Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Zadie Smith and The Disappeared Remainder

"Two Directions for the Novel" from Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays is a dissection of today's current novel form (lyrical realism) and the novel's future form (constructive deconstruction) in the form of Netherland by Joseph O'Neill and Remainder by Tom McCarthy, respectively.

Netherland, the essay claims, is perhaps the most perfect example of lyrical realism available today: "It is so precisely the image of what we have been taught to value in fiction that it throws that image into a kind of existential crisis, as the photograph gifts a nervous breakdown to the painted portrait," (73).

The novel, Smith states, is so anxious about its own status in the world of literature that it can't help but show an anxiety of excess and of lyrical overload, where "everything must be made literary. Nothing escapes.... even the mini traumas of a middle-class life are given the high lyrical treatment, in what feels, at its best, like a grim satire on the profound fatuity of twenty-first century bourgeois existence," (80).

To this trend of lyrical realism, Smith poses an important series of questions:

[Netherland] wants to offer us the authentic story of a self. But is this really what having a self feels like? Do selves always seek their good in the end? Are they never perverse? Do they always want meaning? Do they not sometimes want its opposite? And is this how memory works? Do our childhoods often return to us in the form of coherent, lyrical reveries? Is this how time feels? Do the things of the world really come to us like this, embroidered in the verbal fancy of times past? Is this really realism? (82).
If lyrical realism does not actually portray reality, than what is its purpose? Smith claims that "out of a familiar love, like a lapsed High Anglican, Netherland hangs on to the rituals and garments of transcendence, though it well knows they are empty," (82-83).

Then where is literature to turn if meaning cannot be created by a lyrical portrayal of life and, more importantly, the objects that make our lives what they are?

This is where McCarthy's Remainder comes in and where I began to be thoroughly confused. McCarthy belongs to a group of theorists called the Necronauts who are "interested in tracing the history of the disappeared remainder through art and literature," (90).

But what is this disappeared remainder? 

It is the gap between a thing and its meaning. 

In lyrical realism, a thing is given meaning by assigning it personal significance: "InNetherland, only one's own subjectivity is really authentic, and only the personal offers this possibility of transcendence... Which is why things are so relentlessly aestheticised: this is how their importance is signified, and their depth. The world is covered in language," (79).

But, when this lyricism does not actually do its job (ie. portray reality and provide meaning in that portrait), what are we left with?: "the ghost of the literary burns... away, leaving only its remainder: a nicely constructed sentence, rich in sound and syntax, signifying (almost) nothing," (82).

The disappeared remainder in a deconstructive text like Remainder does not romanticize an object or a place or make it personal, as this does not convey authenticity. Rather, it shows how the thing actually exists in its own reality, in its own space, and it lets it be. It does not assign meaning, but discusses the meaning found by its relation to other objects. The meaning assigned by lyrical realists cannot be authentic, because a thing is, after all, just a thing and should be observed and written as it is shown in space:

One does not seek the secret, authentic heart of things. One believes--as Naipaul put it--that the world is what it is and, moreover, that all our relations with it are necessarily inauthentic. As a consequence, such an attitude is often mistaken for linguistic or philosophical nihilism, but its true strength comes from a rigorous attention to the damaged and the partial, the absent and the unspeakable, (92).

Rather than assign meaning with lyrical language/personal significance, the deconstructive text discusses the thing in its own context. A description of a thing or place can be made a narration by showing how the thing has affected its surroundings. Because "everything must leave a mark.... everything has a material reality," (95) the narrator of Remainder is able to observe a street where a black man has just died, noting its "muddy, pock-marked ridges" and "tarmac, stone, dirt, water, mud" and think "There's too much here, too much process, just too much," (qtd. in Smith 92).

Therefore, this deconstruction is "yet a narration defined by absence, by partial knowledge, for we only know it by the marks it has left" and, most importantly, the disappeared remainder that lyrical realism ignores, but is thoroughly anxious about, is "the void that is not ours, the messy remainder we can't understand or control--the ultimate marker of which is Death itself," (92).

The new direction of literature, supposedly, is language that acknowledges the barrier between language and meaning, the disappeared remainder that exists when we acknowledge this barrier, and the arbitrariness of assigning literary qualities to a thing that cannot be known completely in terms of personal significance or blatant aestheticisation.

The new novel reads this: "'the rinsed taxes, hissing over fresh slush, shone like grapefruits,'" (qtd. in Smith 80) and asks "grapefruits?" Why not "let the orange orange and the flower flower," (91).

The new novel desires to "take the side of things and try to evoke their nocturnal, mineral quality. This is... the essence of poetry... of trying, and failing, to speak about the thing itself and not just ideas about the thing," (91).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

SEO Marketing - Professional Writing Sample

Below is an example of an informational article written for SEO purposes.
The 600 word article was completed in 12 to 14 minutes with little to no research involved.

When a user performs a search on Google, or another popular search engine, he or she will be presented with a long list of links from across the internet that match the query terms. These searches are generally completed within less than a tenth of a second, which allows the user to access the information that he or she is looking for almost instantly. The only way that the search engines are able to present information this quickly is by previously indexing all the websites in their database.

This indexing process requires that the search engine's crawling software to continuously find new websites, update their current cache of web pages for new information, and categorize all websites appropriately based on their keywords, structure, and other basic information. The way that search engines like Google find and rank websites is very important for a business owner to understand today, especially if he or she wishes to grow the business through various internet marketing efforts, such as the SEO partnership. This is because currently, the most common way for a user to find a new website is by going through a search engine. 

In fact, according to Nielsen, the leading research agent on consumer activity, search engines account for about 65% of all incoming traffic for e-commerce websites. Although the same statistics may vary slightly for websites that are not classified as e-commerce, the retail business owner can still learn from this finding. With an SEO partnership, the business owner can harness the popularity of search engines, using these websites to divert a large amount of traffic to his or her page. SEO is a form of internet marketing that stands for Search Engine Optimization. When performed by an experienced and professional internet marketing agency, SEO will essentially elevate the rankings of a certain website in Google's search results, as well as other search engines. 

Because the traffic that Google diverts to different websites will vary on the search terms entered by the individual user, the SEO partnership team must evaluate the keywords and phrases that best represent the business owner's website. However, this process is not as straightforward as choosing the "best" matching keywords, because there is often a high level of competition for these phrases. Rather, the internet marketing team must choose keyword phrases that are likely to get the business owner's website ranked on the first page of search results. Sometimes, this may require that the internet marketing team choose keywords that are not as popular with the average user.

In order to better understand this concept and how an SEO partnership is an integral part of a successful business strategy today, it will be necessary to review an example. If a business owner that specializes in mobile dog grooming services in the Salt Lake City, Utah area seeks SEO services, the internet marketing team will begin the process by performing advanced keyword research. During this process, the marketing team will see how many searches are performed locally for the keywords and phrases that relate to mobile dog grooming. The most popular search term will likely be "dog grooming Utah," or perhaps "dog grooming Salt Lake City." 

However, the marketing team will likely find that there is a very high rate of competition for these search terms. This means that while the terms are very popular choices for users in the local area, there are also many other business owners that will be competing for these keywords. As a result, the small business owner will likely be able to rank on the first page of Google by using the keywords that are of medium competition and popularity. When the SEO services are completed, the business owner will see a great increase in his or her online traffic, conversion rates, and earning potential.

The Emersonian Truth - Academic Writing Sample

In "Self-Reliance," Ralph Waldo Emerson postulates that humans are mere receptors of what he calls “truth”: 
We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity.  When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams, (141).
This reception of truth is conveyed through “involuntary perceptions [to which] a perfect faith is due,” (142).  This perception is different for every person, but may not be discredited, for “perception is not whimsical, but fatal… it is as much a fact as the sun,” (142).  The natural way in which different individuals perceive situations implies that there are many versions of reality and truth. 

Truth is subjective, Emerson states, different for every person.  One man’s truth is not necessarily the truth of every man, but of particular significance to the singular person.  However, the problem with ascribing the word “truth” to every man’s whim in every place in the world is that truth can no longer be defined.  Truth instead becomes a vast well of nothingness in which both the highest and lowest levels of thinkers can toss in their two cents.  The meaning of the word itself is so convoluted, that one wonders why we still use the word at all.  This is again reiterated in “Self-Reliance”: “Good and bad are but names readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it,” (Emerson 135).  However, Emerson does not let the fallibility of language diminish the meaning of truth, but instead aspires to show every individual that their version of truth is not “wrong” because it does not coincide with the socially-accepted norm. 

  Because higher thinking and logic cause the human mind to immediately categorize events, phenomena, and theories into a way that fits social hierarchy and other distinctions, it is against rational thought and even human nature to embrace the Emersonian idea of truth.  This may be why “we are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other,” (Emerson 146).  It is too difficult for humans to rationalize the idea that the once solid and steadfast notion of “truth” is merely a construct of the person who claims it to be so.  Our inability to understand “truth” as a myriad of meanings and contexts causes most to disregard this view and to revert to the classic version of truth as “right” or “good.”  

  Emerson continues to baffle the human mind by claiming that contradiction, hypocrisy and constant inconsistency can be ignored in the pursuit of truth:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines… Speak what you think now in hard words and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, thou it contradict every thing you say to-day… Is it so bad then to be misunderstood?... To be great is to be misunderstood, (138).  
By ignoring inconsistency, or rather, embracing inconsistency, Emerson hopes that people will continue to seek for truth without being constrained by the hypocrisy and contradiction that the modern, logical mind condemns.  This practice is obviously problematic, in that if a man proclaims a “truth” one day and disavows it the next, his original “truth” and all other proclamations are thereby discredited.  Emerson’s search for truth unabashedly ignores the basic logic that governs and defines human thought, thus ensuring that any proclamation made in such inconsistency will most certainly be ignored and widely regarded as folly.  Our logical faculties impede our search for “truth”:  “In these instances the intellectual gifts do not make the impression of virtue, but almost of vice; and we feel that a man’s talents stand in the way of his advancement in truth,” (246.)  

It is therefore unsurprising to read the last lines of Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance,” as contradictory as it is to his statement above about the necessity of contradiction: “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.  Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles,” (153).  The contradiction in this being that principles that cannot be explained or easily defined would not be able to “triumph” in a world where human understanding is still ruled by logic.  Because the principles do not have a solid definition on which they are based, they will be instantly disregarded in favor of more steadfast morals.  

While the linear world in which we live calls for an absolute definition of truth, Emerson directs every individual to search for the truth themselves, even if they must “contradict every-thing,” (138).  Perhaps this incredible quest for the impossible will bring the peace that comes to the individual that “speak[s] the rude truth in all ways” (135) and thereby attains a heightened sense of self.

Health Professionals - Professional Writing Sample

Below is an example of an informational article written for SEO purposes.
Full keyword has been censored to avoid spam comments.
The 600 word article was completed in 12 to 14 minutes with little to no research involved.

For every professional working in the medical community, it can be difficult to establish a treatment plan that balances the needs of the patient with his or her financial concerns, personal situation, and individual health profile. While most medical doctors or  C—  dentists will learn in their respective schooling programs and training sessions that their foremost responsibility is to advise and treat a patient in a way that will address the health problem without causing undue harm to the patient in other ways, it will become clear through experience that each patient will also rely on his or her medical doctor or dentist to deliver advice that may extend beyond the realm of health. For instance, when a patient makes an appointment with a dentist due to an extremely painful tooth, the problem area will be x-rayed and the dentist will make a diagnosis. 

If the dentist tells the patient that the only way to ease the dental pain is through an endodontic procedure that is quite expensive, the patient may have difficulty paying for the procedure with his or her meager finances and lack of dental insurance. In response to this information, the dentist will be expected to advise the patient on how to decrease the costs of the necessary dental treatment, even if it may go against the best dental treatment option for the patient. For example, in addition to the endodontic treatment option for the painful molar, the dentist may also extract the tooth completely for a fraction of the cost, which will eliminate the patient's pain. However, in general,  C—  dentists will attempt to avoid extracting a tooth when the tooth can be treated and saved through an endodontic procedure. 

This is because the patient may experience other dental issues in the future if the tooth is extracted, rather than healed with a root canal. Once the tooth is extracted, the other teeth surrounding the open space will begin to fill this gap. This can result in a crowding of the teeth in other areas of the mouth, which can be painful and unpleasing to the eye, as it may change the way that the front teeth align. However, C— dentists may still suggest this option to a patient without financial means to pay for a root canal procedure in order to accomplish the primary goal of that patient's visit: to eliminate the pain and discomfort associated with an extremely infected tooth. From this analysis of a dental visit, it is easy to see how  C—  dentists will often balance their expert opinion of a preferred treatment plan or solution with the individual needs and circumstances of a particular patient.

However, it is also clear to see how the costs of medical and dental services can decrease the kind of care that a doctor or dentist is able to deliver to his or her patients. One solution to the problem of cost is to install a universal healthcare system, which would cover all citizens of a certain nation and offer free health visits, procedures, and medications. However, there are many who object to this option in the United States, as it would not work seamlessly with other aspects of the national economic system. This is why many dentists in the United States have begun offering special treatment options and clinics for those individuals who are uninsured or are unable to pay for certain services. These discount services will often be subsidized by state health programs that cater to low-income families. With these programs, even patients without insurance or financial means can receive medical and dental treatment.

Virginia Woolf: Bride

The tenth of August, 1912.

Earlier that year the Titanic met her demise, 
becoming the only thing its maker promised she would not.

Did you read about it in the paper, hear it from a friend? 
Did you see the obituaries and look into the eyes of a woman named Edna 
or Joyce and did the pull of her soul tug you down down down?

Did you wear something traditional? Something white? I can’t imagine 
you like this; I will assume you wore wool trousers 
and a collared shirt. Your lips you deigned to paint a rose pink 
so close to your natural color he didn’t even notice it on you.

Did you think of them as you said Yes, Yes, Yes—their bodies 
went into the ocean and the ocean stole the lights from their eyes.

The officiate watches your lips say Yes, but 
could he see the lipstick? 
Could all those souls, frozen, bobbing, slick, dark, fit so neatly into your chest?

Did you know then you wouldn’t be able to carry them all?

- Alyssa Udall, 2014

Debt Consolidation - Professional Writing Sample

Below is an example of an informational article written for SEO purposes.
The 600 word article was completed in 12 to 14 minutes with little to no research involved.

In order to understand the importance of non profit debt consolidation and other financial recovery services today, it is important to review the nature of credit card debt, specifically. When a consumer makes a large amount of purchases on a credit card, or multiple lines of credit, he or she will receive a monthly bill from the credit card company. Rather than paying off the total balance of all credit transactions, the consumer will need to make a small payment of about 5% to 15% of the running total of that line of credit. This way, consumers can take several months or even years to pay off various purchases. While this is a great way for consumers that need to make a variety of transactions to buy products without paying the full amount upfront, acquiring too much credit card debt can be very dangerous for those with unstable sources of income. This is because if the consumer makes his or her payments late, the creditor or lender will assess a large fee on the credit account, which can range from $15 to $50 for each instance. 

This financial penalty becomes more severe for payments that are missed completely. This means that theoretically, if a consumer that has a large amount of credit card debt were to lose his or her job and miss regular debt payments for several months as a result, the consumer could be facing a much larger debt balance when he or she finally recovers financially. This is further complicated by the fact that credit cards have some of the highest interest rates in the financial sector, which means that the consumer's balance will continue to grow quickly while he or she is recovering from this personal financial crisis. Many consumers in this situation believe that simply abandoning their debt is the only action available to them, as they have no way of paying off their debts on their own. However, this could lead to serious financial consequences in the long run! Consumers with high volumes of credit card debt should instead consider non profit debt consolidation services.

Non profit debt consolidation is a perfect solution for those consumers struggling under mountains of credit card debt. This is because with the consolidation process, the consumer will be able to benefit from a lower overall interest rate in most circumstances. The difference between measured interest rates, especially in relation to credit card debt, is often due to whether or not the debt is considered secured. Secured debts or lines of credit will most often boast low interest rates, because they are able to leverage the ownership of a personal asset against the line of credit. This means that if the consumer were to default on the loan, the lender would be able to seize this asset as payment for the unpaid funds.

The most well-known example of a secured loan is a mortgage or home loan. Credit card debt is considered unsecured debt, because the consumer is not required to have his or her personal assets leveraged against the total debt burden. However, when a consumer with large amounts of credit card debt decides to seek non profit debt consolidation, he or she may be able to leverage ownership of a property or vehicle against the new consolidated loan agreement. This will allow the new owner of the debt or debt to offer the consumer a much lower interest rate on the total loan balance! This will lower the consumer's monthly payments towards and will save him or her thousands of dollars throughout the loan term. With debt restitution programs like debt consolidation, consumers can get rid of their unsecured credit card debt and live without the added stress of a high debt burden.

Why You Will Never Reach the 1st Page of Google - Professional Writing Sample

Yes, the title of this post may seem a bit depressing, but just hear me out.

I’m here to talk about the top mistakes that people make in SEO in relation to keywords, which in turn, basically guarantees that they will never reach the top of Google.

Let’s say that I’m starting an online shop focusing on baby products. The problem that most people encounter in relation to keywords is that they use terms  like “baby products” in their SEO campaigns without recognizing the popularity of that term or exploring other options. There are many problems with using generic, short phrases like “baby products” as your main keyword that you would like to market to search engines. 

For example, consider online entities like Babies-R-Us and Graco that have hundreds of thousands of dollars to commit to online marketing. Large companies like these dominate the online marketing world because they have almost unlimited resources while, sadly, you do not.

Also, consider how search engines like Google rank sites: the shorter the keyword, the more searches you will have. Therefore, the shorter the keyword or phrase, the harder it is for you to rank number one in Google, for the search engines understand that shorter phrases are more popular and more indicative of relevance.

Basically, when people start a site (or start optimizing their site), they tend to choose keywords that are all wrong for them.  In order to avoid this, use the Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool to research key terms and phrases.  First, I would make a list similar to this:
baby products
designer baby products
baby items
baby gifts
These are common keyword phrases that others with similiar online stores will use to generate traffic to their site.  Once I enter in these keywords (and check the “use synonyms” box), Google will generate information on these terms and other similar phrases.  You can use this information to pick keywords that are popular, but not over-saturated with competition.

By using what are called “long tail keywords” (phrases of three or more words) you will have a much higher chance of getting a great ranking in Google.  This works to the smaller online business’ advantage, because longer keyword phrases have less competition and will allow them to rank on Google’s top page.  

Although the traffic generated from these words is quite a bit less than the traditional two-word phrase, it’s better to be at the top of Google for “cheap handmade baby products” than on page 24 for “baby products”.