Journal Archive

Here is a list of journal prompts past, to avoid cluttering the more current journals page.

Monday, December 9

[Psych. You can either take your journal with you or you can leave it in the crate for next semester.]

Friday, December 6

In The Principles of Psychology (1890), William James wrote, “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character and will. No one is compos sui if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.” How have your experiences in this course helped you focus your attention? What do you still need to work on? What elements of the following text (from Haruki Murakami's  1Q84) draw your attention and help you construct meaning?

The driver nodded and took the money. "Would you like a receipt?"
"No need. And keep the change."
"Thanks very much," he said. "Be careful, it looks windy out there. Don't slip."
"I'll be careful," Aomame said.
"And also," the driver said, facing the mirror, "please remember: things are not what they seem."
Things are not what they seem, Aomame repeated mentally. "What do you mean by that?" she asked with knitted brows.
The driver chose his words carefully: "It's just that you're about to do something out of the ordinary. Am I right? People do not ordinarily climb down the emergency stairs of the Metropolitan Expressway in the middle of the day-- especially women."
"I suppose you're right."
"Right. And after you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little. Things may look different to you than they did before. I've had that experience myself. But don't let appearances fool you. There's always only one reality."

Thursday, December 5

Analyze your preparation and your performance on today's essay exam. How well did you do? Better or worse than you expected? Why? To what factors do you attribute your degree of success? Is there anything you thought of afterward that you'd like to add?

Wednesday, December 4

Analyze your preparation and your performance [on today's vocab test]. How well did you do? Better or worse than you expected? Why? To what factors do you attribute your degree of success?

Tuesday, December 3

The man who has no imagination has no wings. -Muhammad Ali
Imagination is more important than knowledge. -Albert Einstein
Imagination rules the world. -Napoleon Bonaparte
You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. -Mark Twain
If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. -Henry David Thoreau
What is imagination and what role does it play in your life? Is your imagination getting stronger or weaker as you age? To what extent does it help you create the experiences and the life you want?

Monday, December 2

This weekend my beloved UCLA Bruins beat USC in football to reclaim all sorts of bragging rights in Los Angeles. Why does anyone care? Seriously: what difference does it actually make in the world that a bunch of barely-outta-high-school athletes I've never met won a football game? Why am I so happy about it? Why do so many of us students/alumni love our school colors and express loyalty and belonging by screaming about our teams at the top of our lungs?

Tuesday, November 26

Ads and reviews frequently promise that a book or movie will "change your life"-- describe a time when one actually did.

Monday, November 25

(1) On Thursday millions of Americans will stuff themselves until they are sick. Why?
(2) What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 22

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Ballad of a Thin Man" by Bob Dylan (which you can mentally remix by substituting "Preston's Class" for "Mr. Jones"); "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield]

Read the following excerpt from David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and describe how Wallace uses literary elements to describe a large theme through one character's seemingly casual observation.

What's interesting to Hal Incandenza about his take on Struck, sometimes Pemulis, Evan Ingersoll, et al. is that congenital plagiarists put so much more work into camouflaging their plagiarism than it would take just to write up an assignment from conceptual scratch.  It usually seems like plagiarists aren't lazy so much as kind of navigationally insecure.  They have trouble navigating without a detailed map's assurance that somebody has been this way before them.  About this incredible painstaking care to hide and camouflage the plagiarism-- whether it's dishonesty or a [Y] kind of kleptomaniacal thrill-seeking or what-- Hal hasn't developed much of any sort of take.

Thursday, November 21

Your friends invite you to a fancy restaurant in San Francisco for your birthday-- all expenses paid! The waiter brings you a soda, calls you "sir" or "miss" and hands you a menu. With horror you discover that each dish consists of insects and road kill in various states of decay/disembowelment. How will you handle the situation? (Careful: if your friends eat here, they must be zombies/foreign agents who are trained to deal with this sort of thing. They may turn on you if they consider you rude. You can't just leave. If you don't eat you'll have to talk your way out of it in a way that doesn't raise suspicion.)

Wednesday, November 20

Today's entry will be a post-mortem on your essay. Please reflect on your strategy (How did you study? Did you do a pre-write? Did you allow enough time to proofread?), your sense of outcomes (Did you rock it? Did you suffer? Did you rock it AND suffer?), and your takeaways/lessons for next time (What will you do better and/or differently?).

Tuesday, November 19

Like Plato's "Allegory of the Cave," each of today's tunes expresses a perspective on the idea that the human condition can-- and should-- be better. Analyze the tone and theme of each tune and evaluate its effectiveness. (Regarding the latter, attempt to be objective, i.e., focus on its reasoning/rhetorical appeal-- if you find yourself describing what you "like" then acknowledge this as a matter of personal preference rather than technical or artistic merit.)

Monday, November 18

Although we all buy, use, wear, and eat real "things" in the world, our selections are also symbolically significant in our culture. When is a car a mode of transportation and when is it a status symbol? How much of your wardrobe, home decor, and other "life accoutrements" are designed to "say things" about you in addition to serving their basic function/s? Can you make a meaningful connection between your thinking on this topic and Plato's style and/or message in "Allegory of the Cave"?

Friday, November 15

Compare yourself to the denizens of Plato's Cave. Describe something you expect to learn during the mind map experience (about a text, about the process, about yourself) that will help you break the chains and see more than shadows.

Thursday, November 14

Betrand Russell wrote, “Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.” Today we're focusing on Russell's second passion. What is your experience in searching for knowledge? Have you ever wandered into a library/store/search engine/community just for the sake of answering a question? If you have, describe the experience: What did you expect to find? How did you unearth information? Where did the process lead you? If you haven't done something like this, visualize a question that intrigues you and imagine how you might go about answering it.

Wednesday, November 13

Describe a time you gave or got much-needed help. Why did it make a difference? What about the experience can you take with you to make future efforts and relationships more successful?

Tuesday, November 12

What inspires you to be at your best? Do you work more effectively as an individual, as a member of a group, or does it depend on the task/people/situation? Explain the factors that enable teams to succeed in ways "Lee Harvey Oswalds" can't, and discuss the implications for community and country. For instance, after an event that divides winners and losers (a big game, a court case, an election), how can people come back to the table to work together?

Thursday & Friday, November 7-8

[Choose your own.]

Wednesday, November 6

How long can you stand an itch before you scratch it?

Tuesday, November 5

Long before we met, and long after you've passed the AP exam and gone on to greater things, literature has always been and will always be an act of self-expression. Literature is the human record of how we create stories for ourselves and others. And, as we've discussed, literature also serves as an artifact of how individual authors observed, critiqued and were influenced by the times and cultures in which they lived. As Marshal McLuhan famously observed, "The medium is the message." As we've also discussed, we'd probably get to know Hamlet in a completely different way if he maintained a blog or posted pics to instagram, tumblr, flickr, pinterest, or...[?] Explain how using technology to research/create/share content online can amplify your best qualities and more effectively tell your story. If you don't see a difference between telling your story in online media versus telling it with pen and paper, explain that too.

Monday, November 4

Heroes are essential to humanity. Every culture throughout history has chronicled their exploits. Today their role is more important than ever; heroes inspire us to think differently, act differently, and ultimately become better versions of ourselves. Even though everyone gets the general idea of a hero, the people we admire are as individual as we are. They may have impressive personalities, intellects or physical attributes; they may be ordinary people who do extraordinary things; they may be public or private. They may even be our friends and relatives.

Write a letter to someone you consider to be a hero. Explain to this person why s/he is heroic and tell the person how s/he has moved or inspired you.

Friday, November 1

How does what we say relate to what we do? Does telling ourselves or other people what we think/feel/intend change our thought process and/or feelings? Does it make us more or less likely to act? Does it teach us anything about ourselves?

Thursday, October 31

Since it's Halloween, two options (one for each face):
1. What role does fear (of death, of loss, of discovery) play in Hamlet? What role does it play in your own life and decision-making process?
2. hat masks do people wear in everyday life, i.e., how/why/when do we intentionally adopt personae that serve purposes other than reflecting who we are with integrity?

Wednesday, October 30

Why does Shakespeare end so many of his plays in death? Is this [spoiler alert] what makes Hamlet a tragedy, or it is something else...? Provide examples from Hamlet, Julius Caesar and Romeo & Juliet to support your answer.

Tuesday, October 29

Terms such as values and common sense can take on different meanings (how can something you define as common sense confuse me--isn't common sense the sense we share in common?) Cultural anthropologists and social psychologists describe values as learned, enduring, epistemologically grounded moral conceptualizations that assist us in making judgments and in preparing us to act. What values do you see in Hamlet? In online/contemporary American culture? How do the characters in the former and executives in the latter use values to inform and justify their decisions and behavior?

Monday, October 28

Why does Hamlet go to the trouble of orchestrating an elaborate ruse with the play-within-a-play, when the ghost's testimony and his intuition appear to provide sufficient justification for revenge?
Why does Hamlet kill Polonius? How does Hamlet feel about it? How do the King and Queen react? Did you see this coming?

Friday, October 25

"The play's the thing." Explain.

Thursday, October 24

If you've started reading Act III, explain two elements of foreshadowing from Acts I & II. If you haven't started reading Act III, make two educated guesses about the plot and the development of Hamlet's character.

Wednesday, October 23

Among the topical possibilities for today's journal: 1) Listen to the lyrics and link to Hamlet; 2) Ask yourself, "How did I get to this point in my life and where am I going from here?" If neither of those resonates, observe where your mind takes you and invent your own.

Tuesday, October 22

As Sting sings, "Poets, priests and politicians... have words to thank for their positions..." consider: what does the effective use of words do for us? Describe how speaking and/or writing articulately is used in our society-- in relationships, in business, in achieving goals, in maintaining traditions, in creating change, or in another context-- and give an example from your own life.

Monday, October 21

Since I didn't read journals this weekend, please read back through your journal and take ten minutes to describe how your writing is improving so far this semester. If your writing isn't improving, write about what you want to get better at. And, if you go back and find answers worth improving or building on, have at it.

Wednesday-Friday, October 16-18

For the rest of the week your journal is truly your own. Use it to reflect on the period/day or write about something else that's on your mind.

Tuesday, October 15

How can you use this week's collaborative opportunity to your greatest advantage? Can you see ways to creatively extend your understanding of Hamlet and pursue your creative/professional goals? Explain.

Monday, October 14

A close study of revenge quickly reveals two schools of thought: 1) Revenge is righteous and/or fulfilling, and 2) Revenge keeps wounds from healing and-- however appealing or even cathartic it may seem-- ultimately destroys every party to it. How do you see the concept of revenge? How do you see the effects of revenge played out in the world? What do you think Hamlet should do now that he knows Claudius poisoned his father?

Friday, October 11

What is it about society, relationships, and/or psychology that leads individuals such as Hamlet to bottle up ideas that are dissonant or new? Is there a common thread between Hamlet's struggle to contain his inner thoughts/feelings and Laertes' warning to Ophelia?

Thursday, October 10

Hamlet is confronted by a difficult situation. What does it suggest about society's values at the time? Why does it challenge him so deeply? How would your response-- as a reflection of both your personality/psychology and our society's values-- be similar or different?

Wednesday, October 9

Hamlet wrestles with difficult decisions and problems by talking them through. Based on what (precious little) we've read so far, how do you think Hamlet will be influenced by such elements as his family, where he lives, emotion, and the differences between Hamlet's inner world of thoughts/feelings and the outer world that surrounds him? Feel free to apply your own experiences on these topics.

Tuesday, October 8

How does reading fictional characters help bridge the gap between who you are and who you want to be? How does it help you understand other people?

Monday, October 7

Describe the use of metaphor in today's tunes. What does the figurative language signify? Is this more effective than simple, literal/denotative descriptions? Why?

Friday, October 4

This test will be hard. Are you up for the challenge? Answer as fast as you can; you're going to need every second we've got.

Thursday, October 3

How do you know when you're on the right track? (Don't just treat this as gut intuition; imagine being asked by a 4th grader who is looking up at you with wide eyes, hoping for a clue that will give her a road map to better learning and decision-making.)

Wednesday, October 2

In the tale you read, would you say that the traveler made the trip or the trip made the traveler?

Tuesday, October 1

Today one of your characters will get lost. This will be disorienting and stressful, but in finding his/her way this character will discover something about him/herself. Describe a time you got lost. How did you respond? Why is this such a disconcerting experience, and what can it teach us? What did it teach you?

Monday, September 30

What is it about the Road that makes for a good story?

Friday, September 27

Describe a time you figured something out. Did you do anything you can repeat the next time you're confronted with a mystery/challenge? Why does figuring something out make you happy?

Thursday, September 26

The French novelist Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote (in French), "The more things change the more they stay the same." Evaluate this idea in terms of a character you've recently read or written. To what extent does the character's transformation involve new traits/information, and to what extent does the process magnify qualities that were there all along? Apply this thinking to a person you know in real life; how has this person changed as a result of his/her learning? Do you think the change is a product of qualities that were there all along or do you see something new?

Wednesday, September 25

Last week we discussed using indirect characterization to establish a character. Today, describe a face that tells the story of a life. (Picture each feature as a brief, compelling chapter in a biography: Has that mark always been there? What caused that scar?)

Tuesday, September 24

Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden observed, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." Briefly describe your character and your reputation. What similarities & differences do you see between the two?

Monday, September 23

What does it mean to do your best? How do you know when you've done your best? Have you done your best in this course so far this year? How do you know?

Friday, September 20

Why do people doodle? (Use as many vocabulary words as you can, and underline each for credit.)

Thursday, September 19

Describe your favorite music--to a deaf person.

Wednesday, September 18

President Roosevelt visited nonagenarian Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the hospital and was surprised to discover Justice Holmes reading a book on Greek grammar. "Why are you reading Greek grammar?" the president asked. "To improve my mind," the justice replied. Many students rightly want to get out of school, but mistakenly believe that their learning ends when they drop out or graduate. What is the difference between learning and schooling? What is the value of learning in your life? How long do you plan to keep it up?

Tuesday, September 17

Thinking back on Bukowski's "Laughing Heart" and how it communicates abstract, complicated ideas (inspiration, risk, independence, fulfillment, the meaning of life) in just a few lines. How is it possible for something this short to convey as much meaning as a 700-page novel? Describe the techniques Bukowski uses as you remember them.

Monday, September 16

Texts in all media are often read differently by different readers. What is funny to one person can be offensive to another. One reader "gets the message" while another wonders, "What's the point?" How does the author of your literature analysis book use techniques such as figurative language, parody, satire, and allusion to encourage the reader to interpret the text? Think of an example from anything you've read and describe how it can be interpreted in more than one way. Is this more or less effective than coming right out and telling the reader everything s/he needs to know? Explain your answer.

Friday, September 13

If you could ask any living person any question/s that would help you develop your talent or seize the opportunity of your dreams, who would you talk to and what would you say?

Thursday, September 12

Yesterday you were asked to envision your ideal Time Investment Portfolio. Today your work is up to you. What aspects of self-direction do you find appealing, and what do you find difficult or intimidating? How does it feel to be the author of your own life/learning story?

Wednesday, September 11

What is your view of the future? What do you think the world and/or your life will be like in 5 years? 20? 50?

Tuesday, September 10

What do you think of when you think of time?

Monday, September 9

Most of the time your attention is focused outward: on classes, sports, jobs, other people, and the 101 things you have to do in order to get through the day. For a moment, see if you can forget all that. Let your mind grow quiet. Listen to yourself breathe and consider this definition of mindfulness: "focusing one's complete attention on the present moment." Today, rather than responding to a specific topic, simply write down the information that occurs to you right now. This may include thoughts, feelings, sounds/sights, memories-- or even just sensations of how your fingers feel on the pen or how your toes feel in your shoes. Please be sure to record your stress level when you begin writing and when you finish (on a scale from 1-10, 1 being least stressed and 10 being most stressed).

Friday, September 6

Write an outlandish fake absence excuse using as many of this week's vocabulary words as you can.

Thursday, September 5

When you say something is "valuable" what exactly do you mean? Do you define value in terms of money, emotion, scarcity, what the marketplace thinks, or do you have a different standard? What is the value of your work in school? What is the value of this moment, or the thinking/writing you're doing right now?

Wednesday, September 4

As George Santayana and Edmund Burke (among others) have observed, those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. However, our culture focuses on the modern, the "new and improved." In this day and age, is there a point to looking backward? Why bother studying the etymology of words and the history of language? How can understanding the past help us prepare for (or even shape) the future?

Tuesday, September 3

Does language merely describe reality or does it create a sense of reality? Do speakers of different languages just use different words to describe the same things, or do they actually think and see the world differently because of the language they use? Explain your answer.

Friday, August 30

Those of you in the on-the-ground course have all seen the sign: "There is glory in the attempt." Describe how this idea applies in your life. Season your answer by listening to the music and reflecting on the evolution/remix of English and the stories we tell. How does your understanding of the same idea change as you age/mature/gain more experience?

Thursday, August 29

Given what you've learned about the first heroic epic known to be composed in English, and how it reflects the culture/values of its times, nominate an epic story from our times that will be remembered as an emblem of this culture in two thousand years. Explain your choice.

Wednesday, August 28

Reflect for a moment on your study of Beowulf. Summarize the knowledge you have acquired, summarize your research/thought processes and experience, and list any questions you have.

Tuesday, August 27

Reflect for a moment on your study of Beowulf. Summarize the knowledge you have acquired, summarize your research/thought processes and experience, and list any questions you have.

Monday, August 26

Today is the first "early out" on our calendar. Some say this is a bad idea (given all the demands on our already-crowded learning time). Others say this is a good idea (given that they'd rather be anywhere else in the universe besides school). What is your opinion of early outs? What will you do with the time?

Friday, August 23

When we read we make connections between the text and what we already know. Sometimes we find ourselves surprised when a book calls to mind an old memory we haven't thought about in a long time. What are your earliest memories? What makes some things impossible to remember and other things impossible to forget?

Thursday, August 22

How do modern representations of knights and honor differ from ancient/traditional ones? What do modern portrayals of knights and honor suggest about the culture(s) that produced them?

Wednesday, August 21

What does it mean to be a hero? How are heroes depicted in modern movies and literature? How do you think these portrayals are different from classic and ancient ideas of heroes?

Tuesday, August 20

We use phrases like "pay attention" and "make a decision" all the time-- what do they mean to you? How would you teach a child to do either? How might you improve your own abilities in these areas?

Monday, August 19

What did you learn in this class last week?

Friday, August 16

What issues, problems, or challenges in your life once seemed HUGE but got smaller as you gained a larger, more mature, better-informed perspective on things? Does this matter in your life? How? Does the diction detract from the message or strengthen its impact?

Thursday, August 15

How would you go about writing a satire of The Poisonwood Bible? Would you focus on the same issues/themes as Barbara Kingsolver? What techniques would you use to draw the reader in and cause him/her to think differently?

Wednesday, August 14

There is a story about Thomas Edison in which one of his assistants said something like, "We've tried this a thousand ways and it doesn't work! We've accomplished nothing!" Edison reportedly replied, "Nonsense. We've learned a thousand ways it doesn't work." What's the moral of the story, and what is your perspective on the idea?

Tuesday, August 13

"Action expresses priorities." -Mohandas Gandhi
What are your priorities? Specifically, what are you doing here? Why are you enrolled in this course? What actions can your colleagues and I expect from you this year that will express your priorities? What does success look like to you? How will we know when you've "made it"? If you've ever set bold goals at the beginning only to accept less at the end, how can you prepare your mind to see things through this time around so you won't have any regrets next June?

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