George's Portfolio

Cover Letter

Dear Reader,

As we wrap up our semester of English 210, I’ve come to learn a lot from this course. I learned many different aspects of writing from this course, and I think it will definitely be beneficial to me as an engineer. Prior to taking this course, I’ve included two pieces of writing—my college essay and then an essay I wrote last semester for my Macaulay “Arts in NYC” class. I chose my college essay because I am still proud of the format—I chose to do a satirical piece. I think this piece shows my true character, but wasn’t as well written as I would have written it now. That’s why I included Blog Post 7. Blog Post 7 was a reflection on professors and teachers, and includes a lot of satirical components. I was comparing the two pieces the other day, and I found that my blog post was much better written than my college essay. I think that says a lot about this course. I chose my essay from last semester because I compared it to my midterm and midterm revision. My midterm revision is an informal piece along with my Macaulay essay, and I think the former showcases my writing better.

When you read my portfolio, I hope you notice how my writing has changed over time. I’ve learned to develop style, tone, and even the genre of writing. I want you to take note of that, especially in my midterm revision, as well as blog post 7. This class taught me to take heed of my audiences, and really focus on a genre, and I think I will definitely benefit from that as an engineer. I hope you enjoy reading, and I’m happy to have learned a lot.


George Basaly

Revision Proposal

1. Audience
I think for my revision, I want to focus my audience to be people new to the gym. I want them to learn the basics and know that they don’t have to have ANY experience to join this community. I want them to also know that they are a part of a community, whether they realize it or not, and that they can comfortably join a gym if they have the fear that it wont be a community.
2. Key Questions
• What is the community of a gym all about?
• How do people view the gym as a community? Is it a complex community? Is it a community at all?
• Why do people think the gym community is all about just getting your workout down, when in fact looking at complex communication/collaboration results in a tight knit community and almost family-like setting?
3. Writerly Challenges
I want to focus on the following:
• Making my writing flow better with a better structure—shorter paragraphs, coherency, less redundancy, etc.
• I want be more anecdotal—I feel like that would make the piece more effective and argumentative
• Writing in the active voice would allow for my piece to show the audience that they can be an active part of the community, so I’d like to work on that as well.
• I want to be persuasive in the sense that I want to convince the audience that they can easily be a part of this community.
4. Genre Models
I think a blog in a magazine or online would be most ideal. Tons of people inexperienced in this community could benefit most, (even if they do have experience) and tons of people also read magazines. It’s simple, not too technical, and kind of engaging. For example, Men’s Health is an excellent guide to workouts, their articles are blog-structured—informal, informative, and readers with little to no experience can relate to it and understand it. For example, this article is a good guide to the style and genre I want my piece to look like.


Is The Gym a Workplace or a Community?
Have you wanted to go to the gym for a while now? Do you feel discouraged that you won’t have anyone to go with? Well, I recently did a study for an English class analyzing whether or not the gym is a discourse community or just a simple common place that people just go to better themselves. But wait, what exactly is a discourse community? A discourse community, according to John Swales who is a linguist focusing on genre analysis, is defined as the following six characteristics:
1. A discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common public goals.
2. A discourse community has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members.
3. A discourse community uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback.
4. A discourse community utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims.
5. In addition to owning genres, a discourse community has acquired some specific lexis.
6. A discourse community has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise.

So how do these definitions apply to a gym?
First and foremost, members of the gym share a common goal, whether its weight loss or muscle building, fitness in general is a shared goal by members of this discourse community. Moreover, members of the gym intercommunicate through TV, radio, blogging, and by even just calling a friend “hey are you working out today?!” Next, the participatory mechanisms used by members of the gym provide feedback by portraying results of the hard work put in. Furthermore, there are many different genres to help someone learn about this community—could be a DVD, a blog, an educated personal trainer. While the gym has its own genres, there is a specific lexis that goes with it as well. One must learn the workouts, the muscle names, anatomy, and physiology. The gym community has members with expertise such as athletic trainers and personal trainers, who are certified to teach beginners or anyone who needs help in this discourse community.

Members’ Opinions
I stopped a few members of the gym and asked them a series of questions and it helped me get a better understanding of whether a gym is indeed a discourse community. From these interviews, I discovered that people have built friendships at the gym. They meet people who share the same goal, and begin talking to them. From there, a sort of community feel develops. However, out of the ten people I’ve asked the same question, only seven shared the same answer, while the other three people just went to the gym and didn’t know anyone or discuss their workouts with anyone.

My preliminary interview took place at LA Fitness—a large corporate gym, with hundreds and hundred of members. What I then decided to do was go to a smaller more private gym and see whether my results differed. They in fact did, because out of the ten people I interviewed at a local gym called World Gym, nine of them felt that they built friendships and felt like the gym was more of a community than a workplace.

Why Is This Relevant?
Well, many people would love to workout, and really want to get into it, but the problem and setback is that they have no one to workout with. But I did indeed prove that a gym is a discourse community. Even if you don’t have anyone to go with, get that membership! Set goals for yourself! I guarantee you will find other people at the gym with the SAME goals as you! Even if you see that occasional grumpy old dude, or that crazy gym rat that throws barbells around, there will be at least four people to every crazy person you see! And if you know absolutely nothing about the gym, well then start online at first. Read the forums, read articles, watch videos, these are all helpful. On the forums you’ll find that people define terms, make the beginner understand the language, as well as give some examples of some goals/plans that many people share. Hopefully this study will change your mind!

Original Midterm Report

Can be found at

Reflection on Midterm

My initial idea came from the fact that I love the gym. I go all the time, I’ve made plenty of friends, and I’ve built relationships solely from the gym. This got me thinking, “do other people feel that the gym is a community as well.” That’s why I chose to analyze the gym as a discourse community. But then my sister told me that was dumb, obviously the gym is just a place where people go, workout, and come home. So I decided to test it out. That wasn’t the case at all! After composing my initial midterm piece, I started thinking more. Okay, now I have all these results, what the hell do I do now? I started thinking about how a lot of my friends, and people I know, hate going to the gym because they have no one to go with. That inspired me to make my revision a more persuasive and informal piece that kind of gives people motivation and reasoning to go to the gym because it’s more of a community so they are bound to make new friendships while they’re there. That’s what led me to my final revision piece, and so, the writing began.

In my actual piece, I think I successfully made it informal enough to be an article or blog in a magazine. I toned down the formality compared to my midterm piece, but used a lot of the same ideas, which I meant to do. This was probably my most successful writing choice in the piece. I definitely catered to my audience in my proposal, and I think my revision fits the genre quite well. I’d repeat the “question-heading” format where my headings would be a question or something simple to help break down my piece. I feel that people would much rather read a long piece with a bunch of subtitles, as opposed to a long essay-like structured piece. Moreover, I feel that my tone was successful—I used a persuasive tone but I tried to present it in an informal manner. A lot of the times when I read magazine articles or blogs, they’re very, very informal and I think I successfully did that in my revision.

What I probably failed at was being more anecdotal. I wanted my revision to include a lot of anecdotes, but I didn’t want to drag it on. Informal blogs and articles can’t be too long. I wanted to include personal stories that pertained to the article, but I figured once I started delving into my own life, I might lose focus of the point of the article and start rambling, and I didn’t want my revision to turn out that horrible. I hope in the future I am able to find a happy medium, given more time, and given the fact that my parents won’t book a vacation 2 nights before the deadline.

3 pieces of Work

Reflections on College

Who needs college these days anyway? Honestly, WHAT is college really going to do for me? Besides the fact that it MAY be the best years of my life, or that I'll form lifelong friendships and an exceptional learning experience, is it really that important?! I mean sure, since grade school, I’ve been brainwashed into taking the most demanding classes and extensively studying, JUST so I can get into college. But does that really mean college is THAT important? Not only have I been burdened by these classes, but as soon as I reached my sophomore year they told me I had to take a bunch of standardized tests, and memorize a lot of big words?! This unforeseen development was both contemptible AND discourteous! It’s not like I need college to further my education, right?!
Okay fine, maybe college is important after all. But this whole admissions process is overprized. Everyone is scrambling to complete their college applications, pondering possible topics for their essays—“How Immigrating Changed My Life,” “My Family’s Sob-Story,” or the classic “My Favorite Sport, and How It Impacted Me.” Or better yet, there’s that typical narcissistic overachiever who fills up his resumé with numerous altruistic activities JUST to look good for colleges. The typical high school student could be heard saying, “yeah, I spend 3 hours a week in a soup kitchen…but I just do it to look good for college.” So I guess I’m forced to write a pretentious, self-congratulatory essay that “reflects” who I am.
I could just write about how perfect I am. Or about how much I’ve accomplished these past four years of my life; or would that be too cliché?! Would listing all of my great personality traits really help my chances? Would I get in if I said how intelligent, hard working, diligent, and talented I am? How I took tons of AP classes, and spent countless hours studying?! I could easily create a list of reasons stating why I’m such a great student, AND person , but I’m not going to waste your time.
Instead, I’ll tell you that I want to go to college so I can pursue my dream of conducting research as a medical professional. I want to be innovative, and I want to make a difference. With my previous background in research, I think I can accomplish this, with hard work and the right environment. I want to pursue my dreams, but I also want to do these cliché college things and make lifetime friendships, and explore and expand my knowledge. I want a lasting career, and I want to be able to say “Wow, I got a great education.” I want my college experience to be more than just a place to learn from books and classes, but also a place to learn about life and myself. THAT is why I want to go to college, and I don’t need to fluff up my résumé, or write crazy, made up essays to seem like the perfect student. That isn’t me.

The Theory Behind Humor and its Involvement in Society
As Henry Ward Beecher says, “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble on the road.” Humor can be defined as a comic, mirthful, even incongruous quality that exudes amusement. It has shaped society for many centuries, allowing people to express their true emotions in a lighter sense. In today’s society, humor has taken many forms to address an array of issues ranging from politics, to racism, to typical everyday adult issues, even to watching other people get hurt. Humor comes from psychological responses and there are said to be certain ways to achieve humor.
According to William O. Beeman, most humor is comprised of a surprise or a series of surprises for the given audience. The Basic Incongruence Theory states that humor is described in the following way:
A communicative actor presents a message or other content material and contextualizes it within a cognitive "frame." The actor constructs the frame through narration, visual representation, or enactment. He or she then suddenly pulls this frame aside, revealing one or more additional cognitive frames which audience members are shown as possible contextualizations or reframings of the original content material. The tension between the original framing and the sudden reframing results in an emotional release recognizable as the enjoyment response we see as smiles, amusement, and laughter (Beeman).
This same tension is the driving force that triggers humor, and Freud notes that this release of tension is an essential behavior reflex (Beeman).
Moreover, according to Freud, aggression and exposure are the function of jokes. Aggression is achieved through hostility, which includes satire and defense. On the other hand, the dirty joke is the method used for exposure humor. When dealing with humor, jokes must accomplish a certain measures to achieve the release of tension in the audience. First and foremost, the setup of the joke must be sufficient. The audience must understand the content of the humor, whether it be through cultural knowledge or the setting from which the humor comes from. Next, the creation of an incongruity requires that the revealing frame be presented satisfactorily and be lucid to the audience. Finally, the dénouement must successfully present the relationship between the interpretive frames. If the actor does not present the frames in a manner that correlates them, the humor most likely fails. However, if the aforementioned steps are completed successfully, the tension should be released and some form of happiness should be exuded—laughter, a smile, or in Professor Judell’s case, a cold look of disapproval (Beeman).
Today, many stand-up comedians use humor to address different issues that are questionable in normal conversation. I went to see Russell Peters live at Caroline’s on Broadway, and he focused his act on racism. He typically targets people in the audience, and uses racism to convey humor. However, his method of projecting humor was very successful because he follows the aforementioned steps. If he targets the audience, he introduces his jokes with a short cultural tidbit, to ensure the audience is on the same page. When he says a story, his punch line is tied in with the frames, yet it is so incongruous that the audience automatically exhibits laughter and other indicators of humor. For example, he does an act about a Chinese salesman trying to sell him a purse and ripping him off. As a brown skinned person, he imitates the Chinese accent very well and portrays the stereotype of Chinese salesmen, which is fairly incongruous, thus leading to a release of tension and laughter by the audience.
Sometimes, people laugh at other peoples’ pain. According to Dr. William Fry of Stanford University, there is an explanation for the cynical humor shared by millions of people, including myself. When we see a misstep, someone tripping down the stairs, someone walking into a door, or something along those lines, it induces a play frame, which puts this real-life pain in an alternative context that allows for a psychological reaction. The second part of the explanation is the incongruity of the event—someone falling is atypical to everyday life, so our natural reaction is mirthful (Keith).
Without humor, our society would not be the same. As Beecher states, humor takes the urgency out of life, and it allows us to be free to laugh at subjects we wouldn’t normally laugh at in normal life, such as racism and people getting hurt. Freud provides the step-by-step method for humor, and explains the theory behind it. Maybe one day, just maybe, I will use the Basic Incongruence Theory to make people laugh, and I’ll become “a funny person” one day.

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