Tag Archives: Terry Scott Niebeling

Life After Class – Episode I – Learn Something and Get Out!

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Showing Up is More Important

Photo by Kait Ripley (amateur photographer)

Photo by Kait Ripley (amateur photographer)

When I get an assignment back with excellent marks on it, I want to cry. I feel I don’t deserve it. Though, I feel at this point in my college career I only expect to get good grades. I have always tried my best, as hard as I can, yet I feel it is not good enough, and when I receive good marks I find it unbelievable. One time I turned in something and got a D- on it. I thanked the teacher in office hours for being objective, and I deserved it—still I aced the class. When I put out shit and still turn it in as my best, I get better marks than expected, better marks than in High School (which I should have failed out of). It is as if the rule books were thrown out for something more important than just a piece of paper. I am graded, I feel, on the art of just showing up.

For the past couple of weeks, months, years I have learned something, and throughout my college career this lesson has followed me. This lesson has been that showing up is more important than being a complete genius and acing the class via a test, or a project, or great work, or ass-kissery. It means more to the class as a whole, and to every single teacher, that you are in each class every day, no matter what. There are a million and five excuses a person could use, or employ: I could say anything—I am a doctor, you are sick; my dog died, my grandma died, my dad died (which did happen); my car broke down, my cat pissed on my homework, my bike got ran over; the bus was late; I am deathly ill, but why waste everyone’s time? Why waste your time? I know better, most people should, you know better.

When one person misses class the whole class misses that one person. Not like, “oh, sad, I miss that person,” but like, “fuck that person is not here, I am aware of their void.” The class loses that interaction, the missing hand raised, the unasked tangential question, the discussion that never happened. The previous list comes from easy excuses, lazy decisions to miss that one moment, it all matters in the long run. For example, you wouldn’t ask the bartender for a beer, pay for it—tip, and then not drink your refreshing beverage, would you? So, why would you register for classes, apply financial aid, deal with advising—pay for it all, and then not go?

If you really want to get an A at any point in your life, career, schooling, just show up (my GPA is 3.627, I am not boasting, I just show up). There are a million people with a million excuses, don’t be one of them, be the other guy. Be unique. Everyone can think of a lame ass excuse, it’s second nature—humans make mistakes, but don’t. Since I quit my shit-job washing dishes, where I was verbally abused, and came to University (in hopes of acquiring dental insurance, exclusively), I made it a point that each and every teacher would see my bright smile, and remember that bright smile when grading. The many times that my peers missed class, that smile would become brighter, more emblazoned in their minds; my teachers would be forced to reckon with it. My grade would inevitably go up, no matter what. They think: Oh, yeah, I remember Terry; big bright smile, ridiculous questions, yeah, I do… I thank my classmates for skipping (really, I do), being cool, or lazy. It really helps me out. And if your professor says they don’t grade on attendance, they are fucking lying.

From my first day of college until now, I can count the seldom days I have missed class and work, and on all of these days someone had a funeral, or a sick loved one to attend to. I won’t miss a day because I don’t want a day to miss me. You want to get ahead, be the person that is always in the same spot asking the same fucking stupid questions, the one that everyone looks at with a sideways glance, disdain, be that person, be brave. Be the person that no one can understand, because when it comes down to the end of the semester someone—the teacher, will most likely remember you for that, your name, your smile, your attentiveness to detail, your question that sparked a conversation, everything, and they will know that. Be part of the community you are in, the academic community, and your grade will work itself out. True story.

Language is Subjective; The Sound of Middle English (The Canterbury Tales)

How Irish Literature Established a Fictionalized Gender

How Irish Literature Established a Fictionalized Gender
By Terry Scott Niebeling

Within Irish culture and literature, there are many great divides, sorts of impasses, in relation to religion and nationalism, and also, especially, in relation to gender. Gender in Ireland is an understanding brought to the forefront by writers and playwrights as a hot-button topic, established, by what seems innocuous intent. This presents an image of the proper, or decidedly generalized Irish woman. In establishing a gender, male writers depict the assumed typical Irish woman in her natural element, she is true to family, true to duty, and appears, always dependent and unsure, and reliant on the male’s wants and needs. What Irish male writers do, by creating an archetype for Irish women, is to enable a preconceived notion of a group through observing an individual, through single examples, and thus degrades and enforces these stereotypes on a diverse group. In this action, there exists a logical fallacy, the fallacy of composition: one part of the whole cannot represent the whole entirely, absolutely. This gender construction is a status placeholder, allotted and acknowledged by those in close proximity, and those in the mainstream, those who witnessed one individual, not an entire group and wrote on that. In Irish literary culture, by way of written word, there is an immense disparity in gender, and an assumption on the roles each gender plays.

The masculine perspective in Ireland, per writers e.g. Joyce, Martin McDonagh, establishes a pariah shut-in interpretation of women, and this formula for a gender, by “Othering” the kind, creates a subjective perspective authored by men. This act alone assumes and mislabels an object as subjective and discrete, predictable, lowering the female status to an “ism”. Irish writers have presented gender, not as objective, but subjective, creating a vast stereotype which damns, and absolutely requires dispelling. Irish females are iterated by men in the past-tense, not in the present because of these texts.

While ascertaining the meaning and value of a label, you must look into the agency creating the label. This assessment is similar to understanding who writes history. In the case of Irish gender identity, the female persuasion is explained (in these instances) through the eyes of males. This patriarchal observation gives females a patina of disparaged hue, one of subservience, one of a life filled with chores, family responsibility, and sheer lack for personal pleasure and fulfillment. Within The Beauty Queen of Leenane, the reader is introduced to what you could assume is a traditional family of western Ireland. Immediately, dynamics are skewed; readers are given bickering women, embattled over food in a kitchen, caring for one another, while one, Maureen hopes for more, and the other Mag, wishes to keep family around her to care for her, because she does not want to be sent away from her home. The only reprieve from this situation for Maureen is to find the next male that shows her attention. This male is her ticket, her future. McDonagh gives these women a typical aspect, one from a male perspective; Maureen’s salvation is through a salacious male after a one-night stand. Not only does this situation come across as fictional, it comes across as lowering Maureen to a level lacking, needy for love. Her only outlook on life depends on that of another, particularly that of a male.

Another example of the stereotypical Irish female is presented in James Joyce’s Eveline, a story from Dubliners. Within this story the reader is shown a woman in love, about to commit to a relationship, which her family disapproves of, naturally. Eveline is sure she is in love with a sailor named Frank. It appears, at first, as if Eveline is set in her ways; she will leave, she must. Yet after some contemplation and a melancholic climax at the train station, she leaves and appears to directly disassociate herself with her future life and lover, for one of the past. In this story, pressures from home, the familiar, specifically from her father, create a cognitive dissonance within Eveline, affecting her decision. She, a young woman, has her whole life ahead of her, yet she inevitably has to choose between two males. One side of this story focuses on the independence of Eveline. The other side focuses on the considerable influence males around her have on her decision, essentially her fate. Eveline’s fate is chosen by the pressures around her. The males within proximity judge, label, and degrade her, in hopes that she performs her task as the stereotypical Irish woman. Eveline, we can assume, becomes a caretaker for the family, a creature that exists at home and cares for her father and family’s needs rather than her own. And fate is just a go-to word which explains it without actually explaining it. She was fated to attend to her family.

To that, a concept that is most astonishing, when considering these gender stereotypes, and the frequency of utilization, is the stark contrast between movement and labeled-gender; moreover, location: west and east, within Ireland; and homebody versus traveler, without. Purpose and place of the character, the individual, is allotted by this movement. If the individual is mobile, the individual is male. If the individual is immobile, the individual is female. Through experience one sees this from west to east, or vice versa. The more progressive and more mobile individual is located in the east of Ireland. The less progressive and less mobile individual is located in the west of Ireland, perhaps. In the west, our group experienced males who drove vehicles, busses and ferries; accordingly, we experienced women who were sedentary, in shops and cafés, similar to the character roles depicted in Once and The Dead. In Once the audience is shown a woman stuck, unmoving in her ways, tied to her husband and family. She, “Girl” (her name is exactly one of gender), exhibits convictions to a male (or two males), and to her family. To contrast, “Guy” does not live by these same rules, he is free to go back to England, and to search for his love. “Girl” is not able to branch out, to find love, which does not allow her to move on, or move in any manner. Within The Dead, again, the women are portrayed as housemaids, cooks, organizers (at their own party, Women’s Christmas), furthermore none of the women appear to be experienced travelers. While Gabriel writes for a newspaper abroad in London, -embarrassingly so, Gretta sits at home contemplating Michael Furey and the love she could have had. The women within these texts lack mobility, and conversely, the men are free to go anywhere, free to move at will.

This lack of mobility comes with a price. As a group we ventured further to the west of Ireland, this mobility of gender, or lack thereof of, became ever more apparent. Jerry our bus driver carried us along narrow roads, regaling us with local experience and traditional lore. We learned a little something from Jerry, whether good or bad, -from the Irish male perspective. We were told of a jogging path along the shores of Galway, and what Jerry called it; a name which was rooted in woman’s anatomy, perversely. When we came to the ferries, we also learned that it was piloted by males. After arriving at Inishmore, with the sweater shops and cafés, we were introduced to women. Those of a gender stuck inside. Whether or not they remained inside or not throughout their day is unimportant, the image given is one of a static condition, in comparison to that of the males. We were given the perspective of a male through Jerry, through his microphone, while he maneuvered his bus. While I purchased my wool wares and lunch, I heard few tales of experience from the women attending to me. Even that last sentence feels oddly disparaging.

Accounts of experience learned through the journey were given ubiquitously by those Irish males we had come into contact with. Those reiterations of experience will hold a place within us for some time. Because we journeyed to a new area we saw. Had we not, we would lack that of which we experienced. By way of experiencing we become more seasoned, flavored, more educated, well-rounded, and intelligent. As a foreigner, taking in the literature and the real-life encounters, one notices that things are not as described in a book, but different. Though, if that stereotype is carried over from a book and assumed genuine it can diminish the character of real-life in a way that it cannot progress. If Irish women are depicted as shut-ins, homicidal for the love of a male, and destined to be caretakers for their families, in frequently read literature, then who is to oppose this generalization when met with it head on? Those who observe both the literary and physical examples can only go on those experiences, respectively.

In both of these stories, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Eveline, the female gender is depicted as unable to leave, -though not unwilling (interestingly), stuck in ways of the past. There is one sole duty of a woman in the Irish community. That duty is to maintain her family, appreciate the desires of males, and to be content with that existence. Perhaps Joyce and McDonagh thought to represent an aspect of life. This representation, this realism they experienced; although the reality they create is one of sedimented ideology, beliefs, thoughts, concepts based on ways of the old. By presenting females in such a light, these authors have squelched that gender’s very social ascension, and the literal status of women in Irish society. What is even more disturbing is that readers today may take these literary works, examples, and estimations as genuinely definitive. In this exchange of “knowledge”, Irish women become misrepresented in their own culture’s historical “masterpieces”, by those writers who made the time to designate a single example as true of an entire group. These stories are protocol for what good Irish women do, not what progressive Irish women do. Stay safe, stay orthodox.

Some Irish literary works have cast a stereotypical shadow, a female archetype, by way of male playwrights, -those who appear modern and progressive and authentic to locality, within Ireland. By way of employing a label, a caricature typecast of the female gender, and their static ways, notions, and goings-about, certain Irish male authors have placed Irish women at a disadvantage. These authors enable a stereotype which proliferates and thrives in present-day culture, in the very existence of these stories. Had readers not been exposed to such generalizations, those iterated by male writers, readers, as observers may have had the opportunity to view Irish women with a fair and objectively sound eye; however now, with this literature, the concept of an Irish woman is sedimented in subjective design, fictionalized, an anomaly to be pondered and put forth.

Work Cited:
McDonagh, Martin. The Beauty Queen of Leenane. London: Methuen Drama in Association with the Royal Court Theatre, 1996. Print.
Joyce, James. Dubliners,. New York: Modern Library, 1926. Print.
Once. Fox Searchlight Pictures :, 2007. Film.

What I learned in College (Fall Semester 2014)

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Day One of Winter Break, I look back and think on this past semester. Fall 2014 was nothing short of interesting, trying, and above all, eye opening/mind expanding (whatever cliché). There was copious reading and unfollowed syllabi. One comes into contact with fliers on the walls of buildings; peers, scholars, and professors. A person can see groups talking in the mall in the sun one moment, and then weeks later, few huddled bipedals running bundled for warmth on sidewalks, and into halls. Minneapolis is as diverse in weather as it is in people.

The classes were four in number, and somewhat different; each offering a unique perspective on relevant, and mostly interesting topics- though Hamlet is still ubiquitous and rampant at the U of M campus (I am not sure if this is good or bad). I took part in a Science Fiction course which focused on social critique, a Film course which focused on gender, a non-linear Deutsch course which focused on focusing on the syllabus, tentatively, and acting, and talking, and projects which come with that, and of course tangents. I found solace in reading, in its entirety, Moby-Dick. This American Literature 1 course was enduring, yet all the same rewarding. And again, this entire experience did not come without the most important part, the people one connects with.

University is great for connecting with people. I came into contact with real-life actors, monomaniacal professors obsessed with Melville, and their TAs who wear low-cut shirts and gave smiles over discussions of hangovers. I met a professor named Craig who was the most loving, and caring woman; more open and honest than the average person outside of their homes. Moreover, I had a professor who gave me 65 percent on a paper, a fucking D, the first since high school, and it was deservedly. Examples of people I connected with, there were a million: AV a boy who carried his works in a backgammon case, Theresa who was a non-traditional student and would tell you that fact numerous times, but was as youthful as anyone my age, K, B, and D and everyone in German (H,H,…) anyone I forgot; all of these people were special and amazing and scholars in their own right. We took something from one another; student from teacher, teacher from student; student from student, etc.

These people appreciated like wine; ever getting better, and more seasoned. I can see vividly the situation where a human being is that, a human being. At 8 am in the morning we are all the same; we crawl from the warm womb of our beds to look into the mirror and judge ourselves, as we hope others won’t. We all have to get outside today, things to do. Whenever a project, assignment, quiz, or test came up, as a thorough student, I realized that the person on the other end was actually a person indeed. Writing in small letters would make it more difficult to grade, same as showing late would fuck up the flow of the lecture. I learned that that person had shit days, and had good days too. I was shown that no one is perfect, or always on time, or always smiling every second of the day. College enlightens humanity by showing examples of humanity. My experience was more personal than a letter grade.

What college has done for me so far is opened my eyes to new and unknown concepts. Even if I am reading and writing on subjects which have been read and written on a millions times over, I am doing something unknown and new. No moment is exactly the same as the moment before, even with all of the same parts involved. These parts are the people. I met people of interest, people from different and varying backgrounds; those people who took the challenge of academia as I did. We became parts of this semester, of this time, of this progressive movement called education, this system of grades and titles, and hellos and handshakes.

I think back to sitting in Walter Library every Monday at around noon talking to a friend. I would eat Cheerios out of a repurposed Talenti jar. We would discuss language, relationships, and the week ahead. We met once a week, it almost reminded me of seeing a therapist, this real-life person, with real-life opinions, sharing an honest and open real-life discussion over the things, any, which came to mind. There was no agenda, there never has been. That’s life. We walk guided by invisible strings. I sat and munched Cheerios and smiled and tried to focus on the person directly in front of me. Even the ceiling and walls offered a story. I would say, see you next week, and without text, without call, without social media, no convolution, it was so, like clockwork.

Now, looking back, I see a tinge more clearly of everyday life. The mind is a camera which captures and records. After each semester at the University I take something away, and I have left a bit heavy-hearted, and less and more of myself. I wonder: would I see these people again? Would I ever sit in the same spot with the same group with the same ideas with the same professor, words, ideology, and mindset? No. I do not think so. But now I can look back and take with me what I’ve gained. What I have gained is experienced learned. What I have learned is that we must all learn from those around us, and teach others as if they are learning too.

A Safer Campus Commute? I think not…

          Day one on campus; nothing has changed in respect to commuting.  Well, if there was any change at all it was in the increased number of dangerous pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists on campus.  As the U stated last year there would be changes on and around campus, still I see inattentive pedestrians, still I see people biking where they are not supposed to, and still I see people in cars, buses, and semis intimidating other commuters.  Little has changed since the idea contest for making traveling around campus safer, and the only thing it takes to notice this event is your eyeballs. 

          Let me explain: some people at campus have been in rodeos before; trying to bike, attempting to walk, and potentially driving safely around campus.  Others just got on their way this morning, and have amassed little concern with the rules of the road.  The latter have never been to their first rodeo. 

          First rodeo situation:  if you haven’t biked on or around campus in the midst of thousands of excited students on the first day of fall semester, it would be your first rodeo.  Watch out, be mindful, and know your role.  Put your stupid smartphone away and make it from point A to point B.  -Safely.   

          Upon biking to the university this morning for class, I took extra precaution, mentally preparing myself as I do regularly, as I suggested in my concept for a safer campus commute, as the U has so generously used in their emails/slogans:  be aware of your surroundings.  I’ll take the credit, but I won’t win the award, or be cited, (an award that was presumably never given out- how shrewd).   

          Arriving on campus, past the new Target, and the face-lifted Dinkytown, how economic- (oh) progressive, I found a vast amount of amateur bicyclists mingling in packs, not following the paths, wearing helmets on handlebars- abrasive, while generally having small regard for their surroundings.  I took note of a driver maneuvering a car while texting, and an aimless young athletic male (BRO) biking, weaving his way through the bike lane and into the street while on his phone, fedora affixed atop his blond hair streaming back, held down by a bandana. 

          I have no positive words for the kind of idiocy I have seen on campus when it comes to getting around.  I predict a record number of transit related accidents, injuries, and worse (other euphemisms here), this year, 2014.  This is not because people genuinely like putting themselves in danger, or under buses so to speak, but because the life within their phone is evidently more important than the life in front of their bodies. 

          I am not being pessimistic, I am being honest.  Whoever won the contest to make the campus safer deserves a gold star, because they persuaded it/sort of didn’t win it, and slyly.  I applaud you.  I would have done the same but I am more of an outsider when it comes to making friends high up; I won’t do the photo shoot if I don’t like the cameraman (metaphor). 

           The U is no safer now for commuters than it was a year ago.  As a matter of thought, it is most likely more dangerous because people feel that it is safer.  Telling individuals this and that without actually having them observe the act does not prove a point.  Take a seat in the grass and watch.  In time one will see this conundrum acted out over and over again.  The situation is somewhat entertaining, if you aren’t involved with it.

          When I sat taking in the sun between classes, near Coffman Union, I noticed one obvious sign of the times; something that’s been there, but seemed more prevalent today, people were engaged more with their electronics than anything else, they were living in a virtual world which exists in their hands.  They seldom took in the views before them, they noticed little in their path.  On such a beautiful day it was sad and dangerous, heads down; stuck in a box- dangerously isolated.   

          If the campus wants change they must cite people for walking brazenly down the center of the bike lanes, while texting, or not- just being ignorant.  They must position public safety attendants at problem areas, to direct students, until they can finally read signage and adhere to the brightly painted traffic instructions.  They, the university, must do their best to capture the attention of those on the go. 

          When I left this morning, I was nervous for the first day of school, as are most.  That exhilarating feeling of taking in knowledge, and expanding my experience with education had me trepid, something I live for.  Yet when I came to campus I was more shaken because of my safety and the safety of others, the safety directly related to the lack of attention and ignorance/apathy people put into their movements.  A safe campus requires thoughtfulness, and a conscious mindset.  If I am worried about selfies and notifications I am not worried about crosswalks and lines on the ground; appropriate signals, on my inevitable journey to and fro. 

Which is more important? 

Also see:  Woman fatally struck by Green Line train was Mpls. attorney