exposure to African-American culture in mainstream music. So “baller” is just another word in my vocabulary. Maybe you refer to people as “ballers” as well. Remember, a part of this assignment is practicing multiple Englishes.
The English language can barely keep up with the pace of technological advancement and globalized communications.
Every year, the Oxford English Dictionary has a “word of the year” that is then “officially” recognized in the English language.
All we have to do is look at the words of the year from the last 5 years to see the changes happening in the language.
Words of the Year Oxford English dictionary
2012, “GIF”
2013, “selfie”
2014, “vape”
2015, an emoji [face with tears of joy emoji]. A visual symbol, not even a “word” we would recognize with letters/orthography based on the Latin alphabet.

In terms of rapid change in the language and the academy, MLA citations have changed in lots of ways since I started college. Titles were still underlined to cater to typewriting: typewriters didn’t have an italic font. That’s an example of how the internet and technology has been causing fluid and shifting standards that are hard to negotiate with Academic English. Every couple of years, it seems, there’s a new way to cite various online sources. Periods move. Italics shift. There are some tectonic grammatical shifts happening right now; again, the language can barely keep up with the pace of technological advancement.

Everything is very fluid right now. I’ll look over your papers and correct them for ‘Academic English,’ and you will not be penalized as you’re trying to learn how to do that better. This shit is confusing. While all of these shifts are taking place, we must adapt and figure out what works for us, because we’re the ones who have to navigate this brave new world without precedent.


-Ms. Truly


[1] Brown, Heather, Emily Guskin, and Amy Mitchell. “The Role of Social Media in the Arab Uprisings” Pew Research Center

999 Words about Podcasts. 

I’d say that 97.6% of the time, if you see me on campus with earbuds in my ear, I’m listening to a podcast. 2.3% of the remaining time, I’m listening to an audiobook. Don’t get me wrong; I like music, or whatever, but podcasts…that’s the stuff. 

Here’s my list of the top five podcasts you should be listening to in no particular order, at all, whatsoever: 

  1. 99% Invisible. Never mind my huge man-crush on Roman Mars, the host. Ostensibly about design (the title comes from the idea that good design should be “99% invisible” to the untrained eye), the podcast talks about the creation of the type character we all know as a “hashtag” (Episode 145- “Octothorpe”), a phone booth in the middle of the desert that became something more (Episode 202 – “Mojave Phone Booth”), or a story about how Soviet kids in the 1950’s listened to banned Rock & Roll records (Episode 194 – “Bone Music”). Roman Mars and his friends will open your eyes to the built world around you in ways you never imagined. Must Listen Episode: 140 – Vexillionaire. 
  1. The Memory Palace. OK. I’m a history major, and I could say that Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is amazing, and it is, but I won’t consign you to a podcast that takes months between new episodes and when you finally get one, it’s 6 hours long. So, I give you the Memory Palace. For 9 to 15 minutes, every two weeks, Nate tells you a story from history, or something inspired by history. There usually aren’t dates or anything to remember, only what happened. The episodes stay with you long after you’ve heard them. Must Listen Episodes: Notes on an Imagined Plaque to be Added to the Statue of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Upon Hearing that the Memphis City Council has Voted to Move in and the Exhumed Remains of General Forrest and his Wife, Mary Ann Montgomery Forrest…; Dreamland; Fifty Words Written after Learning that the Arctic Bowhead Whale Can Live up to 200 Years; A White Horse (the second-best podcast episode ever made). 
  1. Hello Internet. I struggled adding this one. The podcast is hosted by CGP Grey and Brady Haran, two YouTube content creators of educational videos.  Grey and Brady are complete opposites; but their genuine love for each other comes through in every episode. In its 4-year run (so far) the community of listeners has embarked on Wikipedia Vandalism (do a wiki search for “Grenfell Center, Adelaide’), voted by mail for the “official flag” of Hello Internet (I realized I was addicted when I spent two hours [TWO HOURS!] listening to these meatheads counting the votes – also, Flaggy Flag forever.), and has sent that flag into space. Recurring segments like “Sportsball Corner,” “Plane Crash Corner,” and “Brady’s Papercuts” give the podcast, which is, at its core, just two dudes talking, a continuity that you don’t find in many other podcasts.  I can’t recommend an episode to get started. You’ve got to start at episode 1. They’ll be there when you catch up. 
  1. S-Town. “S-Town,” family-friendly for “Shit-Town,” is a spinoff from the hugely successful podcast “Serial,” which is, itself, a spinoff from the long-running NPR program This American Life. Never mind all that. “S-Town” is a seven-episode podcast concerning a man named John who hates the town he lives in. He emails This American Life in the hopes that they will investigate a murder that he is certain happened, but he has no proof. Meet John. Meet Brian, the creator of the series. Listen all the way to the end. The last episode of S-Town is the greatest single podcast episode ever created, in my opinion. Must Listen Episode: Every freaking one, if you’re ever going to understand the last one, which is the best ever. 
  1. Astonishing Legends. Scott Philbrook and Forrest Burgess are, I must say, two relatively rich guys with nothing to do. So they made a podcast. It’s a good one, though. Those of us of a certain age remember the TV series “In Search Of,” where Leonard Nimoy would talk us through (albeit with cheesy reenactments) stories of the unexplained. Scott and Forrest do the same thing, and they sometimes cover the same subjects. The thing that sets them apart, however, is that they take a deep dive into the topic they are pursuing. For example, they devoted 4 episodes, each about an hour and a half, on the “Somerton Man,” a mysterious person found dead on a beach in Australia in 1948. They straddle the balance between skepticism and belief in each of their episodes. They’re worth a listen. Must listen episode(s): Dyatlov Pass (Part 1 and 2). 

Honorable Mention: Reply All. Hosted by P.J. Vogt and Alex Goldman, Reply All calls itself a “podcast about the internet,” but The Guardian calls it “an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.” Let’s face it. We all live two lives. There’s the life we live in the real world, and then there’s our virtual life, the one on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and wherever else we go online. P.J. and Alex aren’t mindless cheerleaders for the internet. It’s a place of infinite wonder, and a place of infinite malfeasance. But they try to make sense of it, every two weeks. Must listen episodes: #36 – Today’s the Day; #102 and #103 – Long Distance (Part 1 and 2); #44 – Shine on You Crazy Goldman. 

There are definitely more popular podcast than the ones I have mentioned here (I’m looking at you, Joe Rogan…you too, Marc Maron) but these are the ones that I go back to episode after episode. Your mileage may vary; after all, we are into different stuff. Give podcasts a try. If you have an iPhone, there’s already an app pre-loaded that will enable you to download episodes. If you have an Android, there are free apps available that will download them for you. Listen to podcasts. They will change your life.


-Patrick Botts

Lucas and Love

Lucas taught me *so* much about Love. I was not his girlfriend; we were soul friends.  

He always knew our love was sacred. It was truly Platonic, and this is something so very beautiful. In order to understand this beauty, we must think of where the idea of Platonic love originates. Plato’s Socrates presented it as “a means of ascent to contemplation of the divine.” What could be more divine than Love on this ephemeral, mortal world? Lucas and I contemplated Love with one another on a regular basis. By this, I mean that he would always tell me that he valued me and loved me—he praised me relentlessly, sometimes to the point of bafflement, and perhaps annoyance. And I always happily and openly reciprocated his praise. I think I might understand why this is. Lucas, himself, experienced so many unfortunate and untimely deaths in his life, so he had an acute understanding of how precious life really is. I watched him grieve the loss of a friend, and I saw both his pain and his perseverance. What’s more, he prepared me how to mourn him by demonstrating virtue and fortitude when life dealt him a painful blow. He focused on being compassionate and positive, even in the immediate wake of loss.   

We were prepared to be friends for a lifetime. He wrote this on my birthday card: “This card gave me a good laugh (it was a card with redneck jokes and a squirrel on the front). I thought you would enjoy,” he wrote, “Happy Birthday! Here is to celebrating many more together.” This card accompanied a bright bouquet of flowers on the morning of my birthday; as soon as I walked into the writing center, they were there to greet me. I was greatly anticipating the time I would spend with my guaranteed life-long friend. I wish it would have been longer, beloved friend, and I wish we could be hanging out together, writing together, and talking together into old, saggy, ancient age. But it was not to be, and that’s OK.
Because when we let people into our lives, when we form attachments of any kind to people, we are making ourselves vulnerable. When we have the courage to trust Love, and let people in like Lucas did, we make an implicit contract with that person that says, “I am willing to suffer the pain of your passing when you leave.” When we are willing to pay that price for people, when we have the courage to let Love in, and say “I will shoulder the burden of your absence when you die because the connection we share—the Love we share— is ultimately worth it.” Lucas knew that.  He was willing to pay that price a hundred times over, because he made himself so vulnerable to me so often. He shared his emotions honestly and openly, and told me—in no uncertain terms—that I was “awesome”, every time I saw him.  And that he loved me.     

He often spoke so frankly that I think it seemed confrontational to some people. But it rarely was; he spoke with so much honesty that I think it would actually take us off guard sometime. Honesty like that is so rarely heard in this world (and never so loudly) that we may have been stunned by the uncommon timbre of Honesty and Truth. In a world that troubled Lucas, where media and politics seem to present an unprecedented amount of lies and falsehood, he continued speaking honestly. He was unapologetically loud because he spoke with integrity, and he knew that truth and honesty shouldn’t be silenced. He was never afraid to speak up. I do think that it is truly significant that Lucas was loud— his very character was a metaphor for integrity. And I swear to God and Academic Honesty that he told me once that he knew his defining characteristic would be that he was loud, and that people would remember him that way posthumously. He was compassionate loudly. He was hilarious, loudly. He was honest, loudly.    
And by passing, Lucas, you continue to teach me about Love. Since your passing, I can feel your joy and your Love flowing through me, and spilling into all areas of my life. I’ve felt a thrill of happiness every time I’ve seen one of my friends, or my family, or my coworkers and colleagues. I have felt a supreme gratitude for this community. I just want to be a cheerleader for those I care about, like you did for me, Lucas. Most of all, you’ve demonstrated to me, clearly, that Love is a thing that persists despite our physical presence.  Because even though we won’t be talking anymore (or texting, or FaceTiming, or Snapchatting), my heart is so full of Love for you— and so full of gratitude. My Love for you, Lucas, extends into forever.   

He rests in peace– but the kind of peace that comes with exuberant, overwhelming, beautiful, unapologetically loud joy.  

-Erienne Romaine


In memory of Lucas, MSU Denver has established The Lucas Fund Memorial Scholarship. This is for young adults who are pursuing a career in the field of writing  and have received a GED. Lucas was an inspiration and this scholarship will share his spirit and  legacy  to other generations and students. To donate: elevate.msudenver.edu/TheLucasFund 


A Time to Help


We’ve all seen a wave of horrific imagery coming out of the flood zones in South Texas during Hurricane Harvey. Places like Houston, Victoria, and Dickenson are getting poured on, and with over 1,000 miles of distance between Denver and the worst parts of devastation, I am left feeling helpless.  According to nytimes.com, there has been thirteen recorded deaths as of Monday and more than forty inches of rainfall (Astor and Chokshi). Being from Denver, I can’t imagine that amount of water, let alone the damage and lost Texas residents must feel.

In times such as these we must band together, as a nation, as a people, as a neighbor. Nurses, care-givers, first responders, doctors, military, and volunteer rescuers have dedicated themselves to saving as many people and animals as they can. In the face of tragedy, we are showing that we know how to come together and work together, no matter what might have separated us before. We band together to become better human beings. 

It’s hard to look at the news, or images and know that I am here and safe while others are suffering. If you want to help, here are nine places to get started: 


-The Houston Food Bank is collecting cleaning supplies, food and monetary donations to help flood victims. For the safety reasons, the Houston Food Bank is unable to accept, open packages, homemade food items, perishable foods, baby food and items with expired dates.  http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/


-The Salvation Army is distributing food, water and other supplies to victims.  https://give.salvationarmyusa.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=national_donation_form


-Volunteers from Texas Search and Rescue are in Central Texas searching for those who are still missing. http://www.texsar.org/


-United Way for Greater Austin has set up a disaster recovery fund which will be distributed directly to those in need. They are also collecting mops, brooms, and other cleaning items.  https://secure.donationpay.org/unitedwayaustin/flooding2013.php


-Austin Disaster Relief has volunteers going door-to-door in the hardest hit areas to check on victims’ emotional and physical wellbeing. The organization is also asking for sponsors to help families in need of long-term assistance.  https://adrn.org/memorial-wknd-flood-fund/


-Samaritan’s Purse is helping storm victims by cleaning flooded homes and spraying them for mold.  http://sampur.se/2wTHQbf


-The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund was established by Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston and is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation. https://ghcf.org/hurricane-relief/

-The Houston Humane Society and the San Antonio Humane Society are helping animals affected by the storm. http://www.houstonhumane.org and https://sahumane.org



-Brandy Joiner

Chicago Manual of Style realizes it’s the 21st Century, notices the internet is a thing, gets woke.

The 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is coming out this fall, and there are some monumental changes in store for history majors as well as anyone who loves footnotes. The change that is sure to cause the most ripples is the direction to no longer use “ibid” when citing a source you just cited. For those of you who don’t know, “ibid” is an abbreviation of the Latin “ibidem,” which means “in the same place.” It’s super useful when you are writing about a single source. Still, the powers that be at the Chicago Manual of Style think that “Latin” is too dead of a language for “whatever generation comes after Millennials,” so they showed “ibid” the door. As for me, I like “ibid,” and lament its loss. It makes me feel academic and historical.

Another change in the new edition is sure to cause seismic waves in the academic community (P-Waves, not S-waves). The bigwigs in Chicago have decided that it is no longer necessary to capitalize “internet,” and there is no longer any reason to insert a hyphen in “e-mail,” so “email” is now the approved syntax for electronic mail that you receive at your blank@blank.blank address. Welcome to the future, Chicago! Say hi to my mom. She’s been here for years.

The other change of note that is setting academia on fire is the proscription that the pronoun “they” instead of “he or she” is discouraged for formal writing. OK, nothing new there, but wait…there’s more! Should a human person mention that he or she would prefer the pronoun “they,” then it is ok to use since they wish it. Congratulations, Chicago. You’re accepting of the idea that gender is not binary, and may in fact be fluid, depending on the perception of the person being written about. I mean it when I say, “Welcome to the future.” You’ve been holding us back.

About that “ibid,” though…

-Patrick Botts


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Once Upon A Time

Have you ever thought about the oddness of the words “once upon a time?”

Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” for those who haven’t read it, is about this man named Prospero whose brother stranded him on an island so that he could take his place as the Duke of Milan. Years later, Prospero uses his magic powers (yep, he has magic) and a spirit named Ariel, to strand his brother, a King, the King’s son, and a few others on the island through a crazy storm (i.e. the tempest) in order to seek revenge. In Shakespeare’s play, there’s romance, “monsters,” and magic. Personally, I would recommend reading it, or at least seeing the play.

The version of the play I have has footnotes that explain some of the confusing or odd words that Shakespeare is known to use, and one of the explanations caught my eye. Stephano, one of the characters stranded on island by Prospero, says, “I was the man I’ the moon when time was…” In which the handy footnote translated the last words as, “when time was” as “once upon a time.” Roughly, I was the man in the moon once upon a time, and I think it sounds mysterious, otherworldly, and enchanting. I believe it’s so easy for us, as writers or readers, to overlook phrases that we now consider familiar. Many believe “once upon a time” derived from fairytales and folklore, but does anyone stop to consider how long ago that was? Or when it was first used? The phrase is now used as a T.V. show title.

This got me thinking about other idioms that we use. An idiom is a group of words that have a different meaning than what those words would normally mean. They aren’t meant to be taken literally. For example, A chip on your shoulder is an idiom that means you are holding a grudge. Of course, these change with culture and generations. Though, “Once upon a time” hasn’t gone out of style yet.
What are other phrases or details that you’ve read in a book or heard around?

-Brandy Joiner


*Image used from google images

How to Use a Tutor

Usually when students come to the Writing Center, they sit down with a paper and a tutor asks them what they would like to discuss. However, sometimes it is helpful to interact with a tutor in other ways. Below are some of the additional ways in which you can make use of a Writing Center tutor, organized by when in the writing process you’re visiting.

Before You Have a Draft

  1. Pace Yourself. Always waiting until the last minute to write your paper? It may help to come up with a game plan ahead of time. A tutor can help guide you through the process or help create an outline.
  2. Get Mentored. Ask questions about terminology, mechanics, writing conventions, or anything else. A tutor will work with you to find the answers.
  3. Have a Sounding Board. Ever just need someone to bounce ideas off of? Then this is for you! No draft required.
  4. Ask a Specific Question. Not sure about your thesis statement? Or your transition sentences? A tutor can help you narrow your focus.
  5. The Silent Dialogue. Have a writing conference … in complete silence! Write down your conversation with your tutor, and you will be forced to state your ideas clearly and concisely. When you finish, you will have a complete transcript of your thought process.

With a Draft in Hand

  1. Specify Feedback. Ask specific questions about the parts of your paper that you would like to focus on. For example, don’t ask: “What do you think about my paper?” Ask instead: “What do you hear me saying?” or “Have I hooked you?”
  2. Hear Your Words on Another’s Lips. It may be helpful to have a tutor read your paper out loud to see if it sounds the way you intend. This helps you see if you’re being clear and getting your point across.

Once Your Draft is Returned

  1. Conduct a Post Mortem. Confused by the comments on that recently returned assignment? Bring in a paper after it’s been written, submitted, and graded to help you recognize patterns of strengths and weaknesses in all your writing.

Have a Writing Personal Trainer

  1. Make a Writing “Date.” Need some company while you write? A tutor will be your “date” — doing work alongside you and being available when you have questions or need help. Warning: tutoring is unlikely to result in a romantic relationship.
  2. Grammar Self-Assessment. Don’t know when to use a semicolon? You’re not the only one!  Save yourself from grammatical blunders by participating in a grammar self-assessment to help you learn your own strengths and weaknesses, all while sharpening your own skills.


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