Oberlin Blogs

Food and Friends

October 9, 2009

Hello future loyal readers! It's a Friday at Oberlin, and all is well. My housemates and I are cooking up some seitan-tandoori-noodle deliciousness, a citrusy breaded cauliflower concoction, and a range of other culinary experiments!

My week of work is over and it's time to kick back with good friends and pricey beer. Yes, I'm still in the post-21 phase of life when buying six-packs of beer for ten dollars is fun because I can. It's pretty amazing how important the aesthetic appeal of the packaging is when it comes to choosing which unknown beer to buy. For example, right now I'm drinking Great Lakes' "Burning River" beer, which I bought solely because I appreciated the company being self-deprecating about the fact that the nearby Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969. Also because it's a local product... but I guess it wouldn't be local if it wasn't based on the Cuyahoga River.

Anyway, I promise I won't spend the rest of the year blogging about beer and circular logic. Or will I? Only one way to find out...

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Responses to this Entry

Hi Sam,
I think that it is possible that it all comes down to circular logic so there is no real way to
to get rid of it. But I think blogging about beer is a great idea.(Does the water in "Burning River" come from the Cuyhoga River?) I think you should also add food. I, for one, would be interested in the recipe for your seitan-tandoori-noodle deliciousness and that citrusy breaded cauliflower concoction. Not suggesting you become a food critic, but if you put a recipe in once in a while--
I would try it. Great blog.

Posted by: Marc Spiegel on November 19, 2009 7:46 AM

Hi Sam,

I love your blog! I really hope to get into Oberlin. I think I want to be a music critic for a publication such as The New Yorker or New York Times, or possibly a music professor (I am interested in musicology, music history and theory). You seem to be an avid journalist. Do you have any advice for me as an aspiring journalist (music critic) or music scholar? Thanks!

Posted by: Saul on November 28, 2009 1:02 AM

Hi Saul,

I really appreciate your feedback; it's always hard to know if people are reading your work and how they're taking it. That's one of the first things to know about being a writer -- it can be thankless, but it's often quite fulfilling.

It's great that you have a good idea of what you want to do in the future. I don't mean to discourage you in any way, but I would say that you should never let that limit your scope of writing subject or style. Great writers are flexible; they can write in a wide variety of genres. George Orwell, for example, reached many more people with his political fiction than he ever did with his political essays. Let your interest in music be the motivational wind in your sails, not the anchor holding you in place.

That being said, I strongly believe that learning to write well is more a skill to be developed than a talent you're born with. When I look at my old clips that I wrote for the Oberlin Review, which I thought were great at the time, I feel like -- to put it nicely -- I've developed so much over my time there. So the best advice I can give is this:

1) Read a lot and write a lot. Figure out what will push you to do that. For me it's been writing at the Review, which I've done every week for the last two years, except during my semester abroad and my summer interning in New York, when I kept a travelblog that I updated a few times a month (www.commentary-shlommentary.blogspot.com if you're curious).

2) When you read and write, do so actively and meticulously. When you read, figure out what you liked or disliked about how a sentence flowed; look back at how the writer went from point A to point B in an argument, description or story; think about why the writer might have chosen one word over another, ostensibly synonymous one. Basically, figure out what makes a great writer great, and add it to your repertoire.

When you write, be a perfectionist. Re-read and revise, make every word and punctuation mark mean something. Think about who your audience is and what they'll care about, what will make them keep reading when they could be doing something else with their day. Be critical of your work, and solicit criticism from friends who know how to give it.

3) Most importantly, have fun! It's cliche because it's true -- inspired writing is often the most effective writing. Deconstruct, analyze and contextualize your passions. Maybe you'll make them someone else's passions too.

Good luck,
Sam

Posted by: Sam J on November 28, 2009 2:14 PM

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