Sunday, August 29, 2010

Behind & Torn

Being away from the internet for a whole week is a startling experience, to say the least. For one, I have no idea what Maureen Johnson is up to. There could be a week's worth of inside jokes that I'm not inside of. I've gathered that she's in England again but apart from that I'm in the dark. I haven't read blogs, watched YouTube or been connected in any way, really. I feel out of the loop and it's rather hard to catch up.

Also, Mockingjay was released almost a week ago and I've yet to get my hands on it. My whole family has read it, even though we originally agreed that I'd get it first. These are the prices you must pay for traversing the sea, as Vita put it.

To top it off, my mother is not answering the phone, which is bewildering. What's with the busy signal, people? Too busy for your own nomadic daughter? *sigh* The middle child syndrome strikes again. (news flash: she answered! Yay!)

It's hot in Florida. The need for air conditioning and fans freaks me out. What happens if those fans fall from the ceiling and decapitate you? Seriously, these are the super big problems I face.

The cruise was good. I mean, I felt like a gluttonous, extravagant, selfish, elitist, tourist, pale face, but I enjoyed myself for the most part. God, I'm so pale. However, I am the one person in my group who did not sunburn. The fairest of us all and I was diligent about my SPF 60. Take that, Scottish genes!

I kind of feel awful about myself now, though. As an environmentalist, I don't feel like I can justify all the flying and driving and cruising and eating*. The crew on the ship are from all around the world, mostly developing countries, and I'm sure they must have to work very hard, for long hours and they probably don't get paid very much. And, I don't know what it is about being a tourist, but I can't stand that feeling of being so significantly wealthy that I can go on a luxury vacation and be extravagant and play dress up while the waitresses and busboys are working 12 hours a day so they can send money home to their families in Indonesia. I hate that. That stupidly uneven distribution. And I hate to be so naive as to ask this but why isn't the world more fair?

On top of all this, I have this moral debate going on because I want my mother to pick me up from the Seattle Airport tomorrow night at 11:30pm but I feel selfish for making her drive two and a half hours in the night, wasting resources and emitting carbon so I can go home and see my mom a day earlier.

I don't know why it's so important for me to get home other than book club, and not wanting to miss anything else that's happening at home and missing my sisters terribly and wanting to see my mom again and just generally sucking at independence. I can actually do independence quite well but I still really love my family.

I guess it's just my lovely spoiledness coming through again.

*I have not mentioned the ditching of my friends whom I had plans with since months ago.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

BOOK! It's a blog! (Subtitle: teehee, I'm so very punny)

Suppity sup sup SUP?
So I hope you don't mind that I've posted before my day and I'm posting after my day, but I haven't posted on my day. I figure that since Alex is off traversing the oceans and Rena is mostly posting at the Ning, August is screwed up enough that it doesn't matter if I get creative with the blogging thing thangs. (Like yin-yang! But different!)
I've been SORT of a downer in my last two blogs, and while they were both as honest as I'll ever get (which is pretty damn honest, if I do say so myself), I think I should lighten the mood. That, or I'm taking a break from my French homework that I sort of really procrastinated on a lot... NO MATTER!
So as I said on the Ning however many days ago it was, I'm looking to improve my reading habits, by which I mean I'm going to start reading regularly again. And such. I have compiled a list (much of which was inspired by one of the threads at the Nerdfighters Ning) of books I am planning to read by the end of next year/however long it takes, some of which I may fail to read because they are complicated books that I do not as of yet understand, but I shall try! And that is the important thing. If you have any suggestions, PLEASE TELL ME. (No, I'm not desperate...) I don't care how easy/hard or frivolous/deep they are. Everything is welcome.
The following list is compiled of books I have not read before, except for the ones with an asterisk, which I have read but am planning on rereading.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Princess Bride by William Goldberg
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry*
The Giver by Lois Lowry*
Daniel Half Human by David Chotjewitz
The Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The Wanderer by Sharon Creech
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillio
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Peter Pan by James Barry
Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield
The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterson
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Slaughterhouse 5 by Krt Vonnegut
The Stranger by AlbertCamus
Factotum by Charles Bukowski
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Feminie Mystique by Betty Friedan
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostyesky
1984 by George Orwell
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
Hope Is A Thing With Feathers by Christopher Cokinos
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Sphere by Michael Crichton
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The Elements of Style
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
How to Read Literature Like a Professor
The Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Zombies vs. Unicorns by assorted YA authors
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux [I think]
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Macbeth by Shakespeare
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
The Crucible by Arther Miller* [well, I've seen it performed about 9340 billion times, which is similar]
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank*
Don Quixote by Miduel de Cervantes
The Bible by Various
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulke
Money by Martin Amis
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Way We Live Now by Antony Trollope
The Outsider by Albert Camus
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
Man without Woman by Ernest Hemingway
Gulliver´s Travels by Jonathan Swift
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens*
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe
One flew over the Cockoo´s Nest by Ken Kesey
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Divine Comedy by Alighieri Dante
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Nothing by Janne Teller

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hope you don't mind I'm posting on a Thursday!

I can't understand how somebody so vibrant and alive can suddenly be dead. It doesn't make sense to me. To have so many people who love you and whom you love back just ripped away from you like that. It seems so lonely. I've always been skeptical of the idea of heaven but I don't want to think that she, as a person, is completely gone. It depresses the hell out of me.

I don't understand why it is that some people have to go through so much shit, cancer of all things, for four fucking years and then die, while my worst days aren't even that bad. If there is a God, if He kills off some people because He wants them with Him in Heaven, then why the hell does He force them to suffer so much? If He loves them enough to kill them so they can be with Him, why doesn't He make it so that they die peacefully? If He loves everybody, like everyone says He does, then why does He only put some people through hell while others get off almost scott-free? If it's some sort of test, shouldn't He make everyone go through it, not just random people who did absolutely nothing to deserve it?

And if God isn't real or if the real God is nothing like what we imagine then we have to accept the fact that people die and then they stay dead and there's no comfort except that they're an eternal cocoon of ignorance where at least nothing can hurt them anymore. But that's not comforting enough. You don't say to their family, "Well, at least she's gone and buried in a graveyard now," as if that's supposed to make them feel better. You tell them that she's in heaven or that she's happy because you can't bear to think of the possibility that she might actually be gone. It's an awful image but I can't stop imagining her shivering, pale and skinny, in a coffin somewhere. I hope they give her a blanket or something. Even that would be better than nothing.

That I feel her loss so strongly, even though I've never met her or even talked to her, that makes me feel like she isn't really gone. I've never cared so much when someone died before. A lot of my grandmother's friends have died, people who I saw every summer when I visited her in England, people who were lovely and warm and like extended family, and I've never been so sad when they died. Because they were old and they had long, full lives and they had time. That I can't stop thinking about her, that I'm trying to imagine her complexly, makes me feel like she's still out there somewhere. It sounds stupid but I feel like she's had such an effect on me for a reason. Call it God, call it the cosmic forces, call it human psychology, but whatever it is, she has made me want to help people. I've always vaguely wanted to help people, but it was more of a nice sentiment. Now, no. I want to actually do something.

Like I've said before, I know that my sense of loss is nothing - nothing - compared to what her friends and family must be feeling. I can't imagine. I really can't imagine. I truly have nothing to compare it to. This had made me fear the inevitable, eventual loss of my family and friends and acquaintances so, so much more because if I can care this much about a person I don't know, how am I going to survive the other shit life dumps on us?

It's small things we had in common, just that we have the same middle name and I'm only two months older than her and we both love Nerdfighters and Harry Potter; relatively trivial things that hundreds of other people can also claim a connection to. But, all of that, the fact that she was in a vlogbrothers video, the fact that she had a sense of humor and an apparent optimism that I, I in a far better situation, could learn from-- it all just made me assume, somehow, that she was going to survive. I just figured, of course she's going to make it. She's going to make it and then we're going to have a celebration in a vlogbrothers video and then she's going to get her GED and go to college and do something awesome and continue to be awesome and everything is going to be great. And then. And then she didn't survive it. And fuck you, cancer, fuck you. Why did you attack her? What has she ever done to deserve it?

God, I'm tearing up again as I'm writing these words. Everything has made me cry. I haven't sobbed like I'm sure her friends and family have. I've just been tearing up and not fighting the tears as they come, periodically, as if everything Esther-related is a key in the lock, every time I watch a video related to her. Alex Carpenter's song is the most beautiful thing I've heard in a long time. Cry cry cry. God. I don't even know.

I miss you, Esther. I don't know you, but I miss you.

Thomas Edison's last words were it's very beautiful over there

I don't know where there is, but I believe it's somewhere

And I hope it's beautiful, like you

You're beautiful, I never really knew you at all

Monday, August 23, 2010

I have such PROBLEMS.

I want Kayley's clothes. Not in a creepy way; I just love her outfits.

I've been planning on putting more effort into my outfits for years. Especially at the start of each school year, I resolve to completely change my style. "I'm going to wear, like, layers with jackets," I tell myself. "I'm going to wear dresses with tights in the winter!! I'm going to wear pleather boots!!!"

And then May rolls around and I show up to school every day with wet hair, cloth shorts, and an old unfitted shirt that proudly bears a dancing, field hockey stick-wielding marshmallow.

(I don't wear the same clothes every day, obviously. That was just an example. If nothing else, I do make it a point to practice basic hygiene.)

Seriously, what has my life become? The only dresses I own are the kind that require absolutely no effort. At some point, it becomes a fashion statement to wear a bright purple cardigan over an equally ostentatious turquoise dress. I'd love to wear CLASSY things on a regular basis, but the fact of the matter is that I value comfort during those seven hours of hard chairs and florescent lights far more than I value semi-impressing the kid who thinks that brushing his hair deserves him a spot in Vogue.

The other problem is the matter of pricing. SORRY guys-- I don't have fifty dollars to spend on a t-shirt. Additionally, so many of the best stores are in the UK, which translates to a phenomenally expensive item of clothing once you convert from pounds to dollars and throw in the enormous shipping fee.

Sigh. I have such problems. (Yes, you do, whispers the voice in my head.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Pretend World of Harry Potter

Feel free to be aware of how much I say 'cool', 'neat' and 'awesome' in this blog.

I liked Harry Potter World. I liked walking under the gates into Hogsmeade, with the Hogwarts Express right there and the snow covered village all sparkly (and boiling hot and filled with Muggles). I liked seeing the Hog's Head and the Three Broomsticks and, best of all, the Hogwarts castle.

It was pretty freaking cool. Breaking it down...

Architecture and buildings: It looks really sweet. Apart from the fact that the fake snow (really? It's Florida.) and the fact that when you actually go up and touch it, it feels like plastic, it's completely believable. They put a lot of effort into the store displays and building decor and it turned out well. So as long as you don't physically touch it, you can keep up with the illusion that it's been around for hundreds of years.

Food: I didn't actually eat anything there because the line ups were ridiculous and they didn't actually have themed food* but I did get a butterbeer. How could I not, really? I can pretty much say that I didn't that beverage. It wasn't disgusting and it was kind of like a weird root beer float but I don't think I'll ever get another one. I'm glad I did, though. I also got a pumpkin juice, even though it was overpriced, but I haven't opened it yet because I plan to take it home to my family.**

Rides: The line ups were better on some than others, but, in general, I would say the rides were good. The main ride, which is called The Forbidden Journey, was an hour wait but mostly worth it. They have you walk through the castle and you get to see a bunch of cool replicas (like the door to Dumbledore's office! So sweet. Plus all the portraits that move.). Then for the actual ride, you sit in a seat with shoulder straps and they take you through a mixture of a 3D looking movie, freaky spiders than descend and spit on you and creepy Dementors/wind machines. It's actually kind of scary.
The other rides were nice. The Hippogriff one was a long wait for a short, somewhat boring ride. The dragon one was fast, loopy and scary. And that was basically it.

Shops: Unfortunately, I only went into Honeydukes and Zonko's. The line for Ollivander's was the longest and completely in the sun so we didn't go there, not that I really wanted a wand. As cool as it would be, I don't know if I want an expensive souvenir sitting around my room for the rest of my life. There was also the post office but again, that had a long line standing in the sun. I did buy some postcards from the cart outside. So we went into Honeydukes where there was all the candy, overpriced but neat. And then to Zonko's which was less cool and just had a couple of things from the books and then some yo-yos and slinkies.

All in all, it was nice. I wasn't dying to go when I heard about it, but I'm glad I got the chance. It wasn't exactly what I expected and I wish it was a whole lot bigger but it's good for what it is. And the idea is a nice one, but the money grabbing aspect will always bug me. Anyway, if you don't get to go, I will say that it's not a huge deal. I mean, it's cool being there but it didn't change anything for me and I wasn't exactly blown away. (Though maybe if I wasn't such a cynic I would have been.)

I gotta go. The cruise starts tomorrow. So we'll see if there's internet at all. If not, I'll see you next Sunday. Not literally see you, but... you know.

*It was basically the same things you find in the other restaurants, only you get to sit in The Three Broomsticks.
**Because I'm the awesomest, nicest sister/daughter in the world.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Update: In My Absence

[NB: I don't care that the title is incorrectly capitalized. I've all but given up on the rules of capitalizing blog titles as it always leads to uncomfortable looking half-sentences that don't indicate the precision with which I hit the SHIFT key. I don't support the word hierarchy, anyway. I think the little common words are very important!]

Today's blog comes to you in 5 parts:

- Dear Alex, I AM SO JEALOUS OF YOU. Jealously, Vita.
P.S. In all seriousness, I hope you're having a fabulous time on your cruise, even though I am sort of turning into the green monster (no, not the Hulk) due to the fact that you a) are on a cruise, b) you are on a cruise through the Caribbean, and c) you went to the HARRY POTTER THEME PARK! Jealousjealousjealous. 'Tis vair cool that you got to go, though. Raving Persuasions REPRESENT!

- Dear Rena, if I'm not mistaken, I believe your school session (or as I like to call it, your OPPORTUNITY FOR A QUEST OF KNOWLEDGE) starts on Monday. The horror! I feel for you. I'll feel for you more empathetically next Friday when I'm facing my last weekend of relative freedom, but still. I feel for you. I hope you're doing something FUN in celebration this weekend, or at least that you are SLEEPING as much as possible in preparation for the school year. Sympathetically, Vita.

- I went to Pittsburgh earlier this week (that's why there was no blog from me on Monday). Holy crap, it is the cleanest and most stylized major city I have ever visited. Granted, I've only visited about four major cities. REALLY THOUGH. It was quite fun though, even though we went on a Monday when apparently everything and its mother is closed. Well, aside from, like, shops and crap. What I mean to say is that the museums were closed, which is all that matters. We visited the Andy Warhol museum on Tuesday, which inspired me to mentally write a blog post discussing my knowledge of art (or lack thereof).

- I finished the Pretty Little Liars series (the one that you're not supposed to judge me for liking, remember? Although to be fair, you probably wouldn't even care if I stopped reminding you not to judge me and perhaps you are now judging me in an attempt to shut me up? Ah well). It was quite the "thrilling conclusion," as the tagline suggested. All I'll say is that it reminded me of Ending Option #3 of the "Clue" movie: it was good, it was enjoyable, it was surprising, but a part of me just didn't want it to be true. (My sense of regret was somewhat more intense in "Clue" because I love "Clue" A LOT.) Anyway, the whole series is rather addictive and vair easy to read - I literally read the last two books in the series in five or six hours - but I am now at a loss with what to do with my copies of the books. Like, it's the kind of thing you read just to find out what happens, not because you want to savor every last word, you know? Still, after reading the conclusion my whole perspective on the series is skewed, so perhaps I will reread them one day...

- I also finished the Georgia Nicolson series. As I've said before, they are quite literally the funniest books I have ever read in my whole entire life. The first six are the best, I think, but they're all pretty damn hilarious. I think I'm going to force my future children to read them one day; it ought to keep them from ever getting sad, ever.

I'm sure there is MORE to be said but I don't feel liking typing it out, so BYE BYE!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I really am starting to understand that whole 'humidity sucks' thing people are always on about. Have you ever been to the rainforest room of a zoo or aquarium where you walk in and all of a sudden it's really warm and somewhat misty? That's what it's like to leave any building in Orlando, Florida.

Once you're out in it, the heat/humidity isn't that bad. You get accustomed to the sweat on your brow and constand desire to chug water. The killer is entering another building, being cold for a minute, getting accustomed to the cooler temperature just when you have to leave and reenter the heat.

I'm sure if it was either one all the time, you wouldn't notice it as much. But as it is, every time I go anywhere it's like opening the door to the rainforest room again, without the cool little frogs everywhere.

I have to go now. It's technically past midnight but this should get posted earlier because at home it's still yesterday. Confusing. HARRY POTTER WORLD TOMORROW!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

So Incredibly Emo

I'm kind of an emotional person. I cry in movies. I feel guilt easily. I am empathic, compassionate some sometimes self sacrificing. I hate hurting people, whether it's their physical being or their mental/emotional state. I hate saying goodbye whether it's to my mother when she's going away for a weekend or to my Japanese exchange students who I'll likely never see again.

This makes me something of a cripple.

You don't even have to tell me you're feeling hurt, offended, neglected or unloved. If I get the faintest impression that you are, I will probably get upset with myself about that. And maybe I don't seem like that type of person. Yes, I am strong willed and opinionated and blah blah blah. But I'm also emotionally impressionable. I'm easily affected by others and I'm very sensitive to the tension and emotions around me.

Why am I telling you this? I guess I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. I was supposed to be going camping with a friend for a week but then I cancelled on her because I was invited to the Caribbean (she understood, I'm pretty sure, but I still feel awful). Now I'm leaving my little sister for two weeks to gallivant around on a cruise ship and possibly to go Harry Potter World (I'm feeling pretty guilty about that, not to mention spoiled, selfish and undeserving). To top it off I recently got a job so I've had to get a bank deposit sheet and Hepatitus A vaccine, which sucked because I hate needles (it wasn't that bad, though), and find my social insurance number and buy black pants. Also, I'm trying to finish my Visual Arts course and feeling like a total deadbeat student even though my mentor is completely supportive and nice and thinks I'm doing great (I'm not, but the thought is nice).
Tomorrow I have a contact fitting at 1pm and then my job orientation at 2pm which makes me a little frazzled.

The overwhelmed busyness mixed with the guilt and pre-vacation stress is getting to me. Also, my sister went away today on the camping trip I ditched and I'll miss her. Plus, I'm missing my oldest sister (who I haven't seen in 6 months) who met John Green and is in England and having rotten luck finding worthwhile employers (to give you an example of my easily disrupted tear ducts, I totally cried a little when we went to see How To Train Your Dragon without her because she absolutely loved that movie and I wished she had been there rather than in London with her stupid employers).

Whatever. I should go to bed. Tomorrow is going to be crazy enough without adding lack of sleep into the mix. Damnit, it's already quarter to 12. Why?!?!?! Catch all of you on the flip flop.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Popularity is Good (also, Gaga)

Sometimes, you gotta like shit just because it's popular.

Think about it: Mean Girls, Glee, Lady Gaga... where would we be if we were alone in our obsession? What would become of our lives if we couldn't cry "Four for you, Glenn Coco! You go, Glenn Coco!" at random intervals, if we couldn't spend hours discussing whether or not the Glee gang's voices are too auto-tuned on the show, if we couldn't hear Gaga refer to us as "little monsters?" Sobbing underneath our covers with a cup of hot chocolate, that's where.

That's not to say that you should commit a felony because all your friends are doing it. If you really don't like something, don't like it. It's not a hard concept. And there are times when trends get so huge that they become a never-ending source of torture for all those who are less than in love.

But stardom has shone upon Lady Gaga, and I am not about to take it away from her (as if I could!).

Mean Girls, Glee, Lady Gaga - I only started liking any of them because they were so gosh darn popular. I saw Mean Girls for the first time four years after it came out and it's still talked about like it's the only movie ever made. I listened to "Bad Romance" - the first Gaga song I ever truly loved - because people in my Chem class couldn't stop singing the intro. I finally caught up with Glee on Hulu because my Yearbook class friend couldn't shut up about it. And while I genuinely adore Lady Gaga now, not for her popularity but for her songs and personality, I'm still not a honest-to-God fan of Mean Girls (even though I LOVE Tina Fey) or Glee (it's good, but like... it's not that good). But I still partake in the merriment surrounding them because it's so fun. Honestly. The hype around them is so much more entertaining than the actual things that I almost have to laugh at the people who are so vehemently anti-Glee. Shit man, stop freaking out about them screwing up a Queen song (I didn't like Vocal Adrenaline's cover either!) and accept that it's a show meant to entertain. One show doing a less-than-perfect cover of a classic isn't going to ruin the song forever.

And what would Lady Gaga be without her somewhat staged insanity, her hordes of adoring fans? Life would be no fun if virtually everybody in the room couldn't start singing along to her newest hit. Our weeks would be boring without Lady Gaga dress-up days - an excuse to smother your face in makeup just for the sake of looking crazy. If you don't appreciate her music, you can at least appreciate Gaga as a phenomenon. It's awesome.

Sometimes, your love for amazing things (Harry Potter, for example) makes them hugely popular. Sometimes, the popularity of things makes you love them. I'm not saying you have to love everything - shit, no matter how many times you play me "Tik Tok" parodies (which I DO love), I do not like Keh-dollar sign-HA - but if there's something big that you kind of like, just roll with it. You'll be happy you did.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I love Google Analytics. So so much. It's not so much I'm getting caught up on the numbers. I'm happy blogging into the void, with only my mom checking up on the page once a month. But it's so much nicer to know that the header isn't being enjoyed by just me and that someone actually reads the words that I write whether they're exceedingly random or delicately written. I know I've got Rena and Vita but there's something so comforting to see the Analytics page look like this (click on the pictures and they get bigger):

Isn't it exciting that we get 10-30 views per day? I know it's not The Hayleylujah Chorus, but I think this, all of this *gestures wildly*, is awesome.

And now you shall see the story of our blog through a series of charts (*cough* two), graphs and zig zag lines.
From May 6th (our Google Analytics anniversary) to today:
Can you believe we've had 943 different people at least glance at our page? And yes, a few of those people were me at different computers, but still, that's a lot of people. A lot of people. Almost 1000 people. Holy crap.

This next screenshot is comparing the last month (July 12-August 12) to the same time last year. As you can see, our popularity has increased in the last 12 months:

And that's that. Do you love Analytics, too?

Deep Post Script Note:
The main thing I learned last BEDA, not to get all 'this is what I learned from that experience' on you, is that blogging is a community thing. I'm always reading blogs and every so often I'll come across something like "How to Increase Your Pageviews" or "How to Turn Readers Into Commenters" and it seems like there are a lot of people out there who blog for attention.

And maybe there's a part of my subconscious that wants strangers to care about my life and opinions and that is why I blog but on a conscious level I do it because I love to write and I love feeling connected to other people. I love sharing, maybe that's a slight attention thing, but I also love to listen and read.

What I'm trying to say is that I think if you see blogging as a way to make people like and remember you, you've already failed. If you want people to care about what you write in your blog, you have to care about what they write in their blogs. If you want people to comment on your blog, you should comment on other people's blogs. I don't think it's about spotlight and attention; I think it's about connectedness and community.

So although I'm happy the charts above, I'm not getting hung up on it...
But still... squee!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vanessa... The Door is That Way

I spent so much time today on Youtube watching every possible RENT actress perform "Out Tonight." Do you know how devastated I am that I have missed my small window of opportunity to see RENT live onstage? VERY DEVASTATED. They need to do a revival. Preferably with the original cast, but since that I am 99.99999999% positive that it's never going to happen, I'd genuinely be 100% (or perhaps 99.99999999%) content with any Broadway-worthy cast. By which I mean, a cast that can sing and act of a Broadway-worthy caliber. As far as I'm concerned, you don't have to be famous to be on Broadway, but you had best be talented or else you're just a jerk.

Speaking of RENT revivals, I watched a most-likely-illegally-filmed clip of Vanessa Hudgens singing "Light My Candle" in the Hollywood Bowl production of the musical and it was crap.

I say that as objectively as possible. I'm no great fan of V-Huds' because she nearly ruined an otherwise PERFECTLY FINE, albeit extremely cheesy and also a rip-off of Grease, Disney channel movie. Yes, that's right, Vanessa: you almost ruined High School Musical. Now, HSM is no great theatrical feat and the two sequels were actually terrible, but it is the sort of thing that one could theoretically dance and sing along to on any given day. I don't know if you're annoying or if it was just your character that was annoying, but THE PERSON YOU PLAYED ONSCREEN KILLED MY SOUL.

However, I have no personal grudge against her.

So: she's an okay singer. There were some parts where she was on-tune and sounding fine - not exactly inspiring, but pretty good - but she could not STAY on-tune to save her life. I think she'd be a decent singer if she stuck to easier songs that are NOT SHOWTUNES (even rock-ish ones) because her voice is definitely not powerful enough to sing those songs anywhere other than in her bedroom, to herself. Plus she completely misread the character (Mimi), in my opinion. I understand that each actor interprets the character differently, but by most (read: all) accounts, Mimi isn't supposed to be angry during that scene; she's teasing, flirting, NOT about to rip Roger's balls off.

Then I learned that there's a filmed live performance available for DVD! Now I have something with which I can motivate myself to finish my summer work! (Other than the risk of, like, failing school.)

P.S., I also blogged here today (for the first time in a week) before I realized that it was Monday, so I have totally got BEDA in the BAG today.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ideally speaking

Public school does have potential. I have never disagreed with that. I also don't believe unschooling is for everyone (to be honest, I think what you've described, Rena, would be isolating rather than invigorating). There are tons of kids who prefer the social environment that school offers. Kids that prefer a teacher to a book. So there should be public schools. Everyone should have fair access to education, an easy way to learn whatever they'd like. What I think needs to change is the definition of a public school. The core of what it really is.

My mom once told me about a group of kids who went to an alternative school, ages 9-12, who had never formally learned math before. They decided that they wanted to learn it all (the K-6 math basics) and though their teacher tried to dissuade them, (what??) they were determined. Their teacher said to show up at 11am twice a week for a half hour class. If anyone showed up five minutes late, class was cancelled and if it happened twice, there'd be no more math classes.

And they did it. Tuesdays and Thursdays all the kids showed up on time for half an hour of learning math. And they learned it. This is a quote from a speech that mentioned this occurrence by David Albert:
 In 20 contact hours, every single one of the kids knew the material cold. No slackers. No failures. No one “left back.” No “math anxiety.” No boredom, frustration, embarrassment. No shame or humiliation. No competition, “achievement, “failure,” or “success.” No prizes. Just 'rithmetic. The students held a party to celebrate.
How? How did a group of dedicated students learn six school years worth of math in 20 hours? Because they cared. They weren't doing it because their teacher told them too. They wanted to learn math and so it was 100% easier for them to focus as a class and get it done.

One of my issues with compulsory education is the compulsory part. When something is forced on you, it's usually less appealing, whether it's broccoli or multiplication tables. If no one told kids they had to learn to read, don't you think they'd still want to learn? Don't you think that a kid who decided to learn to read on their own is going to have an easier time than a kid who doesn't even care to try? And if that child decides that they don't need to know how to read just yet, do you think they're going to be illiterate for the rest of their existence? I think not.

So what if we didn't force learning on kids? What if we said they didn't have to come to school for the whole day and that it was their choice. What if we gave the learners the choice of what to learn. And I don't mean a choice on what to write your essay on. I mean a student directed curriculum.

Some people will say that if you let kids choose whether or not to go to school, they won't go. They'll sit home and watch cartoons all day like an eternal summer vacation. But I think those people are wrong. I think we are naturally curious, creative and eager to learn, as humans. I think that if it's a choice, kids would love school even more. Vita and Rena have both recounted their amazing experiences from school. Wouldn't that have been even more awesome if it had been your choice to go? If you had gotten to choose between learning to type and learning to play the recorder? If your friends and your class were all personally invested in the subject matter because you were the ones that chose it?

I think it could make all the difference.

High schools are a little bit different. I believe that if you put the steering wheel of elementary school in the students hands they would all leave with the same skill sets, only it would have meaning to them. If the kids bought into the decision of what to learn they would own it and care. And maybe they'd know more about the  solar systems than long division but if it had been up to them, I think that's better in the end.

Back to what I said about how the definition of school needs to change. Yes. I think high school needs to stop resembling a prison where students hear a bell and are ushered from class to class. I think a high school should seem like more of a center of learning and less like a holding cell. There is a ton of value to be found in learners coming together and being taught by passionate mentors but I think we're missing that choice that allows a person to take ownership of their own education.

Maybe school should start at 11am and should only last for three hours a day. Maybe there should be field internships and mentoring and modelling and general doing rather than lecturing and reading from textbooks. Maybe there should be discussions instead of tests. Maybe there should be departments where students can wander at will, with classes that are open to students of all ages and absolutely nothing compulsory. Maybe there should be a democratic system, and a board of learners, rather than bureaucrats.

And yeah, you'll get teenagers who just want to stay home, but overall, I think you'll get learners rather than students who care about their coursework and are interested in going to school. So yeah, I think there's quite a bit of potential there.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

School: A Proposed Happy Medium

I'm going to start by saying I have been and always will be jealous of ANYONE who gets to wake up at 9 in the morning and stay in pajamas while writing.

So much that this is what I have been doing all summer, including RIGHT NOW. It's kind of fantastic.

BUT the public school system is also fantastic. It does not condition us for boredom. There was a time when we attacked everything with curiosity and eagerness, lead on by teachers who taught those things by example.

There was a time when I thought the coolest thing ever was subtracting with Roman numerals, because I understood, and no one else did and I was praised by my teacher for it. I still remember her and my class and other trivial memories like the mural in the staircase leading down to the lunch room that always smelled like hot dogs and watered-down cleaner and Hi-C punch, and the time I lost my left front tooth on the back of a boy's pants.* (What the hell, I'm even not going to make you wait for a footnote, because if I were you that wording would distract me from reading the rest of this blog post, and as the author I'd like this to be read. Simply put: TAG X-TREME. I--accidentally--shoved him into the woodchips, stated falling, snagged my mouth around the metal button on his back pocket, and hit the ground with a bleeding hole in my mouth, which I quite enjoyed because it made me look "tough".)

Though not pleasant, or even indeed important, these are the things that shaped us. That comraderie and passion only left us when school became bigger, more daunting and *GASP* recessless. This being a generalization, of course. Sixth (and seventh, we were lucky enough to have the same teacher and classmates for two years) grade English was memorable and interesting, although I sense this was only because--playing to Alex's point--the class size was small, and we were treated as individuals. It was less like learning what 15 other people were learning and more like collaborating with 15 people.

So, I propose a combination: Education would still be compulsory in some way until 17, and public, group education compulsory until 11. This teaches social skills and breeds the necessary thirst for learning, and then before that excitement dulls to routine and inevitability, letting them learn whatever they want. Math/English/all that jazz would still be necessary, but could be completed over the Internet and with the specific interests of that student in mind. I realize this is idealistic and would require things like parent consent and whatnot (public secondary/middle/high schools would still exist in the event these are not, the more I seriously think about this, the more it seems plausible), but I still think it should be an option, provided the transition to online courses and whatnot (why do I keep using that word? I know there's more to it that I'm not thinking of but am aknowledging...) could be made easier/more accessible to the public-school-accustomed.

Thoughts? (Like I said, this is becoming plausible to me, but it may never exit the realm of utter brain crack.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

In Defense of Public Schools (Mostly the Elementary Ones)

I was born shy and got progressively less so with every passing year. The first few years of my life were overshadowed by a crippling reservedness that didn't allow me to visit my next-door-neighbor's house until they'd lived there for a year - and those were people I eventually came to be best friends with for a good five years of my childhood. As such, the doors of my preschool were the gates of Hades to me; the other children I didn't mind so much, but the main teacher was too abrasive for four year olds and her assistant was too coddling. I dreaded those three hours per day, three days per week. Naturally, I wasn't too excited for kindergarten - school every day? What twisted adult came up with such a child-hating scheme?

Imagine my utter befuddlement when instead of a scary child-eating monster à la The Teacher from the Black Lagoon, I was greeted by a wonderful teacher with a fabulous sense of humor who told me I was a good reader because I moved my eyes and not my whole head when I read!

Memories are as vivid as the blinking screen in front of me. The screechy lunch assistant who caused us to snicker that principals only hire supporting staff who hate children. The time an infestation of mold caused a fourth-grade class to seek refuge in the wonderfully cozy library. The glorious, wooden, castle-like jungle gym that was eventually demolished due to the sheer number of students who didn’t understand that you have to grip the pole when you’re sliding down it. The songs we sang to our home-grown butterflies as we released them in the beautifully messy courtyard. The way we slugged through the hallways on the last day of school, reluctant to leave; how, as we stepped through the archaic glass doors and felt the burning June sun on our cheeks, we forgot all about our former teachers and ran across the wide field to celebrate our freedom on the pleasantly hot swinging monkey bars. The annual back-to-school tradition of all of us eagerly lining up, anxiously shoving past each other, to find our names under our new teacher on the lists posted on the front of the school building.

And the learning, too: working through problem after problem of Singapore math, a since abandoned yet astonishingly educational math curriculum. Wrapping strands of yellow tape around our bellies as we embarked on a giggly lesson of how to measure. Milking my one-day absence for all it was worth as I turned in a report on whales three days late. Snarkily writing “if you don’t understand, you should probably read something else” in that report, only to have my teacher warn me in the margin to “be nice.” Hearing my fourth-grade teacher ask me to sign her own yearbook because she wanted to have something to prove that she taught me when I became a best-selling author. Mixing together a gooey mess of “Oobleck;” I still don't know if it is considered a solid or a liquid.

When I visit my recently rebuilt elementary school and see its reflecting tiled floors and beige-white walls, its irrationally clean rooms and orderly art displays, I'm overwhelmed by a certain nostalgia. I don't want to return to elementary school; it was great, but not an environment in which I could currently flourish - mostly because the oldest student there is maybe twelve. What I want, I think, is to gift my experience at elementary school to all the kids currently attending it.

My brain knows that the old building was way too small and old and unclean, but it was so colorful and simply bursting with personality. I want to give these kids the splatter-painted art room's walls, the exclusive "pod" of fourth and fifth grade classes that made us feel like we'd finally worked our way to the top. I want to give them the incredible feeling of being "just okay" at reading in kindergarten and suddenly having it click over the summer, and shooting to the most advanced first grade reading group. I want to give them all somebody like my parents and fourth grade teacher, who wouldn't let the system push me two grade levels ahead in math because they all knew it would stress me out way more than it was worth. I want all the kids who don't speak English to have the most amazing ESOL teacher; I want the kids frustrated by learning disabilities to still manage to find a love for learning. Most of all, I want everybody to find elementary school as worthwhile as I did. I was a reasonably intelligent and relatively privileged kid. I want everybody else to be the same. Not for them to have the same ideas, the same strengths and weaknesses; not for them to be identical slaves for the system. I just want them all to have teachers who care, teachers who can teach, parents who have time to go over their homework with them.

That’s the same attitude that should continue through middle and high school as well. It’s harder when you get older because there’s no allotted recess or finger-painting-with-shaving-cream-under-the-pretense-of-cleaning-the-desks breaks (although I do think high schools should implement an official nap time. You know, besides most history classes). It’s harder because there’s more pressure on the teachers to prepare you for this and this and this. It’s harder because counties have less money due to and think that cutting back schools’ funding is a great solution.

But at the same time, I’m not living what you’re seeing, Alex. I don’t feel like the only reason I’m in school is to pass a test. Maybe I’m biased because I love the subject, but as an example, I’ve never – not once, not even during middle school with the sixth grade teacher who actually did hate children – felt like an English class was just trying to prepare me for a test. What I loved about my English class this past year was that our teacher genuinely cared – or at least, did a damn good job of pretending to care – about what we had to say. Our class could actually have a discussion and there wouldn’t be one correct test-worthy answer.

I guess the point of this somewhat disjointed post is this: Public school has potential. I know it does, because I've lived it. Right now, especially in high schools, the learning has a tendency to get pushed aside in favor of better test scores. But there are people, students and staff alike, who fight against that, and it is possible for that jubilant elementary school attitude to be restored.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I don't mean for this to be a haha, you go to school and I don't blog, but if it turns out that way, I apologize.

I just wanted to express how happy I am that I did not start school at age five. I'm so incredibly grateful that I haven't been conditioned for boredom. I'm not a worker, I'm a contributor. Sometimes that feeling hits me and all I can think is, "Thank you, mom. Thank you for caring. Thank you for not wanting me to go away for half of my waking hours. Thank you for letting me live."

Because that's how I feel. I feel like I've had a chance to live while everyone else has been shuffling from class to class. And I'll be the first to admit that I don't have the fullest perspective, never having been to 'real' five days a week school before but I feel like I know a few things. One of those things is that schools don't teach you how to learn, they teach you how to pass tests. I don't feel like kids graduate from high school with an open mind and a passion for learning new things. Graduation doesn't seem like a celebration of learning and curiosity, it seems like a ceremony to say, okay you've survived this far, good luck with university (or cleaning toilets if you chose not to go), go drink beer illegally and try to forget the hellish experiences you've had.

And that's not cool with me. Or Erica Goldson of Coxsackie-Athens High School, apparently. (that link goes to a real high school graduation speech where a real valedictorian talks about the school system and why is sort of sucks)

So I've spent the last three days waking up at 7:30 to get on the bus to go to school and teach English (same as I did in March, if you remember) until 3:30 when I go home and crash because I'm so tired. Perhaps it's because I haven't been accustomed to this idea of life before but I don't understand how you normal school kids can function. How do you have time for what you love? How can you manage to sit in a chair for so long every day? You all amaze/horrify me.

And so the weird girl becomes even more accustomed and appreciative of her own weirdness. She will wake up at 9 and look in the mirror at her pajama clad, bedheadedness and smile because life is good. The reason for getting out from under the warm covers isn't a chemistry test but a chapter floating around in her head for her novel, waiting to be written.

Basically, I'm trying to say I'm sad that you're all going back to school in a couple weeks and I wish you were here, experiencing life like the one I live, even if you're fine with staggering through a couple more years of high school. I guess I'm kind of sad that so many kids will accept boredom so easily. And I don't know what to do about that.

Monday, August 2, 2010

First Impressions

NOTE: I won't be cross-posting from my other (possibly dead-after-August) blog most days, but as I left this a little late and I felt like I should post something on the other one today, I'm going to spam you just this one time... sorry.

This is discussing the book Looking for Alaska by John Green, FYI. (Oh look, I know internet lingo!)


First impressions are silly little things. You can't possibly know a person after meeting them one time. You know that. I know that. It doesn't stop your brain from filing away the supposed personality of said person FOR ALL TIME, though.

Brains cause us nothing but pain and suffering. Why we even use them is a mystery to me...

Anyway, we open Looking for Alaska and are immediately sucked into the high-thrills life of Miles Halter: the curious teenager who accepts the dismal turnout to his going-away party without wanting to kill the no-show invitees. As he says, he's not disappointed because his low expectations are met. Still, don't you find it strange that he doesn't seem to care one bit? Proof that nobody cares about you enough to wish you goodbye?

Then again, you'd have a heart attack if you were perpetually surprised by your lack of friends.

Which leads us to the question of why - why doesn't he have any friends in Florida? He seems like your average nerdy kid. Cynics may say it's for the greater good of the plot. I think it's for the sole reason that his Floridian public school isn't his "Great Perhaps" - there's nothing there for him; how can he be invested in a place of absolutely no personal importance? When you make friends, you're giving a part of yourself away. You're saying, "Here I am! You can take this little piece of me and do with it what you want!" And if they're school friends, they're going to take that little piece of you and bury it in the fibers of that school whether you like it or not.

Once Miles arrives at Culver Creek, he wastes no time in embodying my thoughts before most social outings: planning the ideal outcome of the forthcoming event out in your head. O Miles, how truly thou doth speak. Like the trailer for most summer movies, the anticipation is so much better than the real thing.

Then, because he is hot, (wordplay wordplay hahaha!), he takes a shower, like all cool kids . [That was entirely too many commas for one sentence.]

Cool. I am cool. I am MILES [expletive] HALTER and I do what I want, goddammit!

In sashays Chip Martin (henceforth "The Colonel"), whom I have always pictured as black. It wasn't until my second reading of the book that I realized that his race is never explicitly stated. This leads me to wonder why I contemplated his skin color at all and my brain once again directs me to our first impression of the Colonel: he's "short and muscular with a shock of brown hair." OHAI, first subconscious clue - brown. I don't know what this says about me, but every time a character is described as having a hair color that is dark, the movie screen in my head gives 'em dark skin.

It's the same thing with those "tall, dark, and handsome" characters. You may be referring to his hair color, but I always envision a blonde girl leading around an Eastern European man tilting his hat to cast his body into shadow.

Maybe that's strange since people often color characters with familiar traits. To be honest, I usually picture characters as being light skinned unless it's explicitly otherwise stated. (I am Polish-American on one side and English on the other, so I am pretty damn close to actually being the color white.) But... that's probably not a good habit since people aren't homogeneous.

I don't know. Race is a touchy subject. I'm going to stop talking about it now.

The Colonel is one of my favorite characters. He reminds me of Oscar the Grouch - he's, well, grouchy, but in an endearing way. And he gives Miles (henceforth "Pudge") an excellent nickname! IRONY FOR DA LULZ.

Well, this was a shamefully shit first (second) post. SORRY. What can ya do? ("Stop procrastinating," answers the voice in my head.)

I’m trying to find the right balance between straight up discussing the book and relating my own forays into human civilization. I don’t want to be like, “well, the first letter on page 32 reminds me of the time when I was asked – nay, begged – to model by no less than fourteen agencies within a time span of three hours.” Whatever my flaws may be, I’m not that unabashedly narcissistic. (And also because the only time I've ever been asked to model was at the age of eight as my mom and I were walking past a vendor on the second floor of the mall. That, dear readers, is what we call a scam.) At the same time, people don’t often like reading other people’s dissertations about The Wonders of the Elusive Motif in this Very Important Book that You Don’t Understand. Especially not when there are 30 dissertations*. All in blog form.

Of course, I did just come up with that last paragraph while trying to establish “trust eyes” with myself in front of a full-length mirror, so perhaps I’m not an expert when it comes to not be egotistical…

*I mean “dissertation” in the “formal piece of writing way,” not the “needed to obtain a doctorate degree” way; as far as I know, I am not enrolled in graduate school.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Transitioning to "obscenity"

Welcome to BEDA. I'm not sure how all the crossposting is going to work but I do love the community vibe of the Ning and how much easier to is to find and comment on other blogs... so I'm really looking forward to that. *slightly maniacal chuckle*

I'm simply going to hop right into my topic*: bad words.

When you were a kid, were there words you weren't supposed to say? I know 'stupid' was one in my house. Seems pretty tame these days. The first time I heard someone say 'bitch' was when I was maybe seven. At the park in my previous townhouse complex, there frequented a boy whose name was Jimmy and he was considered mean. Then one time he called my friend-who-wasn't-a-very-good-friend-in-retrospect Miriam a bitch. That's the end of the story.

Anyway, it wasn't okay to say these words whether they were 'hell', 'shit', 'ass', 'doodoohead', 'bitch', or, God forbid, 'fuck.' I'm not sure how we knew what the words were or what the meant (we probably didn't) but we knew that we shouldn't say them.

But sometimes we wanted to.

This could easily be a blog post about how we choose the words that aren't okay to say. Why do we have a language with 'bad words' when we created them all? But it's actually about something about as tangible. So I ask, when was that moment when I went from an innocently spoken girl to someone who drops whatever language she feels like, and is comfortable with that, even when others aren't.

After Jimmy, I had friend who introduced me to the less guarded colloquialisms of our youth. She said those words and soon it caught on and I did, too--around her, anyway. Maybe I wanted to fit in. Maybe it was just nice to be in an environment where no one would be mad at me for saying the wrong word.

Those words traveled home and somehow, saying 'shit' was fine instead of 'shoot'. I could say 'what the hell' instead of 'what the heck'. Slowly, I transitioned into the unguarded language I use today.

How the fuck did that happen?

How did I miss the moment when it became okay to say that Professor Umbridge was a bitch in front of my parents? When did it become acceptable for me to comment on how fucked up the human race is? And on the flip side, when did it become normal for my parents to drop the 'f' bomb around me (not that they do, but in theory)? What is this batshit craziness?

p.s. I don't swear liberally around my parents. It's only sparingly and when I feel it's necessary. So please don't start thinking that every other word I utter to my mom is fuck. Because it's not. I'm still a little apprehensive about that. ;)

Question: Does your language change depending on your company? Also, was there ever a time when you heard someone say the 'f' word and it seemed totally wrong coming out of their mouth?

*What? I have a topic? I know, BEDA is mindblowing, even on day 1.