Another Scooby-Doo Mystery

Another Scooby-Doo Mystery

When I was watching the news this morning before class, I heard a soldier proclaim (regarding the difficulty of finding chemical weapons in Iraq) that it was like a Scooby-Doo mystery. Seconds later, the quote went by on the bottom of the screen on the crawl. CNN’s caption writers were on the ball. Working on the papers and proposals I’m preparing for the end of the semester, the same thought (regarding where the time went) occurred to me. It is indeed, another Scooby-Doo mystery.

So far, the feedback I’m getting just doesn’t seem useful.

Needs subheadings.

That was round one of the critique a few weeks back. However, this time the criticism was much deeper.

Why did you call this section “Method”?

Uh, perhaps because it’s a critique of scholarly method?

Your subheadings aren’t parallel. But I like this one much better. The paragraphs are shorter.

Of course, the actual content of the pieces is never mentioned, only the layout. The content is uniformly assumed to be “brilliant.” I hate that word. I have no illusions about what I am doing. I am really stuffing twenty pounds of theory into a ten pound bag. It oozes out around the edges. It is sloppy. But it is ambitious, and in America it seems that ambition is everything. At least I wasn’t greeted by the usual tech-writer comment: “needs bullet points.”

I need to find some way of solving this mystery. Where’s Velma when you need her?

4 thoughts on “Another Scooby-Doo Mystery”

  1. I guess I’m a little lost on this whole chemical weapons thing. First they find a large stash of illegal chemicals; later they find more somewhere else; they find mobile chemical weapons labs; and yet everyone keeps saying that no chemical weapons have been found. Maybe it doesn’t count unless they’re actually loaded on a missle or something? I think that’s splitting hairs.

  2. What the problem is, as far as I can tell, is that all the suspected chemical weapons have turned out to be pesticides. The portable factories have no trace of ever being used for producing chemical or biological weapons, only conventional munitions.
    Though the possibility still exists that they may find something more damning, and it seems nearly a certainty that at some point manufacturing and testing did occur, the discovery of any real “threat” in terms of munitions destined for use has yet to happen.

  3. Audience Coming

    I’m finding it difficult to respond to Steve’s earlier posting on ‘learning to read’, because there’s so much to say about it that I find myself stuck at the gates, not sure which way to respond. In particular, he’s raised an issue I’ve found myself be…

  4. I was more interested by what Jeff had to say about comments on his proposals.
    My guess is that when people label your content “brilliant,” that’s a code word for saying that you’re making connections that they’ve never considered making. Are the connections sloppy? Maybe so. But they involve such a vast amount of research from different sources that those of us who haven’t read all the same books can hardly tell. Your passion for the subject, however, comes across in what you’ve written, and you’ve made us think. Compared to the more run-of-the-mill, re-hash and summarize papers that we so often see, that seems brilliant. The later at night we’re reading, the more brilliant it seems. 😛
    Speaking from personal experience, I’d like to say more about your content, but I don’t always feel qualified. I know next to nothing about documentary photography, for example, so I can’t help you much there. I *can* tell you whether or not I find your writing pleasing to read, though, speaking as someone who is new to your subject. Since I assume that eventually you would like people who are not as immersed in the subject as you are to read your work, those comments should have some value, too.
    I also resist the notion that if a work is heavy in intellectual content, its writer should not have to worry about “minor issues” such as bullet points or parallel subheadings or the features of a document that make it reader-friendly. The ugliness of academic journals is a kind of arrogance, in my opinion. It’s as if the publishers assume that only dull things can be taken seriously, as if making readers work harder to get the information makes it somehow of higher quality. As a scholar, I may care enough about my field to put in the work required to understand a dense text — but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be much happier if the writer saved me time and energy by using crisp, concise sentences and an attractive layout so that I could read the text more quickly and remember it effectively. Isn’t this rapport with audience what rhetoric is all about? So how can we reduce formatting to a mere lower-order concern?

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