Friday, May 29, 2009

Sophomore... Not anymore!

That's right, folks, our sophomore year is over!!! (And I write this sentence less than one minute before the final bell of the year.)

This year has been one of the fastest I've ever experienced, but also, somehow, one of the most exhausting. I'm more ready for summer than I have ever been.

At the end of every year, you can pretty much repeat the same things:

Had a great time!

Gained some friends, lost some friends.

I'll never do that again...

This year was no different. I really did have a great time. I really did get some new friends, and sadly, I also lost some. I also did some stuff that I'll never try again.

It's been a good year, but an unremarkable one. Maybe someday I'll look back on my sophomore year and think 'That was the year I changed everything... that was when I decided to become what I am now...' or maybe I'll just look back and think 'What happened that year? Something important?'

This year was okay. I hope I can say the same or better for next year.

By the end of this blog, the final bell has rung and I can hear the noises of students freed. I echo their joy. Perhaps this is the end of this blog- this is the last post assigned me. It was a good run, but I enjoy the finish line.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Of Mice and Men Review

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!
- Robert Burns, "To a Mouse"

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is one of the most touching classics I have ever read.

The writing style was sparse, but fulfilling, mostly of dialogue. The scenes that were described vividly, such as the opening pastoral scene, painted a picture of the untouched nature that surrounded the characters.

The characters were simple, but each one had a touch of something that made them special, interesting, and affecting. The bonds shown between the two main character were powerful and poignant.

George and Lennie were itinerant workersduring the Great Depression who dreamed of owning their own small farm. Lennie was a mentally disabled, but physically strong man who obcessively touches soft things. George is a slight, shrewd man who cares for Lennie and managaes him, but dreams of a better life.

This story is one of devotion and responsibility and necessity, and the things that people will do for their dreams and in spite of them.

I hightly recommend this book for all readers who enjoy emotive reading and absorbing characters.

House on Mango Street Review

The House on Mango Street was written by Sandra Cisneros and is about a young girl named Esperanza growing up in the barrio of Chicago.

To me, this book wasn't worth the time it took to read it. The story was disconnected and jumpy. Every chapter was vague and slow-paced. This type of writing was, of course, the style Cisneros chose to employ, but it was singularly displeasing to read.

I did not like The House on Mango Street and I do not suggest it to anyone else. I will not, however, recomend against the book. It had an appeal, although its appeal was one I did not respond to. If a reader is looking for a coming of age story that easy to read and not very complicated, this book is good for them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Red Wheebarrow Poem

William Carlos Williams wrote a poem called The Red Wheelbarrow. As a part of the Utopia v. Dystopia unit in English 10, we spent time with this poem and wrote our own poem after the fashion of The Red Wheelbarrow.

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

The poem I wrote with Red Wheelbarrow as my 'inspiration':

So much depends
upon a brightening
tower; white stone
and shining glass
upon a beaten shore.

If you can't guess, it's about a lighthouse. :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Good Earth Review

Few writers have ever told a story on a level with Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth.

The Good Earth is a story of life in all its twists and turns. It follows the life of a Chinese peasant who drags himself up out of the mire into success, and how his success was the undoing of him.

This book just drew me in. When reading it, I felt like I knew Wang Lung, the main character, personally, and was right beside him through all his troubles and successes. When the last pages turned, I felt as if a part of my own life was done and over.

Before reading The Good Earth I knew very little about China. I still know very little about China, but that doesn't lessen the power and intimacy of the story. Life is life, no matter what country you're living it in.

Although this book was easy to follow in its plotline, I don't suggest it for youngsters, or for light reading. The Good Earth is a serious book and it should be taken seriously and read with respect.


The Giver Review

The Giver by Lois Lowry has long been one of my all-time favorite books.

It's about a society that is entirely different from anything we know. The main character is aboy named Jonas, and in his society there is no color. For Jonas's friends, family, and fellow community members, there is no music, no emotion, no difference.

The society is one founded on Sameness. Nothing is overly distinguishable from anything else. There's not even any weather.

This Sameness is achieved through the storage of all the memories of the past in one person: the Receiver.

The Giver is about the things that would have to be sacrificed for perfect peace and similarity and also about what happens to people when emotions are removed. It was a very good book, having more insight and truth in only 192 pages than many people have encountered in all the books they've ever read.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Animal Farm Review

Written by George Orwell and published in 1945, Animal Farm is a satirical, dystopian novel that parodies the events of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Stalin era.

In Animal Farm, animals play the parts of the Bolshevik revolutionaries. Pigs are used to portray Stalin, Trotsky, Lenin, and Molotov. Dogs are Stalin's secret police, the NKVD. There are equines and sheep for the proletariat, rats for the nomadic northerners, and even hens to represent the Kulaks.

The novel is intriguing and makes history interesting in a new and horrible way. It was not written to comfort or to soothe, not to entertain or to give the reader that fuzzy, satisfied emotion that comes with a happy ending. It was written to tell.

I suggest this book for those readers who seek a deeper understanding of the Russian Revolution or for readers who just like to think about the ironies of fate: what better irony that this one, a revolution that turns into a worse dictatorship that the one before it?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Waiting on the Lilacs

One week is not enough.

Spring break rolled around this year right when I was needing it most. I was so relieved to just sleep on Monday that I kept sleeping until one in the morning. My break consisted mostly of relaxing, chatting with friends, and working withmy dad around the house.

I got caught up on a lot of reading I had wanted to do. I reread (for the eighth or ninth time) East by Edith Pattou, started Brisingr by Christopher Paolini for the second time, and even read a short story written by a friend of mine.

I spent a lot of time sleeping and just lazing around. If I'm being honest, I have to admit that I'm a bit of a couch potato. Okay, so I'm a huge couch potato. But hey, that's what breaks are for, right- being super lazy. :)

Unfortunately, I also had to work some. One day I helped dad pick up branches that had fallen during and after the big ice storm and we took down three fences in my horse fields. After that, though, I stayed inside and cleaned the house while mom and dad made flower beds.

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. I love flowers and get very excited for the Spring-time blossom. Without Spring break, I would miss a lot of the first flowers of Spring. Unfortunately, my favorite flowers, lilacs, didn't start to bloom until after break was over.

Excert from my 'Anthem' essay...

"Anthem tells an amazing story. The following quotes show the very moments where the message of Anthem is most thoroughly defined:

“The glass box in our arms is like a living heart that gives us strength. We have lied to ourselves. We have not built this box for the good of our brothers.”
“I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning.”
“I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them.”

These are the moments in which Equality 7-2521 takes the steps towards Prometheus. These are the moments that define his journey from slave to master. These are the moments that characterize the victory of the strong, individual Man over the cruel, controlling Men. At the base of a ladder is the Mass. The Mass is cruel and evil and wrong. At the top of the ladder is the Strong. The Strong is many, and every one is one alone. The ladder is a journey, each rung a step that must be taken to move away from the Mass and towards the Strong. The purpose of Anthem was to show the steps in the most personal way possible. The three quotes above are the steps of the ladder that are the most grueling, and they are the most rewarding to Equality. "

- from Slave to Master, an Anthem essay by Emily Q.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Kite Runner Review

Lies. Love. Loyalty. Respect. War. Betrayal. Redemption.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (371pp) has it all .

There are many words to describe this book. Powerful, haunting, moving, innovative, astounding.

As I read this book, the sheer power of the emotion in the words had me laughing at some points, crying at others. On some pages, my heart jumped into my throat. On others, it nearly beat its way out of my chest.

The Kite Runner was so visual, so emotive, that I felt like I was right there with Amir through all his pain and guilt.

In the late 1900s, Afghanistan was thrown into turmoil. The Kite Runner is about two boys who grew up in Kabul during this time, their friendship, and their hearts.

There is so much to get from this book. Not only does the reader learn a little about the culture of Afghanistan and the country's recent history, but they learn about bravery, loyalty, and redemption.

"For you, a thousand times over..." - The Kite Runner

White Fang Review

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." - Eden Ahbez, Nature Boy (song, recorded by Nat King Cole)

White Fang by Jack London (252pp) is one of my personal all time favorite books.

It is the story of a 3/4 wolf, 1/4 dog that grew up as a loner and fighter. Named by Indian masters 'White Fang', he first learned to use his fangs in his own defense, then in the defense of his masters, and finally in offense.

White Fang is sold to a man who sets him against other dogs for entertainment. He was beaten and goaded and mistreated, and he grew to hate the humans that crowded around his cage... and he took it out on the dogs that he met.

But then White fang is rescued...

And he learns what it is to love and be loved.

White Fang is an amazing novel of mercy and kindness and the changes those two things can wrought in a pained heart.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Anthem Review

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem is a book that I look at with duality. In my own opinion, this book is to be read with caution in mind and taken with a grain of salt.

The theme of standing up for your individual rights is one I applaud. However, the idea of living for one's own self is one that I scorn.

Equality 7-2521 was a rebel against a loveless, suffocating Communistic society. Equality stood against the suppressing power of what we call peer-pressure... only it was a pressure that promised death to those who defied it.

I agree that individuality is important, but I don't think that fellowship with ones 'brothers' should be abandoned.

True, in Anthem, 'fellowship' was a twisted means of control. But real fellowship (friends, family, colleagues) is essential. What must not be forgotten is the need for balance between the two: working together in a group without forgetting that every member of that group is a unique individual in their own rights.

Towards the end of Anthem, the word ego took on both its 'truest' meaning, as Ayn Rand put it, and the meaning we use more commonly.

I no more endorse this book than I do oppose it. Anthem was a story of hope and the importance of self, but it feels to me that Ayn Rand took her 'truest' meaning of ego just a little too far...

  1. the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its though
  2. egotism; conceit; self-importance

To perfect my world...

It's honestly hard to think of anything I could do to my own personal life any better than it is. I have great friends, a wonderful family, my pets. I always have what I need and most of the time what I want, too. My life is pretty great. Not perfect, maybe, but then who's is?

No, I happy with the way my life is. But the whole world in general? That could use some perfecting. There is not a single thing that could just up and fix the whole world like a snap of my fingers. No, that's not possible.

For the world to be perfected, to be put into balance, there would have to be a widespread breakout of compassion and understanding. Or love and the will for peace. Of kindness.

However, I doubt that that is going to happen anytime soon. After all, we're only human. Greedy, selfish creatures that we are.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jane Eyre Review

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of my personal favorites.

Written in the 1800's, this novel has thrilled generation after generation of readers. Jane Eyre tells the tale of a woman who was orphaned, taken in by an aunt and uncle, mistreated, and sent off to a badly managed school where she stayed for the next eight years and became a teacher- and that is where Jane Eyre's story really gets interesting.

Jane Eyre was written, many think, as a parallel to Charlotte Bronte's own life, as a means to cope with her circumstances (two of Bronte's sisters died under circumstances similar to Jane's). Whether that's the truth or not, Jane's story is dramatic, thrilling, and extremely easy to relate to.

Jane Eyre is one of those books that everyone should read, put aside for a few years, and then read again. Read it once to hear the story, wait a few years to let yourself grow, and read it again to see the meaning. It deals with morality, religion, and social class. It is a novel of balance: in life, love, and heart. And one cannot understand what I mean when I say balance until they understand the novel itself.

I suggest Jane Eyre for anyone mature enough to appreciate it.

Call of the Wild Review

It resides in all of us- something to fall back on when civilization forsakes us, something to remember when we've lost our way.

Instinct is one of the greater factors that shapes a person's personality and determines their ability to survive. In animals, the power of instinct is far, far more great.

In The Call of the Wild, author Jack London illustrates the natural instinctual pull in a poignant and beautiful way. He tells the story of Buck, a dog who is kidnapped from his home and thrown into a ferocious, icebound Gehenna- the 19th century Yukon territory.

Buck, previously tame and more than a little pampered, is suddenly a working dog, hitched to a sled. The life of a sled dog prooves to be far harsher than that of a pet, and it is only by trusting his instincts that he survived....

The Call of the Wild was an amazing book to read. One might think that with a dog for a main character, the book would be more of a children's story... but no, Buck's story is full of dark and violent scenes and moments of realization that ring of despair.

I loved this book and completely suggest it and it's 'mirror image' novel, White Fang. (White Fang is about a wild dog/wolf that becomes tame.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Antigone Review (goodreads)

rating: 1 of 5 stars
My English class read Antigone as the first attempt in our efforts to explore the classics. Personally, I did not enjoy the play. I wouldn't say that the story wasn't interesting or that I would change anything about it if I could, but only that I did not like or agree with the characters in many ways. I do, however, suggest this book be read. It can teach a good lesson, offering an astute insight into human character and motive. Whether or not you end up liking it is your business, but I do think it's a classic that everyone should be familiar with.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feet planted, heart pounding, standing up for what you know is right...

I have always been an animal lover. Ever since I was a little girl, if there was a dog or cat around, I was trying to pet it; if there was a horse, I was scrambling on top of it. I was fearless and enthralled, but I was neither stupid nor cruel.

I am still sickened and astounded by how idiotically cruel some people can be to animals. More than once, I have had to stand up and stop someone or some animal from getting hurt.

I've always had a soft spot for birds. One day, a few years ago, I saw a group of students at my old school gathered around tossing rocks at something on the ground. Drawing closer, I saw that the black lump they had been aiming at was a baby bird who had fallen from his nest. The students had cornered it and were literally stoning the poor baby to death. Angry, disgusted, I slipped past them, picked up the bird, and left without a word.

I took the bird back home with me, and cared for him as best as I could. I had had some practice with baby birds before, and have had more experience since, but all my care wasn't enough to bring the bird back to health. He died a week later, but I rested more at ease knowing that I at least tried to save him.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On Essays (Because we just love them...)

Hint: Catch the sarcasm?

(Hey, here's a song to listen to. Lovely, no?)

For my Pre-AP English 10 class (I'm still not used to calling it Honors English), we're beginning essays.

Now, I have had extensive training in this area. Anyone who has ever heard of or been taught by Mrs. Cindy Arnn will understand immediately when I say this. For the better parts of my sixth, seventh, and eighth grade years, I did nothing but write essays and study the intricate clockwork of grammar.

Lately, I'm starting to wonder if Mrs. Gillmore hasn't been channeling Mrs. Arnn. It seems I have skipped from one essay-crazy teacher to another, with the exceptionally refreshing respite of Ms. Peugeot in ninth. Don't get me wrong, all three were/are good teachers.

It's just those dang essays. I can't escape them. Resistance is futile.

I would so much rather just write a short story. That way I could expand on my own personal style, rather than conforming to a very specific outline. I've conformed enough, I think. It's individualism and voice that make a writer's work, not strict guidelines. When you write about something you care about, you want to be able to express yourself in any pattern or manner, any form or unconformity.

Of course, there is a necessity to this sort of writing. Essays in the typical outline and rigidity lay out the paper so that a person can clearly see what they've already said and what they intend to say. It's easy to start rambling in a more free-style paper or story(like I tend to do in blogs). It's harder to get away with slipping in random things into the main idea: dangling ideas, unnecessary comments, and other such offenses. Outline-conformed essays and paragraphs teach a writer to really pay attention to what they're saying. Well, they're supposed to, anyway.

But in the end, even though essays do have some up points, I still can't stand them. And that's really simply because they aren't much fun. It's always been a bit of a dream of mine that an English teacher would just tell us to write a chapter a week for her and compile a novella, or a short-story a week and build up a collection. I always have written better when I'm on a deadline set by someone else and they're expecting something worth reading at said deadline.... That doesn't necessarily include assignments.

Out of the three most major English teachers I've had, I have to say that Ms. Peugeot was my favorite. More than anything else, she put the emphasis on creative writing. She covered grammar and all that, but she let me write. Not in a 'forced me to put words on paper about something that didn't matter to me' way, but in a very nice 'encouraged me to paint a picture in words' kind of way. I rather miss that. (And no, I didn't get put in Honors English last year, but I was more than happy with Ms. Peugeot.)

And see, look, I've been rambling. But as how 90% of what I blog is written (or typed, if you want to be particular) for the sheer purpose of a good ramble, I deem that perfectly acceptable. =D

Here's another one just for giggles. Ignore his weird hat, and I dare you to try not to dance!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Because I have little else to do...

There isn't a word in the dictionary I hate more than zephyr.

Say it. Spell it. Think about it.

Stupid word.

(And no, I do not mean Zephyr. I mean zephyr. The word, not the name.)

Horrid, isn't it? It tastes strange on my tongue. And really, that probably isn't a proper reason to hate something, but if I'm allowed to say "I hate potatoes", then I should be allowed to say "I hate zephyr" for the same reason. Even if I don't actually hate a thing, I'm allowed to say I do just because I strongly dislike it. Isn't it interesting how people so often misuse the word hate? Hate is a passion, a consuming fire. It's bloody hate! It's wanting to kill and maim and destroy, it's wanting revenge and suffering. It's an obsession of angry hearts. And people say "I hate broccoli."

And really, I don't know why I chose to post here today. There are four other sights waiting for updates and editing, and I come here, where probably two people at the most will read this and most likely neither of them will care to finish it.

But that's alright.

I dislike (and it amuses me how I typed and had to erase 'hate') how people often say that no one can write for themselves. True, plenty of writers write for the money or the popularity (I won't say any names, but 'vampires' should be a big enough hint...). But then you can read something else and see such an emotion in the words that you feel as if you're intruding on a private, intimate moment. And it's alright, because the writer wrote his or her feelings and then opened their heart to be seen by anyone who cares to look. I daresay that those moments were written purely for the benefit of the writer, and then shared in order to benefit the world.

What really bothers me, though, are signatures- the ones on checks and formal letters. They all look like something a two year old would leave on the wall in permanent marker. The purpose of a signature is to prove your identity. If the signature is ineligible, it's purpose has been defeated by its existence. That should by rights create a paradox!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Friendship in Julius Caesar

A true friend is a weapon and a shield. A false friend is a deadly poison in the cup.

Julius Caesar had his share of both. There was the friend that would stab him in the back... literally. And then there was the friend who would start a war to avenge his death.

Through Brutus and the conspirators, Shakespeare represents friends who were not loyal to any but themselves. Through Antony and Octavian, he shows loyalty that lasts until and after death.

Leadership in Julius Caesar

In The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, there are several examples of leadership.

Cassius, a shrewd general of the Romans, leads Brutus to believe that Caesar is too powerful and must die for his ambition. Leading Caesar into the hands of the conspirators, Decius provides another example of leadership. Antony even leads the audience at Caesar's funeral to turn against the conspiritors.

Any ability can be used in a good or bad way. As a weapon, leadership can be used to right a wrong, or to save lives. It can also be used to take them away. Using leadership, the characters in the play displayed this fact acutely.