The Antelope Valley Book

Paper 2: The Antelope Valley Book

It is common for books to be created that focus on a particular region. For example, the book LAtitudes: An Angelino’s Atlas (which Hood is in) features unique ways to think about Los Angeles. Hood’s chapter was about nature; other authors looked at the hidden world of undocumented workers, the history of pirate radio stations, L.A.’s worst architecture, and the rise of LBGT churches. book cover L.A. nature Paper 2 asks you to review articles about the desert that have been posted to a website called The Mojave Project. You will review the articles in order to pick material for a book. The website is real but the book is make-believe—even so, please treat it seriously. Your paper is an argument about why x belongs in the book and not y. Here are the details. Pretend that there is a new project being developed, something that will be called The Antelope Valley Book. (This is all make-believe; this book does not yet exist.) For Paper 2, you will be writing an essay to support the inclusion of a particular piece of journalism from the Mojave Project website. This kind of book is a real thing, at least in most areas. Here are covers of real books focused on just one region: New York Appalachia New Orleans The Antelope Valley Book will include art, such as this piece by David Hockney. It is six feet tall and nine feet wide and is made out of hundreds of photographs. This huge photo-collage is owned by the Getty Museum. Here is what they say about it. They start with an interview with the artist. “Pearblossom Highway shows a crossroads in a very wide open space, which you only get a sense of in the western United States. . . . [The] picture was not just about a crossroads, but about us driving around. I’d had three days of driving and being the passenger. The driver and the passenger see the road in different ways. When you drive you read all the road signs, but when you’re the passenger, you don’t, you can decide to look where you want. And the picture dealt with that: on the right-hand side of the road it’s as if you’re the driver, reading traffic signs to tell you what to do and so on, and on the left-hand side it’s as if you’re a passenger going along the road more slowly, looking all around. So the picture is about driving without the car being in it.” Thus David Hockney described the circumstances leading to the creation of this photocollage of the scenic Pearblossom Highway north of Los Angeles. His detailed collage reveals the more mundane observations of a road trip. The littered cans and bottles and the meandering line where the pavement ends and the sand begins point to the interruption of the desert landscape by the roads cutting through it and the imprint of careless travelers. Hockney is a world-famous painter but in this phase of his art, he was working with photo-collage. He thinks that a single photo is a lie: it does not represent how we see the world. Our eyes always shift and scan, going side to side and near to far. In contrast, he says a photo represents the view “of a paralyzed cyclops.” He took 700 photos and collaged them into one image, to create this sense of shifting and scanning that is normal vision. In person, it is so big you almost fall into it. He is British but lives in Los Angeles. Since then, other artists have responded to Hockney. Here’s is a piece by your teacher that was in the AVC Art Gallery last month. In our book there also will be historical photos, showing life in the past. Of course we need to talk about aviation. There will be chapters on Edwards Air Force Base, the Space Shuttle, Lockheed’s Skunk Works, and the SR-71 Blackbird. These can be supplemented by passages from Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff. Sample passage from The Right Stuff: “Nevertheless, there was something extraordinary about it when a man so young, with so little experience in flight test, was selected to go to Muroc Field in California for the XS–1 project. Muroc [ now called Edwards AFB ] was up in the high elevations of the Mojave Desert. It looked like some fossil landscape that had long since been left behind by the rest of terrestrial evolution. It was full of huge dry lake beds, the biggest being Rogers Lake. Other than sagebrush the only vegetation was Joshua trees, twisted freaks of the plant world that looked like a cross between cactus and Japanese bonsai. They had a dark petrified green color and horribly crippled branches. At dusk the Joshua trees stood out in silhouette on the fossil wasteland like some arthritic nightmare. In the summer the temperature went up to 110 degrees as a matter of course, and the dry lake beds were covered in sand, and there would be windstorms and sandstorms right out of a Foreign Legion movie. At night it would drop to near freezing, and in December it would start raining, and the dry lakes would fill up with a few inches of water, and some sort of putrid prehistoric shrimps would work their way up from out of the ooze, and sea gulls would come flying in a hundred miles or more from the ocean, over the mountains, to gobble up these squirming little throwbacks. A person had to see it to believe it: flocks of sea gulls wheeling around in the air out in the middle of the high desert in the dead of winter and grazing on antediluvian crustaceans in the primordial ooze.” The Antelope Valley is named after a wild animal, the pronghorn antelope. (It no longer occurs here; the last ones either were seen in the 1920s or the 1940s.) The book will include natural history, including information on Joshua trees, poppies, and pronghorns. There is architecture in the Antelope Valley, though you may not believe it. (All buildings have architecture.) We will include something about the style of housing, the bubbles that rise and burst, and suburban living. For example, this book shown at left has insightful entries about so-called “ranch-style” houses, such as the ones along Ave. K between 20th West and the AVC Lancaster campus. There will be desert poetry. The writer Kay Ryan has received a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur genius award, and she was United States Poet Laureate, the top ”job” in poetry. Few know it, but she is an AVC graduate, which is why she included Joshua trees on the cover of her selected poems. “Sharks’ Teeth” by Kay Ryan Everything contains some silence. Noise gets its zest from the small shark’s -tooth shaped fragments of rest angled in it. An hour of city holds maybe a minute of these remnants of a time when silence reigned, compact and dangerous as a shark. Sometimes a bit of a tail or fin can still be sensed in parks. Frank Zappa, a prolific and quirky musician, grew up in the Antelope Valley. We will want to do some kind of biographical entry to deal with how his music changed what rock could be, but also how living here influenced him. (Hint: he hated it. When AVC tried to pay him to come speak, he refused to come back.) Now it is your turn. For Paper 2, write a 4-to-6 page essay that makes a case for which one of the Mojave Project’s “Field Dispatches” entries we should include in our book. There can only be one, but of course you’ll want to read them all in order to pick out the best one for this project. You can find them by going online to The Mojave Project and following the links. Review at least four “also ran” articles—they almost are right, but not quite—and then end up by making a case for which dispatch has to be “the” one. Through whatever features you wish to judge it by, it is “best.” You will have your own list, but those criteria might include… • quality of writing • depth of research • insight into broader American themes • relevance to current ecological or political issues • the way that the piece sums up or captures desert life • the way the piece fills in a missing gap in the book’s content (or else the way it supports a portion of the book already there) • the successful interaction of word and image: how to photos help tell the main story? The target audience for our book is a curious, intelligent, book-buying member of the public—the book will sold at Barnes & Noble, carried in local libraries, and may even be used as a textbook at AVC. The dispatches are part of the genre called “long-form journalism,” though that fact does not matter much here. They are though all non-fiction, true, well-researched articles: you can trust the history or details each dispatch provides. There is no trick here or one right answer: any of the pieces could be successfully argued for, so it is not a matter of finding the right answer so much as it is making a strong case. It might help to think of it like a mock trial: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I will now prove why my client, article x, is the best candidate for this position, and why all the others are hopeless posers. (Of course don’t use this format. It’s just a way to think about it.) “In my opinion” is not a useful way to prove things; do not use that approach. See the handout on using the “I voice” if this is not yet clear. A successful paper… • will be an essay, not a pretend speech or in-house memo • will make a clear case for why one dispatch is the best one (vs. all the others) • will assume readers have seen the Mojave website and know roughly what it contains • will have a title, a catchy introduction, and refutation of contrary points of view • will not be a personal narrative sharing what things the author did not know previously, what steps the research process took, how he/she feels about living in the desert, or other “TMI” details. To get help… • book designers and editors do have blogs and forums; to understand how books get put together, you might visit those sites (and it’s fine to quote from them: just cite sources) • the movie version of The Right Stuff is not bad, though the book is much better; if you have never seen that book about the test pilot culture, you might want to check it out • be sure to use the tutors in the Writing Center • also try the e-tutors via NetTutor (though they won’t know this specific topic very well) • check with Hood—office hours will vary this term but whether those hours will be held in Lancaster or Palmdale is not clear yet; the Lancaster campus is starting construction soon. final format notes…. • When you mention our book title, it has to go in italics: The Antelope Valley Book. • When you mention dispatch titles, they go in quotation marks. • To talk about the website, okay just to use regular font, plus capital letters: the Mojave Project. • Speak of the dispatches in present tense: What this one shows best is… Another thing this reveals is that… Good luck…and it’s probably time to get started.

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