Saturday, December 31, 2011

Was going to make this a vlog, but I'm even lazier


1) Took an AP class, rode across the country in a car for ~4 days, Tumblrd, got in a car accident. . .quite an exciting list of things.

2) Didn't even make them to begin with.

3) 'Murrica the beautiful. 

4) More confidence, more of a voice, peace of mind regarding my future, a paying job, TFiOS, and a guitar. (whoohoo materialism!)

5) January 8th (see #1)

6) Ehhhhh. . . performing poetry I'd written in front of a group of people and not having things thrown at me?

7) Panic-stricken inability to drive a car and subsequent refusal to try again after Driver's Ed ended.

8) *Not "for me" but it wound up in my possession* My duvet, which is fantastically warm and constructed out of solidified tears of joy from angels and. . . I just like it a lot.

9) Didn't keep track (hooray money-managment skills!), but probably books or iTunes (because I'm a GOOD PERSON and buy music legally).

10) EX: 1 (for exemplary memeness, and if you haven't guessed it correctly Tumblr taught you nothing this year and you should be ashamed of yourself.), 2 (because reasons, mostly inside joke related), 3 (was actually on the radio a lot which is the traditional answer to this question)

11) Eating food, spending time with relatives, arguing with racist/sexist relatives, more eating, and intensely competitive games.

12) With Flight of the Conchords! :DDDD (with persons, strictly speaking, no.)

13) Bumped, Tales of the Madman Underground, Angela's Ashes, The Name of the Star. . .

14) Horrifically unfair question which I refuse to answer on moral grounds such as that 2011 was possibly the biggest year to date of "me caring about music at all" so that every discovery was equally great etc etc. . . but for the sake of survey completion, also Flight of the Conchords.

15) Went to school, came home and ate cake (on the day itself, anyway); 16.

16) See anything in #4.

17) I prefer to think I kept sane of my own accord, but probably Tumblr, other people, music in general.

18) No one for a notably extended amount of time, luckily.

19) EVERYTHING. ALL THE THINGS. Um, "authentic" red beans and rice. (via Disneyworld, shhh.)

20) Tumblr is the best thing on the internet known to mankind; it's extremely unlikely that everyone hates me and I shouldn't assume that (more reinforced than learned).

Friday, December 30, 2011

Because I'm lazy

End of the Year Survey

If you want to answer them yourself:

1) What did you do in 2011 that you had never done before?
2) Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions?
3) What countries did you visit in 2011?
4) What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
5) What dates will remain etched upon your memory and why?
6) Biggest achievement?
7) Biggest failure?
8) Best thing someone bought for you in 2011?
9) Where did most of your money go?
10) What song will always remind you of 2011?
11) How did you spend Christmas? (or, y'know, whatever holiday you celebrate)
12) Did you fall in love in 2011?
13) What was the best book you read in 2011?
14) Greatest musical discovery?
15) What did you do on your birthday and how old did you turn?
16) What is one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
17) What kept you sane?
18) Who did you miss?
19) Best thing you ate?
20) What lessons did you learn in 2011?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Look at all the italics

Everyone experiences the same basic human emotions, but it's really how we deal with/express them that makes communication hard. I, for instance, tend to leave things in draft blog posts (my last actual one was nearly two weeks ago. er. Belated merry Christmas and that jazz.) or type out extremely lengthy notes and musings to myself that will never see the outside of my head or my hard drive. I withdraw. A lot. I withdraw from the internet even, reduced to lurking and maybe a picture of cute otters on Tumblr.

In response to Alex's (currently) most recent post, I feel like it illustrates a lot of the differences between us. I'm not saying this is good or bad or anything, just different.

Firstly, I didn't particularly care for Catcher in the Rye. Holden's narration is alright for, say, a blog, (if 50s prep school kids had blogs) but is off-putting in an entire novel. But more the problem I have with it is just my reaction to all the feels that Holden expresses in the book. I am not Holden. I'd never (I'm tempted to say "whine" here, but I recognize my own bias...) be that open about the aforementioned all the feels. I certainly didn't cry when I read it nor did I care about other people who had.

I have a different example that kind of illustrates what I want to say better.

A verse from a blatantly anti-suicide song*:

"Oh no, love, you're not alone.
No matter what or who you've been
No matter when or where you've seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I've had my share, I'll help you with the pain
You are not alone."

Which is a wonderful message, and if it helps anyone I invite them to take their own personal meaning out of it, help is oftimes necessary and should be sought in the form of people instead of songs etc etc, but when I first listened to it (when the knives were metaphorically lacerating my brain), I kind of raged against it. I wanted to be alone. I didn't want to be encouraged by or connected to anything. Which is kind of what Catcher in the Rye did to me. I refused to relate to it.

What I have connected to recently though--initially in a really self-pitying way that has gradually (in three days**) turned more uplifting--is Eagle vs. Shark. (I text-posted a bit about the self-pitying on Tumblr. Tumblr is good for things like that.) While I was drawn to it because it seemed in the vein of Juno and Napoleon Dynamite and suchlike cinematic indie fluffiness I hold dear to my heart, I wound up really emotionally invested*** in the characters and their fictional relationships. I didn't care about connecting to other (real) people's histories; I loved that the atmosphere of it was so personal, so close that viewing it seemed a little voyeuristic (which is kind of a given, considering that major hunks of plot take place in a two-person tent). Nothing existed but the characters and me, the only person watching them.

My reaction to this particular film (one of many media portrayals of Romantically Entwined Socially Awkward People--made by Socially Awkward People, for Socially Awkward People.) was viscerally horrible. My thought process (resulting either from my inability or unwillingness to separate Fiction from Real Life) was along the lines of "God, look at them. Even these two awkward nerds with intensely dysfunctional backgrounds can find love, and I can't. I can't even do quirky-indie-film-romance right, let alone real-serious-romance. This is undeniable proof that I'm going to die alone." But the female lead's--Lily's--optimism was infectious to me. At a different point in time I may have found it sickening, but not right now, and I'm embracing it.

This movie is not proof that I'm going to die alone. It's not "real" proof of anything, strictly speaking, except that good dramatic-romantic-comedies still exist. While I've come to realize that my success (present or future) as a person can't be determined by comparing my life to those of fictional people, fictional representations of hope and humanity can still be valid. Which is basically what I've been looking for, in any context. That's the important thing, whether found in classic literature or hipstery foreign films. There's nothing selfish about that.

*  Ironically (?) called Rock 'n' Roll Suicide.

** I've literally watched it three times in three days. Between the hours of midnight and two o'clock when Tumblr starts getting slow, I'll shove it in the slot in my computer and focus intently on one thing for 88 straight minutes, which is something else I haven't been doing a lot. (It's probably a bit more selfish/lazy to rely on a movie for comfort instead of a book. There's a lot less effort involved in watching something on film, and it also allows for mindless consumption of candy.) The repetition, the familiarity has become weirdly soothing, knowing the end doesn't spoil it, "You're a bitch, and you're going to die of diabetes." has not once failed to make me laugh, without caring that diabetes is not a laughing matter and so on and soforth. I don't know why I even re-watched it (wanting to wallow in self-loathing more because for some inexplicable reason I'm a sadist? Probably.), considering that my initial reaction should have stopped me, but I'm glad I did.

*** Such a scary phrase. I've been avoiding it lately. (I can't tell if this is a conscious effort or mere happenstance.) Gosh, so much italics in this post. So many titles. So much emphasis.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

so, hey, um...

I might be completely off my rocker crazy but I think that the three of us should all go to Leaky Con this summer because it is somewhat conveniently placed in Chicago and it would be 100% awesome.

And no, I did not spend the last hour researching transport. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.


p.s. okay, yeah, it's possible I'm just creating hypothetical summer plans to cheer myself up because I had a somewhat less than utterly fantastic day. Is there anything wrong with that, I ask you?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dishes and dissecting gender roles

[As a disclaimer even though disclaimers are usually unnecessary/eventually undermined: I respect both of my parents. They both work incredibly hard. Neither of them are radical, but they're both pretty progressive people. None of this is meant as a slight against either of them.]

This afternoon and evening, my mom and I spent most of the day cleaning the house to get ready for our Christmas guests tomorrow (well, she spent most of the day cleaning; I spent most of it alternately cleaning and shirking my responsibilities to go on Tumblr) while my dad went to work and then to church. This fact preyed on my mind as I was drying off our decorative kitchen china, newly liberated from thick layers of dust. It annoyed me. I don't especially mind doing household chores. I just question why I have to do them.

Yes, that sounds incredibly bratty. I understand that as the child of the household -- and also just a decent person who tries not to be an active burden on other people -- chores are expected of me. And that's fine! It makes sense. What I mean is why I, as a girl, get stuck with the drying dishes and setting tables.

In my case, it's easily explainable. I don't have any brothers, so any chores for the offspring would of course have to fall to a girl. I really mean this in a broader context: why is it that women in general still get stuck with the domestic work while men work outside of the home?

This is not a revolutionary perspective, I realize, nor has the thought failed to occur to me before. I bring it up because it directly relates to my parents and how conflicted I feel about their established roles in our family. Both of my parents work paying jobs and both of them work around the house. But the dynamic is still undeniably traditional: my dad makes the most money (though my mom gets the health benefits -- thanks, public school system) and my mom does a definite majority of the laundry, cooking, and so on. My mom also works a job that she is ridiculously overqualified for (it requires some college classes; she has a master's degree).

Now I hesitate to criticize this for two reasons: firstly, because I do believe that the true liberation of gender roles means that it has to be okay for people to choose to perform their traditional gender roles as long as it is truly a choice. Secondly, my mom genuinely loves her job and says that she ultimately is glad that she didn't stay in her first profession, speech therapy.

And that's great. But it pisses me off that this is still the trend. Why do women have to be the ones to sacrifice the professional jobs to stay home and raise the children?

Yeah, this is changing. Yeah, there are a lot more single parents, parents who both work, and stay-at-home dads. But overall, it's still the mothers who make the career sacrifice, mothers who have the double role as the keeper of the home and a career professional. Again, this isn't inherently bad. I think it's when it's part of a whole culture -- and it is -- when it's a problem.

I guess it's difficult to criticize my parents because I look up to both of them a lot, and I know them both pretty well, so I can explain away a lot of things that I might see as flaws in other people's relationships. So maybe part of this is a lack of failure on my part to imagine other people's relationships complexly. But I think that it also needs to be looked at from a broader perspective: when so many people choose to fulfill the same gender roles, doesn't that by default screw over all the people who reject those roles?

Mostly all this aimless, conflicted annoyance on my part has only made me sure of one thing: I most definitely do not want the same type of dynamic that my family has right now. I might want to get married, I might want kids, but I simply can't see myself ever wanting to sacrifice a career for that lifestyle. I want everyone in my family to be equal.

Parenthood is a totally noble path, don't get me wrong. It's just when so many people "choose" to do the same thing, I have to wonder how much of a "choice" it really is.


Anyway, on that cheerful note, Merry Christmas! (I believe you both celebrate it, Alex & Rena.) I sincerely hope that you all have a wonderful holiday.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

library copies of the catcher in the rye

I decided the other day that I need to reread The Catcher in the Rye. I was on tumblr, as I will be, and saw a picture that made me yearn for Holden's story in a way that I never have. It just seems so imperative that I read it at this exact point in my life.

I had a spare afternoon on Friday, so I went out to this tree that I like to climb and sat there for a while. There's this weird feeling where you're sitting in a tree and you can see people passing and you wonder if they see you. On Friday, I didn't feel that way because there was no one passing through the park. It was like I was utterly alone, sitting in that tree.

But not lonely--and that's an important distinction. When I say that I've been identifying with Holden Caulfield a lot in the past few daysweeksmonths, I don't mean it in a 'I'm standing in a phone booth with absolutely no one to call who I want to talk to and wants to talk to me.' Luckily, I have people to call. The way that I'm associating with Holden is more of a 'What happens to the ducks when the pond freezes over?' type of way.

Eventually, I hopped out of the tree and went to the library, in search of The Catcher in the Rye. They didn't have it in, unfortunately, so I put it on hold and headed up to the bookstore. My mom, upon hearing about my journey, proffered a copy of the book and I held it. The pages we neat and the spine wasn't cracked and I just stared at it for a while. Eventually, I put it back on the shelf and and walked out and my mom didn't understand why I didn't buy it, being a person who sells books and buys books and doesn't see why you should wait for a library hold when the book you want to read could be yours for 6.99. But I have my reasons.

You see, library books... they have history. When I check out The Catcher in the Rye from the library and the front cover is bent and some of the pages are folded at the corners and there's even some underlined passages or a scribbled note in the margins, I know it's been a piece of someone else's story. I can imagine someone sitting alone in their living room in a comfy chair and being swallowed up by Holden's tale. I can see the book clutched in someone else's hand as they lie in bed one morning or sit at the back of the bus or in the corner of Starbucks on their lunch break. I can imagine that this very copy of this book has changed someone's life.

And as I was walking home from the bookstore, empty handed, I couldn't help thinking that maybe that's selfish of me. Maybe it's selfish to want preexisting history instead of starting fresh and making my own, buying a new copy and highlighting my own paragraphs. Then again, I never claimed I wasn't selfish.

It all reminded me of this quote from my favourite book which I'm about to totally take out of context but here it is: "These people have history and I crave history."*

I crave not being the only person to cry on a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. So I'll wait for my library copy, thanks.

*Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

i just... i just have a lot of feelings

It's like we can't be sad unless we need to take medication to get better. Or like there can't be something wrong with us unless it's diagnosed. Or maybe it's that there's nothing wrong with us, not really, just that we've fallen out of this common paradigm -- or what we thought was the common paradigm -- and can't find our way back in (symptoms: feelings of alienation, loss, helplessness, and hopelessness).

It's like going from moping around in a blue mood to watching a doctor scrawl "depression" on a prescription form changes something fundamental about our feelings.

Or it's like thinking we're broken and need to be fixed. It's like thinking that changing location will change you, but then you get scared that maybe you're the thing that's wrong. Not wrong. Just a jigsaw piece when everyone else is part of the slide puzzle. Maybe you're the missing square.

It's like you don't want to insult the medical profession or people with weird chemical levels in their brains but sometimes you want to be recognized too. Sometimes you want to be called crazy so somebody can fix you and you don't have to think about it anymore. Sometimes you think maybe that makes you a sheep. At least sheep are warm. You think you probably aren't important enough, though. Some people have real problems.

Can't I be scared without having a phobia? Can't I be unsure without being questioning? Can't I be sad without being depressed? It's like we have to compartmentalize ourselves, tick off down the checklist, stick a label on our foreheads before we can be serious when we say we have problems. How can you tell who has the Crazy chemical levels and who's just figured out that brilliant secret that everything is meaningless? Since when is everyone a doctor?

I don't know. I say that a lot but I really don't know. I don't like complaining all the time but I don't like being apologetic about it either. What I really want is to just be happy but it seems like that's a difficult state to be in, for the default to be reasonably content. I think my median line is too far down the list.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Regional loyalty

~~I've been more absent than usual from the internet today/lately. I slept until around 4 pm, actually. Feels good man. I missed a lot of the p4a hullaballoo but it was worth it. Today is a day of necessary unwinding. I present a daft post I wrote a few days ago:~~

I will mock and continually express my massive dislike for my hometown*, that is, the 40,000-people-40-churches-and-tea-and-olive-oil-and-smoothie-shops-and-sports-obsessed-high-school seemingly idyllic slice of purgatory. If I were not a minor and the people I love and need for support weren't here, I'd move in a heartbeat.


I love the city.

("the city" being a vastly differing term depending on where the nearest large city is relative to the speaker's current location. My "the city" happens to be Chicago, where I claim to be from for internet-ease and am from in spirit/actual birth.)

I love its memetically horrible sports teams. I love the food. I love its perfect amount of distance. I love that it's familiar to me but not too familiar. I love Millennium Park and its crazyass architecture everywhere. I love having been to places in John Hughes films. I love that it feels like 100 different places depending on where you are. I love the museums and the zoo and that sort of third-grade-field-trip stuff.  I love that its university's mascot is a motherfucking phoenix:


There's some other stuff I probably left out. It's not much of a blog post, this love letter to a place.

* public library exempt due to high concentration of awesome.
** ultimate dream for the foreseeable future is to go here, the eighth best university in the country or thereabouts. What kind of fucking standards am I setting for myself? This is more a note to myself, to say, if you, a-couple-weeks-into-the-future-self, are reading this, do something pertaining to your higher education over break, for fuck's sakes.***
*** I swear quite a bit at myself when I'm talking to myself. It's just one of those times.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Half formed opinions that will probably haunt me later

I've been having a heated argument on Facebook with a fellow Nerdfighter about LGBTQ* rights. It's insane to me how some people are still opposed to them. In fact, a definite majority of people world-wide oppose LGBTQ* rights, which is terrifying. There are a lot of terrifying things happening right now. I think most of them stem from a basic fear of anything different and a profound lack of respect that people hold for each other.


Said argument has somewhat liberated me, though. I am confident in certain things now that I probably knew before but didn't put into practice: primarily that apologizing for certain viewpoints is a harmful concession. That being polite is no excuse for a prejudiced attitude. That I refuse to apologize for refusing to accept prejudice as a valid difference in opinion, regardless of how nice the other person is.

Which leads me to this: the thing is, when you meet homophobic people, or racist people, or people who hold some undesirable quality, it's almost more jarring when they're also nice. There are plenty of people in my life who hold harmful opinions about things about a multitude of political issues who are on the whole lovely people. Over the internet, or anywhere with a pretense of anonymity, it's easy to write people off as "homophobic" and assume that they are bad people. But in real life, it's entirely possible that I would grow to like a person and then discover their harmful opinion. I don't think that negates the good things about them. I think it's a reminder, more than anything, of how our society mandates so much of our attitudes towards everything. How is that generally lovely people can believe such an awful thing? I won't say brainwashing. I will say... it sucks.

I will also say that I love Margaret Atwood's poetry. Granted, I've read a grand total of two of her poems so far. But they were a good two.

Also -- Alex -- sorry for stealing your day? I know you said you're feelin' Wednesdays. I am feelin' Wednesday today too. Bitches get stuff done.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mr. Pizza Guy

I live in suburbia. It's kind of slowly killing me and I'm strongly contemplating leaving. But my story is about pizza.

Ordering pizza is a skill that I have yet to perfect. I'm not sure why I have an aversion to calling strangers on the phone. I don't remember the first time I dialed and ordered a pizza but it was probably a pretty intimidating event. I'm getting better now and practice helps. What has not helped is this relatively new idea of ordering pizza online.

The Dominos website is laid out in a seemingly easy to interpret fashion. You've got the menu, you've got coupons and then there's the order online tab. It's kind of neat the first time you try it; you check all the boxes for the toppings you want and it arranges it visually for you. If you're not already hungry, it's fun.

For the event in question, I was at a friend's for book club. My friend also lives in suburbia but farther away from the centre--where streetlights are few and driveways far apart.

I opened the website and started building the pizzas, one of which was intensely complicated. After ordering about ten of the special lava cakes, I went to the payment page and, surprise, you can't order online for anything over $50. Thanks Dominos, thanks for informing me BEFORE I spent fifteen minutes crafting the amazing pizzas that I would like to consume sooner rather than later. THANK YOU.

By the time I had called them on the phone and repeated the order verbally, the book club members were getting peckish. Forty five minutes later, we were more than ready for pizza.

From the layout of the games room we were sitting in, we could see flashes of cars passing between the hedges in front of the house. When a small car drove by the driveway extremely slowly, we sent delegates out to retrieve the pizzas.

I can't tell you the next part of this story firsthand. I stayed inside. What I was told is that my two friends ran outside and saw the pizza guy walking up the driveway of the house across the street. The followed him and, in desperation, one of them called out, "Hey Mr. Pizza Guy!"

They brought back the pizzas and lava cakes in triumph and I couldn't stop laughing at the cry for Mr. Pizza Guy's attention. When you think about it, what else can you yell when your pizzas are being delivered to your neighbours? What more is there to say than, "Hey Mr. Pizza Guy!"? I really don't know.

As it turned out, the pizzas weren't what I ordered. I'm not saying we stole the neighbours' pizza, just that the woman on the phone misunderstood what things I wanted on each half of the pizza and put it all on the same half. I chalked it up to more ordering experience and ate my delicious and chocolaty lava cake.


I think I'll blog on Wednesdays, to start. I'm not sure why but I'm feeling a strong affinity for Wednesday. Apart from that, maybe we can just have some days up for grabs, for kind of spontaneous blogging? This could give us a bit more freedom to write whenever we want and it could also result in no one ever blogging on those days. Thoughts?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

weird life stuff that happens (eloquent title is eloquent)

I broke three mugs today. This was after I discovered that my favourite sweater shrank (grammar? anyone?) in the wash. And I don't even know what happened. It wasn't pretty.

My life feels kind of soap opera-ish right now. I'm not super comfortable spilling this all over the blog because it's the internet. But use your imagination/fill in the blanks with your own dramatic problems.
It just seems like an excess of drama, like someone else's life but it isn't. I don't know what to say, don't know why I even started talking about it. I guess I'm just trying to make sense of my flip out after breaking things this afternoon. It wasn't really about the mugs is what I'm saying.

I do this thing where I kind of suck in all the emotions that I sense around me and store them in my body. It's like empathy on acid and sometimes it's literally painful. So I'm rereading Jellicoe Road and going for walks and climbing trees and trying to take care of myself. 

And on that note, I was wondering if anyone wanted to switch blogging days with me. It's cool if not, I can try Wednesday or something but I feel like I'm in a rut and I keep forgetting to blog or pushing it away and I genuinely enjoy the time I spend writing to you guys.
What do you say? I understand if you guys feel possessive of your days. It's been over two years of Thursday and Sunday being "my days" but I feel like I want to mix it up, at least for the month, to see if it shakes me out of my habits. Are you with me?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

RP goes multi-media and multi-platform

I posted this on Tumblr earlier (juxtaposed between posts about nipples--such is my DEPTH) but if Vita can do it, so can I. :P (And I don't want to reply to comments with a screenshot.)

  1. Juh-if.
  2. David Bowie: for people who like ALL the genres! (Or BBC crime shows!)
  3. INTERNET FOREVER. (You guys know I include you/Nerdfighteria in my "the internet makes life better" point, don't you?)
In those two list items I just managed to reference the same Hyperbole and a Half post twice. Kill ALL the memes!

Additionally, Alex and I have been having discussion on Tumblr re: my ability to phrase things and preconceived vocal notions. (I find your judgment flattering, because I don't really phrase things as much as stick words between "uh", "like", "um yeah", and sighs that are also laughs and pauses.) But apparently my voice is pleasing to other people! I could work as a newscaster or recite audiobooks for a living. Call me, John. You could have a real 16 year old girl saying, "and then I took off my bra.". . . actually, I wouldn't be able to say that without laughing. So, no.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life During History, and Graphic Romance in YA

Book review, huzzah!

I just finished Life: An Exploded Diagram, by Mal Peet. Basic premise follows:

  • Boy meets girl.
  • Boy and girl are of radically different class backgrounds.
  • It's 1960s England so this is super important to the adults and it's Romeo and Juliettish. (The main character's savvy best friend points this out early on. I liked that guy, and this book could've used more of him.)
  • Boy and girl sneak around and make out a lot.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis just happens to be going on.
It's presented in a sort of zigzagged, out of order way. (Lots of asides about Kennedy and Khrushchev and the construction of various types of planes. Also, entire chapters switch from third to first person, which I didn't particularly like, and most of the dialogue is written in a thiiiiiick accent. Sort of like Hagrid, if Hagrid was speaking for 85% of an entire novel.)

Nevertheless, it brings up some interesting points. Like how not everything set in "historical times" has to really deal with the history going on. People live normal lives through, in this case, the imminent threat of nuclear warfare. The characters are teenagers, so they have a license to not care, and they're written that way. It's realistic, which I appreciate. (When have "current affairs" ever interfered with the personal lives of horny teens, really?)

Also, it gets about yay *flimsy gesture of measurement with hands* smutty. I don't know if it was all supposed to be arousing or artistic or solely for the sake of imagery or what. I'm not personally morally opposed or disturbed by it, nor am I all hot and flustered at the very prospect of smut, as the depraved SMeyer fan might be. I just found some of the lengthy paragraphs about the "ivory curvature of her breast" and how "they kissed as if they were running out of oxygen" (paraphrased examples) kind of tedious. (Overall, though, 6.5/10. Rating things makes them seem so much more official, doesn't it?)

Thoughts on "romantic" scenes in general?

Friday, November 25, 2011


(I'm going to be a cheapskate and post this review of "Hugo" that I just wrote on Tumblr immediately before realizing that I could have just written it here. Still, this film was good enough that I will review it in all the places!)

I went to see “Hugo” today with my parents. My mom works at an elementary school library and thus reads a crapton of children’s books, so I feel she is somewhat qualified to tell you (through me) that The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the book on which the film is (closely) based, is a really excellent book. Although you can certainly see “Hugo” without reading the book first (my dad hasn’t read it but still liked the movie), I definitely recommend reading it first. The book is really cool because it’s sort of hyper-illustrated; the pictures don’t just illustrate the words, they actually add to the story itself. Watching the film after reading the book is definitely worth it because you can actually see pictures from the book come to life on screen and it makes the film even more stunning.

Like, let me just start off by telling you that it was so visually beautiful. I’m still not an outright fan of 3D, but watching “Hugo,” I kept seeing a glimmer of hope for 3D as something that can actually positively add to a film rather than just being an annoying and pointless special effect just for kicks. Though it would have been gorgeous without 3D, the times when it really stood out was when old black-and-white photos, illustrations, and silent films suddenly gained more depth. The whole movie, seriously, was just so beautiful — enough for me to clearly notice, and I most definitely am not a movie buff.

And it has to be said that it made me tear up quite a few times as well. Okay, guys, I think I actually prefer children’s/family films when they’re done well. Like, they just somehow manage to push all the right emotional buttons. (Pixar, guys, PIXAR.) “Hugo” focuses a lot on family, though not at all in a cheesy way, and it’s just sad and happy and a lot of FEELS all at the same time.

Basically, I am no film reviewer, but “Hugo” was fucking awesome and you best get yourself to the library/bookstore/movie theater ASAP.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving angst

I kind of hate Thanksgiving for being a symbol of colonization and binge eating. I mean, not to rain on the parade. Maybe I should have waited until next week or something, but it's relevant to a lot of people today, so excuse my angst.

Colonization sucks. I wish I could be a bit more eloquent about it but anger makes it hard to elaborate. John mentioned something in his FIFA video regarding Amsterdam about how the Dutch are very aware that their wealth is built on an a foundation of exploitation whereas (I'm going to add North) Americans do not. The fact that we* are living here means that entire cultures had to be suppressed and assimilated.

That's shitty. I think that's all I had to say. It's easy to forget all of this, or never even think about it in the first place, when the family come around and we sit around a table and smile and argue and eat amazing food. It's way easier to ignore the fact that we are making our lives on arguably stolen land. But I think we need to have it on our consciousness everyday--especially days like Thanksgiving and that one named after (that shithead) Columbus.

So there. I said it. Thanksgiving, as beautiful as the idea of giving thanks is, makes me angry. Resume the pie eating and merry making.

*and by we, I mean European settlers. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Cat-related epiphany

Cats are a lot like people. People who like cats, I assume, like cats for this quality. I don't.

Half the time, I barely like people*, who have the ability to communicate with me and offer me sympathy/food. So a furry animal that embodies only the fickle enigmas of humanity without the more redeeming qualities tends to be annoying to me.

I'm not writing off an entire species here. Out of the maybe dozen or so cats I've had to be around via friends and relatives, the cat whom I like the most is the one I've known since she was a kitten (and thus adorable, and used to being around new people constantly, without the distrust and inherent bitterness of adult-catdom). She's sweet to me, because she knows me, and I've given her no reason to dislike me in any way. This is a perfectly reasonable basis for a relationship, in human terms.

Also speaking in human terms, then, I know I really shouldn't be so indignant about the fact that the majority of cats I know just don't like me. I just don't like some people I know, why should it be any different because there's an interspecies gap? Maybe only one cat I've ever come across hasn't had a naturally shitty disposition. But a dozen is a comparatively small sampling of every cat in the world. Of a dozen random people, how many of them would have an immediately sunshiny demeanor? Probably one.

In contrast, dogs are very much not like people, or are at least the rare "immediately sunshiny" type of person. My family had dogs when I was younger, so maybe I just send out better vibes or something. But after five seconds of crossing paths with someone walking their dog on the street or being in the house of someone who has a dog, literally all of them are eager and excited and friendly, which I reciprocate.** I admire this quality. Possibly because it's just so un-human, in a good way.

I don't know what I'm saying or trying to prove anymore. Happy Thursday, Alex. Happy Thanksgiving, Vita.

* Am I exaggerating here? I don't really know, to be honest.
** I am very guilty of stupid animal voice.

*** All this talk about cats is reminding me of this video.

Monday, November 21, 2011

books and movies and uncreative blog titles

I was about to skip out yet again but then I realized that if I have time to procrastinate for an hour doing nothing besides scrolling through Tumblr and watching the latest episode of Parks and Recreation, I certainly have time to lay down the homework that "I am doing" and hang out at the old R & P blog again.

Hey guys. What's up? You've grown! Looking good. Etc.

There are five films that are coming out soon -- or soon-ish, as in within the next year or so -- that have reminded me of Hank's whole "Read it 1st" campaign. The Hunger Games, The Great Gatsby, Hugo (The Invention of Hugo Cabret in book form), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and The Hobbit.

Let's be upfront here: I am a book lover. And yes, while I acknowledge that films are a category of art unto themselves, I doubt I'll ever be able to get over my own personal feeling that the book is better. This isn't a set rule, of course; there are most definitely film adaptations that have surpassed their literary brethren. And there are plenty more that are equally as good as the book, if the two forms are even comparable; Tim Burton's spin on Alice in Wonderland lacked the strong plot or emotional punch-to-the-gut that I'd hoped for, but it was so delightful to look at -- pretty colors -- and that specific quality is impossible to experience through the pages of a book.

Still, books are where I lose myself and subsequently find myself again. I get them. I know the things they do to entice me but I'm still not immune to their charms. And yeah, the remake of The Great Gatsby will surely be an entertaining movie whether it veers on the side of awesome or of awesomely terrible, but it's a totally different experience from reading the book. You lose the narration; you lose the paragraph breaks. You gain something else, yeah, but you're modifying the medium entirely -- it's just different.

Which is why I need to get off the internet more and actually read these books before the film versions come out, with the exception of The Hunger Games. You know that I didn't really like the first book (enough to stay away from the other two), but oh man, the trailer gave me the shivers. Obviously I can't say for sure until I've seen the movie, but it seems to me that The Hunger Games is better suited for a movie than a book, at least to me. I wonder if that's why I didn't like it while reading it, because I couldn't get into the style of writing, because it seemed too cinematic for my taste. I just think it's really cool and weird and awesome how changing the medium through which a story is told so drastically affects the story itself.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

it snowed earlier

In other news, I'm going camping this weekend. What? Yeah.

I don't know why I do these things to myself. Honestly, last month, it seemed like a good idea to go camping this weekend. Well, maybe not a *good* idea but a *fine* idea. But now that it is tomorrow, and I have been outside recently, I am abundantly aware that I am going to freeze and I can't help but be comforted by the fact that at least then I won't have the opportunity of failing NaNoWriMo.

Speaking of which, does anyone want to take a stab at why NaNoWriMo is so freaking hard for me this year? I can only assume it's because I'm writing last year's story and it is way more difficult to write a story which you've already written 50,000 words of (and cut 30,000) than to start fresh.

I did write 3,000 words today which was comforting. I'm now halfway through and only two days behind. And hopefully I will find the inspiration to write this weekend when my fingers are freezing off and I don't want to leave my sleeping bag.

It's going to be fun! Yeah! Woohoo.
...I have to go pack. See you on Sunday, provided I make it until then.

Monday, November 14, 2011

stealing your Monday - more book reviewing!

When I got to work this morning and realized it was Monday and yesterday had been Sunday and I forgot to blog, I was pretty disappointed. I almost felt a little cheated. I guess I dropped the ball a little. But here I am. Surprise!

I will now be reviewing a book, because this is a good trend that I like. I haven't been reading a ton lately* but I did finish Perfect by Ellen Hopkins last week.

Oh my god, Ellen Hopkins is the coolest. Are you guys** familiar with Ellen Hopkins (apart from the fact that she is cited as a prime example in any one of those "YA fiction is depraved and sinister and EVIL because of REASONS" articles)? Basically, she writes one word titled books in verse about teen-ish characters who face scary and real issues in their lives. The three I've read were roughly centered around life in a mental hospital (Impulse), teenage prostitution (Tricks) and (most recently) the pressure to achieve perfection (Perfect).

I feel like I have to write a short note about format because it is a little unusual. These books are written in verse.
I remember a conversation I had with a couple friends when I was reading Impulse. I was raving because it was so different and amazing and gritty and true and then it popped up that it was written in verse, yeah, like poetry. I had a couple friends just brush it off, saying it would bug them and they can't read books like that.
As much as I try to be respectful of things like that, it bothered me. Once you give it a chance and get into the flow of it, reading a book in verse is no different than reading a book with multiple narrators or that is written in present tense. What I'm trying to say is that, for the most part, you get used to it. So if you don't want to try new things, whatever, that's your deal. I just wish everyone would quit hiding behind excuses and clinging to normalcy. /end rant>

Poetry amazes me. The fact that this book contains a fraction of the words of any of the others on my shelf just strikes me with awe. There's just so much going on, not just emotion but plot, and there's a beautiful mix of simplicity and complexity in the pages. A lot of the times when I'm writing, I think I'm being too terse and then I look at Perfect and think, nope, fewer words is not necessarily better--on the contrary, a lot of times less is more.

On the negative side, sometimes multi-narrator books irritate me. Not only can it come across as fractured and jumpy but I feel like as soon as you start to get into what's happening with one character, you get yanked out and inserted in the next person's story. Having said that, I think Hopkins does this juggling trick as gracefully as possible and the array of characters does seem to serve her purpose.

I feel like Perfect captured a lot of the pressures of being a young adult today. There's a lot of really powerful and raw emotion in here and it came across really well done. I also feel exceedingly lucky when I read these books where 4 out of 5 parents are loading on the expectations, practically crippling their kids, and mine are like, "Yeah, do what you want, kid. Be happy."

It's sad. There's so many tough situations out there and no shortage of teenagers dealing with them. The book left off on a couple different notes, with some of the characters (okay, one) moving towards their dreams and future happiness and some stuck in the same rut of eating disorders and steroid use. I guess it's realistic but it's also challenging. I know everybody doesn't always get better, that there's no such thing as a simple cure, and maybe the lingering hope should be enough but it's just not.

I really enjoyed it, regardless. Perfect (and the rest of Ellen Hopkins's books for that matter) gets a recommendation that I don't think I can narrow down. For those who want to read a slightly hopeful but ultimately realistic portrayal of demented societal and parental pressures and stigmas on young people? For whoever thinks poetry isn't for them? I don't know. Read it if you want and let me know what you think if you do.

I'm off to bed. Best wishes!

*c'mon, guys, it's NaNoWriMo. What did you expect? (Oh I can't use that as an excuse because I haven't written anything in 3 days? Shhh.)
**sometimes I find myself haunted with longing for the English language to develop a plural form of the word 'you.' LEXICAL GAPS SUCK!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Name of What Star? A Good Star!

The Name of the Star Review

Can this month be national (and by national I mean "Raving Persuasions") book review month? In all seriousness, I'd be all behind my own suggestion if it wasn't for the fact that most of my reviews in No(Yes!)vember would consist of Stalin and French Resistance historical books, which I don't think most people would be inclined to pick up for a bit of easy reading. Still, I've been reading a lot more lately (hooray) so I hope you don't mind if a few more book reviews pop up from me. You can't stop me.

To preface this, a small note about my relation to Young Adult literature: As much as I enjoy a wide range of books, as much as I like reading more challenging books or books written in new styles (new to me, at least) or books that generally expand my worldview, sometimes I just really need to sit down with a solidly written YA book of a familiar style. Not to degrade YA as a category -- there are tons of genuinely good YA books -- but I find them on the whole to be the most accessible category of book; the ones I read most of pure enjoyment and comfort. So it's always excellent when you stumble across an interesting, fresh, yet easy to read YA book that allows you to simply engage in a good story without much effort.

As it fit all of the requirements, I loved The Name of the Star.

See, as much as I adore Maureen Johnson, her books have never been my favorite. I've enjoyed them well enough, but they've fallen a little flat for me -- they didn't have anything about them that made me go from liking to loving them. This time, however, though it wasn't a flawless book (not that any book ever is), there was so much good stuff in it that I just couldn't stop reading, and am now a little bit weepy at the thought of having to wait -- how long? too long, whatever the date is -- for the next two to be published.

One of the strong points of the book was its plot. The basic idea is that Rory, an American teenager, moves to London to go to school just as somebody begins to recreate the Jack the Ripper murders, and -- of course -- ends up getting involved. Simple enough, but plenty of possibilities to work with. Another one of Johnson's supernatural books comes to mind, Devilish, which I think provides an apt contrast between a supernatural book done well and a supernatural book that tried too hard. Whereas in Devilish, I spent the entire book feeling slightly confused and thus the impact of the ending was totally lost on me -- plus I didn't feel any strong emotion towards the characters -- in The Name of the Star, the plot was wisely chiseled down until it had one strong focus. That really helped to keep me engaged.

The other thing I really loved about The Name of the Star were the characters. (I'm such a sucker for books with good characters, I swear.) Again, this time around, I actually really loved the characters. They were relatable enough, flawed but not annoying, funny, developed... Rory was an apt main character. Though at times a bit insensitive to her roommate's personality, I thought, she was generally a cool-seeming person.

The creepiness of this book seemed to directly correlate to what time of day I read it. In the middle of the afternoon, it was (at times) one part creepy and two parts entertaining/intriguing, but I had to haul ass out of my kitchen a few times around midnight because I started getting freaked out about all that open space (relative to my nice, safe, serial-killer-proof bed, of course). It certainly wasn't terrifying or on the same level as "proper," traditional-style ghost stories, but the level of scary was relatable and believable. Though Rory did suffer from the same "how are you so calm I would literally be having a heart attack in your position" level-headed demeanor around the scary bits that is so common among protagonists who need to move the story forward. Ah well. It didn't detract from anything.

Aside from a few minor things -- two of the characters practically disappeared from the second half of the book, which was understandable but a shame -- the most grating flaw in the book was their method for dispelling ghosts. Much like the sonic screwdriver in Doctor Who (minus the latter's earned and affectionate history), their method involved a seemingly simplistic piece of equipment that conveniently does very complicated work without ever explaining how or why. It subsequently aided in making the culprit's motivation behind the murders substantially less satisfying and thrilling than it ought to have been.

Still, The Name of the Star was ultimately a success if not a masterpiece. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy!

Another Book Review (of a different sort)

Unlike Vita, I have no qualms about blogging about books I've had to read for school. Because of the all-consuming nature of the public school system, as of right now I haven't been reading for pleasure much. Less than I want to, at least. Remember I talked about reviewing this book I hated, about THE YOUTH and THE INTERNET?* The time is now, grab your popcorn.

That book is Born Digital, by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. I picked it because I thought the cover was clever, which is something I deeply regret now. Basically, it's 375 pages of trying to define, analyze, and condemn internet culture and all us young whippersnappers who are so infatuated with it. It's a book for the lonely, confused, elderly masses. Those who have had zero exposure to technology in the past 25 years, and/or who have no contact with anyone born after 1985, who could have explained the entire premise of BD in five minutes and a few example Google searches.

Maybe it's just my problem with nonfiction in general--I literally had to force myself to read it, it was so goddamn dry and dull*--or maybe I'm just biased because I'm a Digital Native.***

The best comparison I can up with for this is March of the Penguins. I'm assuming you've seen it. It's cute and well-intentioned, but it boils down to many, many minutes of "The penguins are walking. It is cold." This gets tedious and repetitive very quickly. There are occasional tidbits--where the penguins all merrily slide on the ice or get chased by a badass seal--that make the audience sit up and pay attention, or chuckle slightly. But then it's back to the penguins standing around in the snow.

I lied, I can think of another comparison: it's like reading a book on skydiving. You can read about it all you want, you might think you've perfected your skydiving technique based solely on the knowledge you've obtained from this large, academic book, but after all that it would probably serve you better to just go skydiving for yourself. There are some things, some experiences, that books cannot hope to capture.

I mean, it does its job, giving a nice primer on all things internetty and what we're doing with it--good and bad, pedophilic and political--but it's just not interesting. But it tries so hard. I just kind of want to pat these two fifty year old men on the head. Again, feel free to cite my position as a snobby, young digitally literate person for whom next-to-none of the information provided was new or helpful or relevant as the reason I find this so unappealing, but that's what I thought about it.

* I'm actually writing this blog-review as a means of procrastination from the assigned review I'm going to have to turn in for a grade. THE INTERNET HAS CORRUPTED ME BEYOND REPAIR IT'S GIVEN ME A SHORTENED ATTENTION SPAN OH BLOODY NO. (*end sarcastic rant*) In all seriousness, at a point I had to stop caring so much about why I disliked this book, and treat it as An Exercise In Plodding Through Walls of Boring Text, training me for whatever godforsaken tests I'll be subjected to in the near future/The Actual Future Where I Will Have A Job That Involves Reading Things.

** Not all nonfiction has to be like this, that's not what I'm saying. But well-written, captivating nonfiction, I gather, is hard to write and more based on the particular reader's subject of interest than anything.

*** If you're one for drinking games, (though I hope you aren't, really) take a shot every time you read the words "those born digital", "Digital Natives" or "young Americans". You will be in the hospital halfway through the second chapter. Learn some synonyms, guys.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The rare occasion where I've pined for another sequel and gotten my wish



This pleases me.

I suppose I should back up a bit. Did you guys ever read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series? (If yes, I hope you realize my excitement, because all of them were/are fan-frigging-tastic. If no, I urge you to read them while the genre of "Teenage friends go on adventures and develop romantic relationships" is still relevant and appealing to you.)

The book is about the Sisterhood as adults, and everything beyond that that I could possibly say is spoilers. Aside from that it is as good if not better than the previous four. And that's saying something, considering how obsessed I was with the series when I was younger. Looking back, I probably read the first one when I was about nine or ten (lol pretentious child), when being fifteen seemed so far away, and I convinced myself that by that time I would have collected a perfect, quirky group of soul sisters with whom to share clothing.* Having this standard of ideal-teen-friendship-and-summer-exploits set up for me at that age, though, made my own teenagerdom seem pretty dull. By my fourteenth birthday or so I realized my life was not meant to be these (fictional) books incarnate. In some small way, I've always regretted that. I know it's just the media I surround(ed) myself with--that which tells my these years of my life are somehow incomplete if I don't kiss boys under the stars, travel the world, drink at parties, sneak out of the house with my own girl-gang, go on road trips, etc--that has caused this disappointment. But the point is still valid: how much of this is constructed fantasy and how much of it is just my teenage life being subpar?

Anyway, back to why this book is great. I love that these characters exist canonically as mature women. Except for this and the epilogue to Harry Potter, this hardly ever happens. Adulthood makes any set of fictional people seem so much more real. Their lives are no longer confined to a certain span of documented years, the rest of them left to be vaguely defined in the minds of curious readers or by (often kind of crappy) fanfiction. There's closure. (But, as a sidenote, the book ends openly. There could be a sequel to this one and I'd be happy. Yes, there is the argument that this would be beating a dead horse, milking the dry cow of franchise for the sake of $$$, but I have a feeling it wouldn't. There's more to be said without it reaching that point.)

And now I want to read them all again, for the nostalgia. T'were simpler times.

*Minus the fact that we have nothing tangible between us, maybe this blog is like the sisterhood I yearned for at ten. The Sisterhood of the Non-traveling Blog. (Starring Vita as Bee, Alex as Lena, and me as Tibby? All we need is a feisty yet sensitive Latina to round it out. ;))

Thursday, November 3, 2011

i suck at titles but sucking is good, right?

There's this post I want to write about human nature and how it's all just a bullshit myth that we've totally bought into in order to feel we're inadequate but first I have to read a pamphlet that someone gave me. So... there's something to look forward to.

In other news, you've probably noticed it's November. Additionally, if you follow me on tumblr, you've probably been victim to my nanowrimo agonizing. I also just realized that I'm insanely insensitive to people who don't do nano due to lack of time. This is due to the fact that I have a lot of time, as much as I try to convince myself otherwise. When nanowrimo rolls around, I am all about the writing. It consumes a lot of time and I don't think about it because it gives me something to actually be doing. I used to brush off people who don't do nano for time strain reasons but no longer!

This has been short but I want to watch the last episode in season two of Doctor Who*. I've heard it sad (understatement? We shall SEE!). I am prepared with my tissues.
Best wishes!

*I know, I know--I watch television shows slowly. I'm savouring. Get over it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Meeting MJ

Need I say it? Maureen Johnson is freaking awesome. She is the physical embodiment of her online presence. Like, I hardly need to describe my experience because if you read her Twitter timeline, you can practically feel it.

Me and MJ
(this is misleading and we're probably the same height
but I was wearing high heeled boots)
I'm going tell you about it anyway but I just wanted to preface this with the fact that yesterday was textbook MJ. I could not have imagined it better.

I convoyed to the site with five friends and we were behind my schedule when we arrived at 10:30. For a 2 o'clock event. And there was no one there. After some mild deliberation, we left, bound for Value Village to do some Halloween shopping.

When we came back at 12, there was still no one there that we could see. There were some people hanging out in Starbucks who appeared like they could have been there for the event but still no line and Chapters seemed rather ambivalent about the whole deal. Soon, they seemed to realize that there was a thing happening and started setting up some chairs and a podium in a corner of the teen section. Naturally, my people snagged the front row, though this was a little intimidating. I started trying to nudge the podium farther away with my toe but it wasn't actually that bad. Maureen didn't stand behind the podium the whole time. Sometimes she stood beside it; sometimes she jumped over the audience to check out the extension pack of Settlers of Catan she'd never seen before; sometimes she got very close to sitting in my sister's lap.

You can't tell how close it was from this picture
but trust me, it was CLOSE.
It was great, you know. I'm not going to go over every detail because that might get boring. The easiest and possibly truest way to describe what Maureen did is rambled. She told us her events were pretty much exclusively q&a except a special brand of question and answer in which someone asks a questions and she rambles and answers a different question until she has forgotten the original question and then asks to be reminded of the question and then ignores it some more and then asks for another question that she can ignore. It's a pretty entertaining process.

After the questions ran out and several audience members had proffered gifts in the form of nanaimo bars and maple syrup, we all shuffled over to stand in line for the signing part. There were pictures and Sharpies and high fives and then we left. I'm slightly ashamed to say I didn't get anything signed to our blog--it only occurred to me later. Maybe the next one of us that crosses paths with the woman who threw us in the way of each other can get her to sign a badge that we can upload and stick in our sidebar. That would be cool.

I wish you guys had been there. It was jokes.

p.s. Can we all go to VidCon, please??? PLEEEEEEASE?

Friday, October 28, 2011

At least education taught me how to write these words

Disclaimer: I am posting this on Saturday and changing the date so it looks like Friday because I want to blog this week. Also, you should know that 90% of the time when I don't blog on Fridays it's because I go to sleep at 6pm, mostly by accident. One could say that I should just write blog posts earlier, but what do you think I am, a non-procrastinator? And yes, most of the time on Fridays I do just go to sleep early because I'm really friggin' tired; take your judgement elsewhere/I don't have any friends. Is this my way of apologizing for temporarily abandoning you, blog readers? I choose not to answer that mostly because I like to pretend that I have an aura of je ne sais quoi.


"If we wish to change the system of education in the U.S. -- in the world -- then we must now devise a concrete, sustainable alternative to the current model. We must define all of our goals. We must acknowledge what is good and what is bad and how fundamental is the flaw. How can we come up with a system for education so radically different, one that creates divergent rather than convergent thinking, halls less rigid than those of academia, without reverting back to the abysmal quality of education, equality, and life of the pre-Industrial Revolution eras? If we agree that standardized tests are bad, how so? Are they bad in the absolute or only unfit for some and what to replace them with? How to ensure good education with fewer regulations? Are we talking about changing the system of education or an entire culture?"

I wrote the above yesterday afternoon while sitting in my Physics class, rather than actually paying attention, which perhaps demonstrates one of the fundamental flaws of public education: more often than not, it is painfully boring. Another fundamental flaw: I'm only taking said Physics class because it is a commonly recommended class for polishing your schedule for college applications. To me, taking classes for college is as equally bad as a class that teaches to the test. That's not learning for the sake of learning; that's learning -- or more likely, memorizing and forgetting -- for the sole sake of advancing in the academic system. It's not like Physics is an unimportant class either; it's only an honors class, so obviously it's not all there is to know about the laws of the universe, but it theoretically should teach students about how the universe works on a very basic level. Surely that ought to be a better incentive to take the class -- how fucking crazy is it that people actually have discovered shit about why we don't fall of the face of the Earth as it's revolving?! -- but I doubt it's a common one.

It was also inspired by this video, which mirrors how I feel about the majority of inspiring quotes: they sound really nice, but when you get right down to it, they either are so broad that they are pragmatically impossible to follow, or they aren't actually saying much. What the lecturer says makes sense -- and I don't know if there was another part to his speech that was not included in that video -- but he offers no solution, at least not a practical one, and that bothers me. I agree with a lot of what he says -- not everyone is intelligent in the same way; lots of people get left behind because of programs like "No Child Left Behind" -- but how can we fix that? There are certainly ways in the modern U.S. to be successful without being "book smart" (or at least without following the typical school/college/career path) -- the arts immediately come to mind -- but those are perhaps more risky options liable to fail, and ones that many people can't follow either.

Allow me to present my own life as an example. I am not happy with the college/career path, but I also don't have any talents that would allow me to bypass that step and still be successful (as in, get paid to do something I love). I don't say that disparagingly; I say it bluntly. I'm not stupid or talentless, but I am not especially good at acting, writing, painting, singing, performing, and while I like many of them, I do not love any of those things enough to work at them hard enough to get to the point where I am really awesome at them. Additionally, while there are many things about school that I simply cannot stand, there are points that I enjoy. In an almost complete turn-around from last year, I once again genuinely enjoy my English class, and there are a few other classes that I like. Yet none of those classes are in subjects that I would want to pursue as a career. Another example: this year I'm taking Calculus with Applications: the first math class in a long time that moves slowly enough that I actually understand what's going on, and thus don't absolutely dread going to it every day (not to say that I actually like it), yet it's below-level Calculus about which it is easy to make disparaging comments. What's left? Pursue a career in something that is marketable and widely considered to be "good" -- business, a science -- but that I'm not good at and for the most part hate because I simply can't understand it -- or go off and self-study a tiny little niche of literature that has no relevance to the world other than that it makes me happy? And what right do I have to demand options for a job that is both decently paid and enjoyable to me when so many people in the world have almost no choice whatsoever in what they do for a career? I would hate to get a stereotypical "office job," but there are so many people who can't avoid them. Why should I get to pursue a dream career over them?

I don't have answers. I do have a whole lot more questions. I don't know what to do about this problem. And while I know that there are people who search for real alternatives to our current education system, I wish there to be more. It's been the time for a while now to stop inventing new tests and address the real, fundamental flaws of public education: but that means that a lot of people are going to have to battle it out on a very basic level.


P.s. Some of us who are getting to meet Maureen Johnson today should have fun. (Oh god. This passive-aggressive... jealousy? pent-up anger?... is strangling my normally semi-nice personality. OH GOD SOMEONE HELP ME FKGRARBBLEGARRBLELaksjfassssssssah... I AM SO JEALOUS ALL OF YOU ARE GOING TO DIE) [Sweet baby Jesus, 10:45 on a Saturday morning and I'm already delirious]) Really, though, I am happy for you, Alex. I'm actually pretty excited for this; I hope you don't mind that I'm going to temporarily be living vicariously through you, like a desperate little puppy who... is... desperate? No, really, it's so cool that one of us is going to get to meet MJ (hopefully that will eventually be all of us, but we have to start somewhere, yes yes). Kind of crazy that we have her to thank for this entire blog. Well, not really -- we're the ones who created it, not her, to give credit where it's due -- but she's the reason we met in the first place which is fucking crazy! Yet awesome.
Okay, I think this is getting out of hand. Let me leave you with something semi-sane: I hope meeting Maureen Johnson is really awesome, Alex!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"they call it an existential crisis for a reason"

I don't know what I'm doing. That's a lie. A more accurate statement is I don't know where my life is going and I have no idea how to figure it out and it's making me a bit anxious or ansty or just lame.

Hmmm. Like, I do stuff. Sometimes. I read novels and make pumpkin pies and drink chai tea lattes and protest economic injustice. But a lot of the time, I don't do much. I tumbl[e?]; I sleep in; I...  read novels. I almost wish I went to school because then my idle activities would be working towards something, even if it was just matriculation.

Maybe I don't have to know right now. That's nice, comforting, to think I don't have to have a plan or goals or whatever. But also worrying, you know? "What's the point of being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable?"*

I need a goal. This is one of the main reasons I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year, albeit in a way not endorsed by NaNoWriMo.

Anyway, I'm just drowning in a bit of self-pity because I am kind of awful at relationships and communication in general and my life doesn't appear to be moving me towards anything, or at least not at a discernible rate. When I think about it, I'm a pretty horrible Hufflepuff. I'm much too self serving and lazy.

I should get on with it. Finish my book (Irma Voth by Miriam Toews--really enjoying it), get some sleep. I'll keep you guys posted on my encounter with Maureen Johnson. And I'm curious: what are you guys being for Halloween?


*from An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sometimes I forget that everyone has access to the same internet...

(That could turn out to be the beginning of a pretty sordid sentence, but it's not what it sounds like.)

Today was the first meeting of "The Harry Potter Club".* A lot of people turned up, including a handful of acquaintances I'd grouped under the loose category of, "I don't know you all that well but you seem like a nice person", who were suddenly expressing interest in the same thing I was. A raucous, if nerdy, time was had by all. AVPM was quoted. The HPA and Pottermore were discussed verbally instead of through keystrokes. Hufflepuff was lamented, jokingly.

As it turns out, there are people who like things I associate with the faceless hive of *the internet* who happen to be flesh-and-blood humans I go to school with. Today, for some reason, this struck me as strange. Call it the first rule of Fight Club/Tumblr/what-have-you, but *the internet* and *real life*, have, so far as I've been a part of them both, been separate circles. Especially considering I've never been to VidCon or anything that blatantly converges the two. Sure, there's Facebook for that, but some strange, pleasant coincidence lies in finding out that the majority of our collective appreciation of a series of books has led to the same things online, and that everyone in attendance has such a level of devotion to said books (and a level of internet-savvy...) to seek these things out. I don't really know, there's just something genuine about internet-fandom that I enjoyed seeing overlap into *real life*.

I've seen this genuineness turn sour a bit--and call me an elitist if you think I deserve it--via a few people who just seem to be trying too hard to integrate internet references into everyday conversation. Eg: "Me gusta."-- pronounced "mee gusta". (*Slight rant* This doesn't even have anything to do with the meme reference, if you had a basic grasp of the Spanish language you'd know the e is short.) And use of "You are such a n00b." as an insult. Maybe there's irony in these types of things that I'm not exactly getting, but it falls flat as a means of communication outside of *the internet*, and it wasn't even that clever on *the internet* to begin with.

* "That's just to not confuse the freshman, we're calling it Dumbledore's Army."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

books that make you angry

I'm almost certain I'm not alone in sometimes getting frustrated with a book. Either the main character is too whiny or the author keeps hinting at something but never actually gives you the information. If you read a variety of books, I'm going to assume you've felt this way before.

I started reading As Simple As Snow a couple weeks ago. I was enjoying it, too. I saw a few parallels between this book and Looking for Alaska* which was interesting. Then I stopped reading for a couple days, got sick and started a three day volunteering gig that took up a lot of time and energy. Not a lot of reading time. Today, I stayed in bed and decided to finish it. Which I did.

I suppose there's an important part of this story I should add. It's a mystery, of sorts, about a girl who disappears, leaving a dress laid out next to a hole in a frozen river. Here's a review from the beginning of the book:
"As Simple As Snow is one of the best books I've read in a long, long time. Galloway draws you into another world, and you'll be wholly involved from the opening line, with its blunt force. He awakens all our curiosities and then satisfies them, so that the only question left unanswered is how long it'll be until he gives us something else to read." -Kaye Gibbons, author of Divining Women
 My problem with the end of this book, it would follow, is that it proved that last sentence to be complete and utter bullshit.

Immediately, the ending coloured my entire experience of the book. I don't feel like I can look at it objectively anymore. And it's not that I can't tolerate a couple loose ends when I read a book--I can. I was just left totally alone, wondering what happened and feeling stupid for not being able to figure it out. It seems like this book is one of those ones that makes more sense the second time you read it but I doubt I could bring myself to go back and start again. Then again, maybe that was the point. Maybe I was supposed to be angry and there's a subtle honesty to it because we don't always figure things out in reality. Sometimes we just have to keep moving on, not knowing if the teacher murdered her or if she was sleeping with that main footballer turned Goth guy or if she ran away or jumped in the river or what.

I'm still mad that Kaye Gibbons lied to me but I'm sure I'll live and the book suffered no damage since I didn't actually throw it at the wall, no matter how much I wanted to.

In other news, I want to go to Vidcon. More immediately though, Maureen Johnson is coming to town and I will be seeing her this Saturday! Needless to say, I'm excited.

*probably because the reason I bought it was because John Green said it was a piece of his inspiration for LFA.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Evolutionarily, I'd be dead.

I've been thinking about evolution. I don't really know why, but thinking about it has made me realize, we should all pretty much be dead. (Er, not so much "dead" as "nonexistent", but for the sake of drama let's just keep it worded that way.)

Or we would be, if we were all still breeding for physical fitness exclusively. Eg: I am nearsighted, this gene must have started somewhere--prehistorically--and yet I exist as a nearsighted person. One of my ancestors may not have had the visual prowess to keenly spot all the hungry animals lurking about in those days, but compensated for it, somehow, and ended up not dying long enough to pass on their impairment.

Sheer luck could be a factor here, but that such slight genetic imperfections are relatively common in our species points to the fact that somewhere along the line, we started breeding for intelligence, too; possibly more so than mammoth-outrunning-abilities. Good move, species.

I don't even know if I'm making an interesting point or a modicum of sense. But, speaking on a literally fucking huge scale, it's comforting to know that we've progressed a whole hell of a lot, that we're a complex species capable of doing all this awesome shit. *arms spread out in an all-encompassing gesture*

So, so what if my hypothetical ideal mate hypothetically wouldn't produce offspring with me who would have enough excess fat and muscle tissue on them to survive the next famine? Generally speaking, this is not a thing that I should be concerned with, and I'm relatively secure in my attraction to males who happen to be pallid and visually impaired, not from any particular survival standpoint, but because I am a judge of personality and character. Most people are. Coming from primates, this is a kind of cool thing, to say the least.

I don't know where I'm going with this, honestly, and I don't know how to reach any sort of logical or entertaining conclusion, so I'm just going to end this post here. Auf wiedersehen!

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Lola and the Boy Next Door" Review


Despite the unhappy tears I shed inside whenever I look at the title and cover of Stephenie Perkins' two books -- they do such a disservice to the stories inside; I never in a million years would have picked up Anna and the French Kiss had it not been recommended to me by John Green (well, not personally) and a million other people (I suppose thus negating the million years) -- she really does know how to write a good romance story.

Lola and the Boy Next Door was cute, it was funny, and it does nothing to give real-life boys a boost, if you know what I'm saying. It definitely convinced me that I should continue to make an exception for "chick lit" when it comes to Stephanie Perkins.*

However, what kind of reviewer would I be if I didn't skip over the good parts and go straight to the critiques? (Oh, a normal one, you say? Shut up.)


- The conflict. The reason why she was initially so wary of Cricket seemed way overblown. I get the feeling that this could conceivably cause a huge rift in the friendship of a teenager, and I'm sure if I were in that situation I would feel the same way, but when you're reading about it, you're just like, really? That's why his house causes you painful palpitations of the heart? Maybe it's just because I'm not one for believing in "ONE TRUE LOVE," but man, it would have been nice if there had been, you know, an actual interesting reason for their estrangement. It wasn't too big a deal as the book progressed, but it was sort of off-putting in the beginning part. Points for not dragging out the "mystery" of their estrangement for too long, though.

- Max. It was a little hard to put up with Lola fawning over him since you knew they were obviously going to break up -- I think their relationship went on for too long. It seemed to serve as one of the main tensions in the story, but I feel that a lot of time was wasted with him when it could have been spent better developing the Lola/Cricket relationship, which seemed a tad bit superficial, to be honest. Also, like, Max is a jerk (though I guess that was pretty clearly emphasized in the book)... The age difference started feeling weirder towards the end. Yuck.

- Repetitive plot. I suppose this is why I normally avoid fluffy romance literature. You could totally see where this book was going... and I guess it's the sort of book that you read more for the content than the ending, since it's predictable and easygoing, but I still would like to have had something with a bit more oomph, something a bit less of the "quirky, unpopularish main girl gets the dreamboat" plot to every teenager romcom ever.

- Andy, Nathan, & Norah. I don't have gay parents, so I can't speak from experience on this one, so don't take this as an absolute truth (as if you would anyway, right?). The gay parents thing was fine, but I felt like having Norah there kind of undermined them. Now, the book is not focused on the gay parents, but I assume that at least part of what Perkins was going for was the assimilation of LGBT characters into normal contexts, which is cool, but I think having Norah there sort of made it seem like you do need a mom after all. It's just that Norah ended up becoming closer to them, and mentioning how she couldn't take credit for Lola, and how Norah sometimes slightly corrected Andy and Nathan's parenting styles. It's not that these aren't legitimate actions for the character, and maybe these are things that happen to some gay parents in real life; it just felt a little weird to include Norah doing them, as if the actual parents couldn't totally handle Lola on their own. I know that wasn't the intention and I don't think it was a huge deal, but I could have done without her.

- The too-perfect boy. Cricket is great, sure, and I liked him, but I felt he wasn't super developed, other than being ~the nice perfect boy.~ Even that was okay; it was mostly just that he never got mad at Lola, really, or anything. Like, fine, that's cool, but maybe it's my rejection of the one true love thing, but it just felt a little too fantasy-world-romance for me.

- Lola's costumes. I just couldn't get over them. I'm sorry. She was a likeable enough character, but I couldn't help but cry a little whenever she donned a wig. Crazy outfits I can deal with, but wigs just don't do it for me. Superficial, I know. And sort of important to the character... still. However, I did appreciate how she didn't stop it with her outfits at the end to show character growth.

Despite these flaws, I sped through the book faster than AATFK, even though I like the first book a lot more. Don't get me wrong, it was still an enjoyable read, and there's certainly nothing wrong with allowing yourself to escape into the semi-plausible fluffy romantic world of a girl your age. I did snort from laughter quite a few times; it's definitely entertaining. However, it lacked the depth that AATFK had -- not that either was a difficult read, but I felt an ability to relate to Anna, to feel that her hemming-and-hawing with St Clair was plausibly understandable and still good. Although in both it was obvious that they were going to get together, I feel that in AATFK, it was altogether more realistic, and thus overall better. I don't mean to compare the books so much, but since they're fairly similar in style, I definitely feel that AATFK was executed a lot more successfully. Still, if you liked AATFK, I certainly recommend Lola and the Boy Next Door as well!

*a) Obligatory "'Chick lit' is a stupid term" reminder. Probably I should just come up with another way to describe such books.
b) I say that as if I have actual rules as to what I read. I don't -- excluding my vow to myself that I will never read Nicholas Sparks for any reason other than so that I can validly criticize his books.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I don't even know

I have to work tomorrow. Oh, Mondays...

Today was good. I watched Doctor Who and washed dishes and made spontaneous pie from my leftover pie crust dough. And I tumbled, of course.

Can this blog just be a tribute to Doctor Who, tumblr and pie? Let's be serious, what else does one need in one's life? Lazy Sundays for the win.

I'm not sure what it is about Doctor Who. I can't nail down a prescribed number of bullet points as to why I enjoy it so. I'm not really into aliens. I can get into time travel as much as the next person but it's not the most thrilling concept I think about. But I like the show. I like David Tennant and Billie Piper and their chemistry. I like the British-ness of it, the quirky humour and excellent accents.

I don't know. It's nice to fall in love with something new.