Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Which I Am A Wave Rather Than A Particle

"People, even adults, rarely do what they are told to do if they don't actually want to do the right thing. And many of our thoughts and emotions that are going on in parallel are in complete conflict with each other and we just hope through repeated training that the right ones win out and suppress the other ones." - My dad

"People alive are better than people not alive." -Craig Benzine

Note: This post is tagged "just ignore me." Please feel free to do so. :)

Here's a cool site my grandma sent me the link for. It simply gives you a new, interesting word every day. Today's is "waithood" - the period after college in which things are put on hold until a job and therefore also money can be obtained. Word Spy is somewhere between Urban Dictionary and Webster's in terms of content.

This morning I wrote the beginning of a song, conjugated a bunch of Latin verbs, finished early which then enabled me to send the song off to rock4ever95 and to read Kenny's most recent blogpost, all before 9 a.m. That is what I call a productive morning. That's also what I call utilizing the stagnant minutes during 1st period to the max.

Upon reading aforementioned post, I started to laugh, because it's a much more general, eloquent version of what I meant to write about on here today. So I will take that (which you should go read, unless you are Kenny, in which case you should continue) and run.

He talks about how the self is in a constant state of flux, and speculates on whether or not we can be held accountable for something a past version of us did if we are now totally different people who don't condone the action at all. Personally, I very much hope we can't be held accountable, because I've done some things that I'm rather ashamed of/wish I hadn't. But I suppose that's normal.

I've written on here before about how I don't want to suddenly become an adult, completely separate from my teenage self. I don't want to perpetuate the "no one understands me" stereotype. I want to remember what it's like.

But that makes it sound like I want to remain completely the same, which isn't true either. Hopefully I will become a better person. Hopefully I will do less things that I'll later regret, and learn from those that I do without dwelling on them too much. Hopefully the person I will become will be more awesome than the person I am now, etc. etc. etc.

But the thing is, I am this person right now, and I rather value this identity, because if I'm not me, then I'm some form of dead (since I would consider being someone else the demise of that which is "me."). It's a paradox: I want to change and become better, but I want to hold onto that which is currently me, mainly because fundamental change is freaking scary.

So how do I attempt to solve this? I blog, and I journal, and I write, and I save keepsakes and other items simply to trigger memories. (Yet I hate having my picture taken-- why is that?)
And that's partially why I'm as open as I am on here, even though it sometimes worries me-- those archives on the right hold 374 ever so slightly different versions of me.
Weird thought, yes?

Which brings me to less of me rambling about what I want to talk about, and more of me talking to you:

Hi. Pleased to meet you. Reading a blog like this, I think and hope, is a unique experience to watch a journey. Maybe it's an interesting one, and maybe I'm boring and overly-verbose and you just haven't bothered to un-follow, but hey. This is a different kind of story than the ones people tend to read and write in novels. It's certainly not one that would ever be classified as "narrative," but it's a story nonetheless.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Listening

“Emily Dickinson wrote that success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed. And so too, youth is counted sweetest by those who are no longer young. Nostalgia is inevitably a yearning for a past that never existed.” - John Green

But if we think it existed, what then? (See An Abundance of Katherines)

Anyways. In relation to me, Script Frenzy is now going to be re-named Do Review Packets For AP Chemistry Frenzy. Instead of writing 4-ish pages of dialogue per day...I get to do 3-ish pages of that. Every day. Fun times.

So today I was thinking about listening, because I have been told that I'm a good listener, and I was wondering exactly what that meant, since it clearly means more than that my ears work well.

"Listening" is generally defined as using your ears to receive and interpret sound waves.
Well, by that definition, the following scenario counts as listening:

Person 1: "(is talking)"
Person 2: "Mhm. Yeah. No. Cool."
Person 1: "Are you even listening to me?"
Person 2: "Of course I am. And I even have a vague impression of what you're talking about."

I've protested that definition myself: "You're listening to me, but you aren't hearing me," meaning that my words are going in one ear and out the other.

And that's not "good listening" either.

So here's what I think good listening is, and it doesn't have to be through sound: Paying attention to what the person speaking is saying, and not only paying attention, but also remembering it. Which sort of ties back to the quote at the start of the post-- if you don't remember something, it didn't happen. So listen to people, or else their words will have been in vain. Not only does this mean you're being a good person, I think, but it also means a heck of a lot to the person speaking when you remember whatever it was when it comes up again in conversation. We humans like to feel that we and our experiences matter to others. We like to feel loved.

Then again, we also need to forgive people when they forget things...but that's another post entirely and kind of defeats the purpose of this one, so...

**steps off soapbox with grace and poise**

(What's a soapbox?)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coping Via Science

(Note: This is being posted several hours after it was written.)

"Unless we remember we cannot understand." -  E. M. Forster

I'd like to insert a "correctly" after remember, but yes.

This post is going to contain several interesting ideas; however, I can't take credit for any of them. Most of this is coming from my dad on the ride to school this morning. But before, I get to those...
...I just found out that my great-uncle died at some point last night, from cancer. I didn't really know him at all, know.

We didn't know about it this morning, but the points my dad made are only more poignant now.

As part of his current obsession with immortality, singularity, and the extension of the human life-span, he's been listening to a lot of different podcasts and lectures and reading news articles and such. One of these was about DNA, so bear with me while I explain a little bit of the science.

So when cells divide, the DNA in the center of the nucleus splits into two strands, each of which becomes the DNA in the center of one of the daughter cells. You probably knew that already.
Now, the thing that you might not have known (mainly because I didn't) is that there's this thing on the end of the DNA (whose name I don't remember). That thing gets a little bit shorter every time the cell divides, and once it's all gone, the cell can't divide, so it just dies.
The theory is that once we can figure out how to stop that thing from getting shorter, we'll be able to live forever in healthy bodies.
There are two problems with that:
1. We don't know how to make it happen
2. That would mean uncontrolled cell growth, which is...cancer, basically.

So you see why he's dwelling on the problem.
He, his brother, and one of his sisters were/are planning on driving up there tomorrow. It just sucks that they're too late.
I think the worst part of it is the waiting. Waiting the 5 hours to get to my uncle's tomorrow night. Waiting the 8 more to get up to NY where everyone else is. And that's not even counting him sitting at the car dealership waiting for the repair to be finished like he is now. I'm just hanging out on Google chat keeping him company and his mind occupied.

Personally, I'm more worried about my grandparents. Not only do they have to mourn, but they also have to deal with all of the people flooding into town, and making sure my great-grandma and great-great-aunt are okay and in the loop about everything...

So yeah, that's what's going on over here.
It's interesting to see what different people use as coping mechanisms, though. Dad, for instance, is as we speak devoting himself to intellectually thinking through and coming up with general solutions for every global problem he finds both interesting and concerning. Yes, this is what my father does while sitting on benches at car dealerships. You see where I get it.

(Also, I'm going to be quoting him next post, because he's said some really interesting and insightful stuff.)

My coping mechanism for this? Well, I'm mostly-pleased to announce that I'll be participating in Script Frenzy this year. Actually participating, unlike last year when I just used it as a spring board for typing up the ridiculously bad Oz parody I wrote with some friends in middle school.

Monday, March 28, 2011

In Which I Am Paranoid Despite The Box Post

"What some people mistake for the high cost of living is really the cost of high living." - Doug Larson

"I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts." - Mark Twain

Today's post is one of the ones that matches my original intentions for this blog. These are few with far between, so savor it. Or not, since you probably started following for the content that I actually do post, but no matter.

Remember two months ago when I had a request for the full manuscript of The Clockwork Experiment? It's been two months, so I wrote the agent an email last night. I received an automated response email saying that she was sorry, but she'd be out of the office until March 8th.

March 8th was a long time ago, people.

If I don't hear back by next Monday night, I think I'll write to the head/founder of the agency to see what's going on. Hopefully I'm just being paranoid and over-reactive (and you know from the Box post that I'm generally rather paranoid when it comes to people I don't know at all).

But I went on Absolute Write to see what people were saying about the group, and all of it seemed pretty positive. There was even a couple posts from this year (although those were just "I sent her a query today" and from even earlier in January than me, "I sent her a full and will update the thread when I hear back."

Dissect and analyze with your more-rational-than-mine brains.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Box: Inside or Outside?

“There’s no amount that is too great or small. We’re just helping people get out of a situation that sucks” - Hank Green on the situation in Japan

So my friend over at Thief of Words wrote a post today that reminded me of something I'd meant to post about awhile ago but didn't.
Her post is entitled "Thinking outside of the bloody stupid imaginary box." 

I would think that most of us were raised, or at least taught in school, to think outside of the box and come up with ideas other than the obvious.
For the most part, I approve of this very much.

However, it seems to cause some problems when it comes to people, and people are generally the things that matter most.

So if I'm trying to either figure out the motivation behind a person's actions or guess what he/she will do next, I'm going to think outside of the box as well as inside of it, because that's what I've been taught to do.
Thinking outside of the box in terms of motivation and possible future actions is not a good idea, because then you end up picturing all of the most horrible scenarios, and even if you know X Y and Z aren't likely because they're way out there, they make M look tame, even though an inside-box thinker would understand that M isn't likely to be the case either.

Which leads to paranoia, unnecessary anxiety, and irrationality. All of which suck regardless of whether you're the perpetrator or the receptor.

But thinking outside of the box is such a good skill to have in pretty much every other instance, so it's definitely a good thing. It's just really annoying that you can't turn it off. Knowing it's a problem will help, of course, because you can tell yourself to stop worrying and explain exactly why the anxiety is stupid, but there's always that "Well, what if?"

Hopefully "if" wasn't after all, and hopefully things will work out and your paranoia didn't screw things up too much, but in the midst of things, there's no knowing. And that's not fun at all.

An Abundance of Quotes Part 13

"It's almost as if our society values opinions more than it values knowledge." - Hank Green

"As I trail off, I hear them making one another laugh - not the words exactly, but the cadence, the rising and falling pitches of banter. I like just listening, just loafing on the grass. And I decide that if we get there on time but don’t find her, that’s what we’ll do: we’ll drive around the Catskills and find a place to sit around and hang out, loafing on the grass, talking, telling jokes. Maybe the sure knowledge that she is alive makes all of that possible again - even if I never see proof of it. I can almost imagine a happiness without her, the ability to let her go, to feel our roots are connected even if I never see that leaf of grass again." - Paper Towns

“The idea is that for ten minutes, we forget that we have feelings. And we forget about protecting ourselves or other people and we just say the truth. For ten minutes. And then we can go back to being lame.” - Will Grayson, Will Grayson

"I've seen the future and it's much like the present only longer." - Dan Quisenberry

"There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy." - Albert Ellis

"The hardest problems are the ones that most need solving." - John Green, because you all know I definitely don't quote that man enough on here.

"Genius is the ability to renew one's emotions in daily experience." - Paul Cezanne

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In Which I Administer Some Medicine

Dear Joss Whedon,

I love you.


Elf Army

There's my emotion-driven Random Thought. Now on to the actual post.

When I walk over to my grandma's after school, I usually get her mail for her. Today that mail contained a newsletter thingy from the church I technically belong to (notice the technically-- if you've been around here long enough, you know what that means, and if you haven't, you're probably smart enough to figure it out). 
The back of this newsletter read something like "This Sunday, Dr. (Name) will be coming with his presentation Understanding Islam: What Makes Muslims Tick." Dr. Name has apparently published a couple books detailing the best ways to "administer Christ to Muslims."

There are a number of things I find wrong with that, and I find them to be very, very wrong. Seriously, the more I think about it, the angrier I get.

So this guy's job, basically, is to show the church members exactly why Muslims are evil/bad/wrong? Nice. Very nice.

Thing That Is Wrong Number One: Inter-faith education should be about similarities in theology, not differences. Teaching the differences only increases prejudice and ill-feeling, while most religions have way more in common than their followers tend to believe, and this misconception only fuels the emphasis on differences.

Thing That Is Wrong Number Two: "What makes Muslims tick" ? Really? Last I checked, any given Muslim is first and foremost a human being. I highly doubt what makes them tick is terribly different from what makes any other person tick. Implying that there's some Secret Muslim Motivator once again only fosters suspicion and prejudice. Also, it's rude.

Thing That Is Wrong Number Three: "administer Christ to Muslims"? That...that makes it sound like a disease. Angerangerangeranger. This is not helping anything.

Thing That Is Wrong Number Four: I'm generally against religious evangelism (I won't tell you your theology is objectively wrong-- only that I disagree, and that your intolerance most certainly is wrong), so the idea of writing entire books on tactics seriously rubs me the wrong way.

I'm sure there are other things to be added to the list, but those are the ones sticking out to me right now. Like my dad said regarding rock4ever95's post that I linked to, there are many much-more serious problems to be dealing with in the world than intolerance. If people would get over their differences, we could focus on the more pressing issues. Plus, intolerance is something that needs to be addressed in and of itself. Intolerance, not Islam, is the disease that needs curing. (And blogging is an actual helpful tool by which to do that, Teacher Of Mine Who Thinks Blogging Is Useless, thank you.)

(Also: feedback on the interview? Were the questions good? Do you want to see more interviews on here in the future? I seriously wasn't just fishing for views, despite what I may joke about. I may stalk my stats page obsessively, but I'm like Alan in that I only post/sell what I myself would want to read/buy. Or at least that's what I try to do.)

Random Personal Tidbit For Those Of You Who Are Remotely Interested: our band is headed off to Festival tomorrow, and one of our pieces is the final movement of a Lord of the Rings symphony, entitled "Hobbits." Party to follow. Should be fun.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Interview: Alan Lastufka

Today's post is something new and exciting that I've never done before: an interview with an actual living human being. Or perhaps he actually had a robot write his answers, but that seems unlikely, so we shall disregard that.
This Human Being's name is Alan Lastufka, co-founder and acting president of DFTBA Records. Thank you so much, Alan, both for helping me out with my Economics project and letting me post the interview on here, and for generally being very helpful and cool in all of our interactions upon this thing known as The Internet. 
I realize that since many of you are familiar with the company, some of the questions might be a little "duh" to you, but it was for my homework, and my teacher isn't quite as aware of the YouTube scene, and I included them for the sake of comprehensiveness.
Let it be noted that I was actually listening to DFTBA Records music while compiling the interview into a Powerpoint.
We shall pretend that I said hello to him, and he said hello back, because I really just emailed him some questions, and he emailed me back the answers. Anyways, onward. Interview to be seen after the jump.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fear Part 4: Hate

This post comes to you courtesy of a variety of things/events/people, but the only one I can link to is this, which is very good, and while it's related, it's about something else, so go read it.

Now that you have read it (and if you haven't, go do so right now), I would like to begin by saying that I find it very difficult to comprehend the concept of having such a high level of hate (as some do) based on such a thing.
And comprehending it is something I've had to do recently, since I'm currently writing from the perspective of one such person. It hasn't been easy to write it well, but it has been fascinating to try.
So there's two of the things.

The third is that when my grandma and I were leaving to go see my sister's track meet this afternoon, I opened her car door to find a wasp.

Now, I am terrified of bees and all of their relatives. I don't know why, but I am.

However, my immediate vocal reaction was not one of fear. It was "I HATE BEES. I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM."

How did I make the jump from fear to hate? It doesn't make much sense. But it happened, and it happens to other people as well in worse contexts than insects.

So we profess to hate what we fear, and quite often (although not the case with my example) we fear what we do not understand. That's the basis for the writing project mentioned above: growing to understand. 

It's ironic, too. Because while my narrator is growing to understand that homosexuality isn't the most Evil Thing Ever, as I'm writing it, I'm growing to understand her (despite not actually agreeing, of course.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

An Abundance of Quotes Part 12

"Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking." - Black Elk

“I try not to hate anything. Allowing hate in your life just means you’re carrying around excess baggage on behalf of something that’s not worth your effort.” - Kristina Horner, the person I would want to be if I wasn't myself

“I found myself wishing there were some way for those of us on one side of an ocean to tell people on the other side that we were thinking of them. A way that I could say that not only to the people of Japan, but also to Dorothy, who found that baby girl in 1961. But images can travel in a way that our thoughts cannot, and that night I felt sad and frustrated that technology can never quite bridge the oceans between us.” - John Green

“[Comics] do provide us, I think, with a great opportunity to analyze ourselves and what we’re becoming obsessed with, and what we’re becoming afraid of. Interestingly, those two things: often the same thing.” - Hank Green

"Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man." - Francis Bacon, 1625

"As a rule, people don't collect books; they let books collect themselves." - Arnold Bennett, 1926 That is so, so true.

There was also a great quote/discussion from an episode of Bones I was watching a couple days ago about how a writer's views/thoughts-at-the-time assimilate themselves into his/her writing subconsciously, but I didn't write it down at the time. I know it happens to me a heck of a lot, though.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Which Rock4Ever95 Makes Me Feel Bad About Myself For Good Reason

Holy wow, that post got a lot of traffic. I can't say I'm surprised, though.

So I guess I'll address it.

The concept of meat itself being gross is simply very, very foreign to me (although, rock4ever95, you will be pleased to know that your thoughts/arguments on the subject are making me seriously self-conscious about my omnivorism. And I'm actually glad about that, despite it being rather annoying.) simply because I haven't been raised that way.

The post wasn't supposed to be about vegetarianism. So I'm sorry if I've offended people. It was supposed to be about your actions supporting your values, rather than not-necessarily-reasonable rules, my thoughts on which happened to stem from my cousin's story.

But on the subject of know what, my views on that are far too complicated and contradictory right now to write a coherent, truthful post. 

The short facts of it: 

  • I have been raised to eat meat without a second thought.
  • In the past year, this has begun to bother me.
  • That Bothering-ness has increased considerably in the past month or so, for a number of reasons
  • It's something I think about quite often, and change is happening.
But I want to thank you guys for the comments, because they've been very interesting and thought-provoking. (Now leave me to my carnivorous guilt. Seriously, I should not have read those comments before going to bed.)

Ah, adolescence is fun.

Courtesy of My Cousin

Several days ago, my cousin (who is 18) posted a note on Facebook telling a story about his trip to Subway.
Standing in front of him was a man who was harassing the guy behind the counter because his gloves had touched meat, and the man was vegan, so he couldn't eat anything that had been touched by anything that had touched meat. It's one thing to ask nicely for him to change his gloves, but apparently the man was being rather mean about it.
After the man left, my cousin asked the employee "Does your tuna salad have mayonnaise in it?" The employee said yes. Mayonnaise has eggs in it. Moral of the story as stated by my cousin: vegans are rude hypocrites.

I think that's a disrespectful generalization, but that's not the point of this post. 

Why does the man care if the employee's gloves had touched meat?

The purpose of being vegan is to avoid animal-based products so that less animals are slaughtered/treated badly for human consumption/profit. Therefore, eating food with meat or dairy is generally considered bad, since it detracts from that goal.

But is the demand for meat going up because the employee's gloves touched meat and also touched your food? No. In fact, you're just contributing to other consumption-based problems by insisting that he use another pair of gloves without reason.
Meat itself is not inherently evil. It's the demand for meat that's the issue. If something doesn't increase said demand, it shouldn't be a point of conflict.

So the moral of the story as stated by me is that sometimes people get so caught up in the dogma of things that they forget what the actual point of it is, and they'll often place huge value on things that don't actually matter.
So I think it's important to ask ourselves "Exactly why do I care about this?" and if it turns out that your caring about said thing is in alignment with your values/goals/whatever, then that's good. If not, then it's just an added point of anxiety, which is never beneficial.

If you're interested in learning more about the tech aspects of the Nook Color (plus hacks and such), you might want to check out said cousin's website: 

(You should also tell all of your friends to come to this here blog and post links to it and such, so that next time I see him I can brag about how I get more views than he does.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In Which My Inner Fantasy Nerd Escapes

“We were in the business of mutual amusement, and we were reasonably prosperous.” - Paper Towns

I said I'd write a post about Bones, but then I realized there isn't really much to say about it other than that it has great characters. So then I was thinking about why I love it so much if the plots are predictable and traditional (there is a murder which is solved by the end of the episode. Pretty straightforward.) And I believe I have an answer.

I was originally thinking about this a month or so ago when watching the recording of an award ceremony for books published in 2010 with which a few of my friends were involved. Someone asked what they believed the most important element of a book was. The most common answer was "characters."

Which makes total sense, even though you expect it to be plot without really knowing why. 
It's like asking "Which matters more to you: the events in your life, or the people involved?"

Well, I don't plan on getting married simply for the sake of being married. I plan on getting married because I want to spend the rest of my life with said person. And I bet the vast majority (if not all) of you feel the same.
Would you trade your best friend for a different best friend? Of course not. You don't love him/her because he/she is your best friend. He/she is your best friend because you love him/her. (either that or because he/she is your only friend, but...)

So there it is for life. And in books, it's the same. It doesn't matter how flawed the plot is (to a degree, of course) if you're spending the time with some awesome characters-- and that's the main issue with my current manuscript. The plot is alright. The world is cool. But I despise both of the protagonists.

And that's why I love Bones. The characters-- not the plot. (And it's funny.)

Now, characters taking the front seat, if you have some fantastic world in which your story is set, I will pretty much fall in love with your book. I don't mean a world in which I'd want to live, necessarily. I definitely don't want to live in Matched's society, or the London Below of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, but those worlds are so complete-- so vivid-- so real--that they carry with them an entire atmosphere around with them. 

Think about it. None of the Super Bestsellers Of Sci-fi/Fantasy that I can think of made it big because of plot or characters.

Take Harry Potter. Great plot and characters, sure. But my six year-old self didn't become obsessed with it because of that. I wanted to go to Hogwarts.

Star Wars. Characters are alright. Plot is straight-forward. Why do people love it? Jedi are so freaking cool. They want to use the Force. They want to wear tunics and robes and be knights with spaceships.

Lord of the Rings certainly didn't gain popularity from being well-written or having engaging characters or a well-paced plot. Until the movies came out, it survived on the sheer comprehensiveness and novelty of Middle Earth. Elves. Dwarves. Hobbits. Wizards. Giant Demon Bad Guys in towers with legions of monsters to do their bidding.

Also Eragon, which is basically a combination of the last two: YOU GET TO RIDE A DRAGON AND DO MAGIC! Who cares if it's a rip-off? (critics and people bothered by rip-offs, of course, but you see my point.)

It doesn't matter whether or not the actual events of the stories are interesting. What matters is that the worlds are breeding grounds for daydreams.

And so you see what went on inside my head for most of middle school. I didn't spend every spare minute reading, you idiots. I spent them flying around on my dragon and killing orcs  Urgals because I was a totally freaking awesome elf warrior lady person thing.
(And you think your life was cool.)

So that is why world-building is important. And now you understand all of the people at Star Trek conventions a little bit better.

If your world is such that your readers will fantasize about living in're set. Because they can ignore the annoying characters and become the hero themselves. Some people do this in a healthy balance with everything else, and some do not. But that's the way it is for everything.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Which I Complain About Young Whipper-Snappers

(Exactly what is a whipper-snapper?)

There are about four kids at Elementary School Writing Club that get there, sit down, eat their snack, and start to work.
There are about twenty kids in the club.

I thought I'd sit down with a few of them with my own paper and pencil, and they would stop talking to each other and focus.
Instead, they started telling each other to focus in hopes of me being pleased with them (I wasn't), and interrogating me as to how I managed to write two pages in the time it'd taken them to write two sentences.

Well...I'd like to tell them it's this thing called self-discipline that allows me to write instead of talking with my friends...but that would be terribly hypocritical of me (as well as mean if I were to phrase it that way). 

Because have I written much of anything recently? No.
Why is that? I've been online...talking with my friends. (and watching 10 episodes of Bones since Sunday morning...but let's not mention that)

I don't regret any of that time, though. I just wish there were more hours in the day in which I could write and do that dreaded Chemistry Homework that reproduces right before I kill off the last of it. If ever a species deserved to be extinct...

Things You Should Learn From This:

  1. Procrastinating from enjoyable work in favor of enjoyable non-work is acceptable only if I am the one doing it (because children are lazy, and us teenagers deserve it because we work so hard all day and we're mature and wise and need to enjoy our retirement...oh wait, hold on...)
  2. Bones is an excellent show, and you should watch it. More on Bones in a future post.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How They Met And How They Parted

"(Yesterday) I read and enjoyed a book of gay romances recommended to me by my heterosexual ex-boyfriend. Because that's not strange at all."

(The book in question is How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan, which is chockful of quotable material.)

"Knowing about life is really knowing how it should be, not just how it is." 

That's the only deep-sounding one I can find right now just flipping through (mainly because I marked that one this morning specifically to share it with all of you), but the thing I've noticed from all of the books by David Levithan that I've read is that his narrators are very, very real. Just the way he/they phrases things. The observations he/they make.

And I love it.

(And if you want more fun contradictions, think about your first "date" with your ex being just as friends. That makes no sense in about three different ways.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

An Abundance of Quotes Part 11

"It is almost impossible to write a novel any better than the best novel you’ve read in the three to six months before you began writing your own. Thus you must read excellent novels regularly.
Excellent novels set the standards for our own. But bad novels and bad prose are what teach us to write—by setting strong negative examples. You must read both, then—and read them analytically and discriminatingly." - Samuel R. Delany

““Nothing ever happens like you imagine it will,” she says.
“Yeah, that’s true,” I say. But then after I think about it for a second, I add, “But then again, if you don’t imagine, nothing ever happens at all.”” - Paper Towns

"Retard in aluminum foil-- What a lady's knight in shining armor becomes when she really gets to know him." - Urban Dictionary. That's alright. Knights are overrated, anyway. A madman with a box, however, most definitely is a madman with a box.

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder

"Sometimes in our hyper-cynical world, we forget that it's okay to get enthusiastic about things." - John Green

"I haven't slept for ten days, because that would be too long." - Mitch Hedburg

I was clicking around online and found something that said Ron Weasley's birthday is on Tuesday (this is actually un-true. Ron's birthday was on a Tuesday, but I started this post several weeks ago)  so I mentioned it aloud. My 8 year-old neighbor who is visiting said "Who's Ron Weasley?" 

I am not used to that question.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rant Under Guise of Fiction

Today in Civics my teacher was still out sick, so we watched a movie about how horrible Walmart is for America. This after watching one that may as well have been called How Bush Screwed Up The Country yesterday (ha-- this one particularly vocal Republican guy in my class was not happy).
One woman in the video said "I may as well have my social security check mailed directly to Walmart, since I buy everything there anyway." This bothered me significantly more than it should have, and I was bored, so I wrote a rant poorly-disguised as a dystopian monologue. I don't share much of my fiction on here-- despite talking about it constantly-- so I figured I'd let you read it.

"Rant Under Guise of Fiction"

By Me (or possibly indirectly by rock4ever95- you'll have to ask him if he's perfected his Jedi mind tricks yet.)

Someone once told me that people used to pay taxes to the government.
You'd have to file them and report them, and if you didn't, they could lock you up.
I don't know if I believe that, though. I mean, what would be the point? And how would they enforce it? It's not like anyone actually listens to the politicians anymore. It's the Center that makes all of the decisions; it's the Center that gets all of our money.
You'd think that some corrupt higher-ups decided one day, "Hey, let's take over the world and plunge everyone else into poverty so that if they leave us, they die." No one would want to put their very lives into the banks of one huge company that was faceless but for that grinning yellow mask, right?
Except they did.
One day, some brilliant citizen said "Hey, why don't we send our paychecks directly to the Center, since we buy everything there anyway?"
Yeah, that sounds like a fantastic idea.
But people lapped it up. "Wow," they said, "That's a great idea! We don't want to be responsible for our own money anymore!"
Petitions were signed. Meetings were held behind closed doors. Pep rallies were held behind open doors.
There was singing.
There was chanting.
There were T-shirts.
All in the name of efficiency and simplicity, the American worker ceased to have a say in his own finances-- as long as he was forced to do what he would have done anyway, what was the problem?
The Center got paid for the work I did, and I and everyone else were rewarded with various forms of free mass-produced plastic-- in the color of our choice!
So maybe I do believe we used to pay taxes to the government, but only because there's no way that people this stupid could have made it this far without someone else to spend their money for them.

And the sad thing is, there really were pep rallies and singing and chanting and T-shirts in the video. About Walmart. I wish I could take credit for that part, since I think it's particularly funny, but I'm not making it up.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Roman Dinner Party

There's this thought I have at approximately 8:30 p.m. every other Wednesday. It goes something like this: "I love writing group I love it I love it I love it."

But that's not what tonight's post is about.

Today was our Latin class' Roman Dinner Party/Fashion Show Day (which is ironic, since I have the class first period).
We learned that Roman women would pin their sleeves instead of having them sewn together, so I figured I'd destroy a shirt I hated and pin it with my Nerd Buttons (of which there are 14*). Mainly it was an excuse to wear the buttons, but my justification was that Roman women probably wore pins that they liked, so I wore the pins that I like.
Then, since it's International Week (whatever that means), we swapped classrooms and played an old Aztec game that's a bit like Sorry.

And since I think about humanity a lot, all of this plus some of the other things we've been learning in Latin made me realize that people as a whole really haven't changed much in the past few thousand years.

We still like food. We still choose which clothes to wear. We still play dumb games that take forever to get a marker out of the Start position. We still want. We still hurt. We still love. We still die. We still use gross generalizations to make a point, and we still stay up later than we should to write blog posts about Deep Things.

And I don't know whether that's a comforting thought, or if it's just really scary.

But there you have it. My Random Thought of the Night, when I should be doing my chemistry homework instead of talking to you or editing the current draft of my work in progress...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review: Matched, by Ally Condie

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
---John Lennon, via rock4ever95's Facebook

I think it's beautiful. And yes, I did just go stalk through weeks of posts to find it.

For the past two weeks, I've been reading Matched, by Ally Condie. My copy is an ARC, so I don't get the awesome cover that originally caught my eye in the store, but I finally got my hands on it, so I don't really mind.
On the cover of this ARC are a bunch of quotes from different people in the publishing house. One of them says something like "Readers who love The Giver and The Hunger Games will not be disappointed." This is true.

A summary before I get into my review:

A long time ago when Cassia Reyes' great-grandmother was young, the Society decided that humanity was over-cultured, so they began sorting through everything, to discard the things that were not "needed." Now there is only the Hundred Poems, the Hundred Songs, the Hundred Paintings, and the Hundred History Lessons. Data is gathered about everyone constantly, so their every action is predicted. Dreams are monitored. Food is assigned based on individual needs. Everyone owns only Plainclothes, Workclothes, Swimclothes, and Sleepclothes. 
Except for your Matching Banquet, when guys get to wear suits, and girls choose from the Hundred Dresses.
Sometime in the year after your seventeenth birthday, all of your data is analyzed to Match you with the person you are most likely to have the happiest life with. You receive a microcard containing a picture, a brief description, and courtship guidelines. The Society arranges supervised (at first) conversations-- and later meetings-- between you and your Match, until the Marriage Contract is signed at twenty one.
Cassia's Match is a rare occurrence. She's been Matched with someone she knows-- her best friend, as a matter of fact. But when she opens the microcard, a different boy's face appears. A face she also knows.

The thing I initially loved about this book is that the Society isn't obviously evil. The Matches really are happy. People really are healthier than ever before. The principles behind the Society are bad, of course, but the system actually seems to be working well.

Then Condie starts to reveal little problems here and there. There's the pills everyone is required to carry: one green for calming, one blue for emergency sustenance, and one mysterious red pill that can only be taken if an Official demands it. (The red pill is brilliant.)
The reader doesn't start out seeing all of the flaws in the system. We know they're there, because that's what books like this do, but we discover them along with Cassia.

Dystopia/negative-utopia is not necessarily my favorite genre (although it's definitely up there), but it is the genre that I've enjoyed the most consistently so far. And I think the world-building in Matched is very, very well-done. In fact, I just pretty much adored this book overall.

(And for those who know what I'm talking about, Cassia's grandfather gives Lester Trapp a run for his money in Most Awesome Old Person. I'm glad Trapp won, but...)

In a lot of books of this genre, the flaws of the system are discovered by stumbling upon a secret, or by finding a covert organization working on a rebellion. Or perhaps they're just obvious and the citizens are too powerless to do anything about them until the start of the novel.
But in Matched, Cassia comes to realize the problems of the Society just by experiencing and thinking. She comes to realize the problems through love, both romantic and otherwise.

The question is raised: If you've been set up with a person against your will but end up loving him/her anyway, is that love genuine? Does it still mean as much?

I enjoyed this book very, very much, and am eagerly anticipating the sequel. 
I'm a bit annoyed with the ending, though. Not because it was bad, but because a certain plot element is rather similar to something at the end of my own novel. And I thought I was being clever.
Actually, Matched reminded me of my own writing from early on. Cassia is similar to the main character of my own attempt at a post-apocalyptic story (although Matched is far better-written than mine), and there were several plot-things that were things I definitely would have done, or at least would have done if I'd thought of them in time (which is partially why I began this post with that quote--because he's the one that helped salvage the dregs of my own initial plot-- thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou).

But yes: Matched had lots of things that made me go "Ooh, that's brilliant!"

I definitely recommend it. Hopefully this review wasn't too all-over-the-place.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Singularity Part 2

“(Writing) is very much just like exploring. Just like going on a walk through the woods, except you’re in your own brain. Don’t worry about being a writer or being a novelist, just uh, take a walk in your brain, or a bike ride in your brain. But, don’t drive, because that’s bad for the environment.” - Hank Green, whose most unpublished novel is known across much of Nerdfighteria as "The Bacon Book." And from what he's posted of it, it's not bad.

Towards the end of my last post on Singularity, which is filed under February if you weren't around for it, I mentioned that my dad is thinking of writing a novel regarding the concept.

Earlier this afternoon, he bounced some plot ideas off of me. I would love to share them with you, because they're very, very clever, but I think he's really going to go through with it, and the surprise is kind of important.
Think Inception, except minus dreams and plus artificial intelligence. (I can't get away from that movie. It's everywhere. But it's awesome, so that's okay.)

Here is his current Facebook status: "I don't have writer's block. I have really busy life with obligations block, but I'm going to get started with a plot outline for a novel I've been thinking about, and see how far I get. Getting thoughts more organized in a systematic way is never a bad thing. That's the first line of my manifesto."

And here is my comment:  "‎"People often tell me that they hope to write some day when they’re not so busy. My response? Don’t wait. That day will never come. We are always too busy to write. No book has ever been written because the author had spare time to write it." - Rick Riordan, father of two, who wrote the Percy Jackson series while still working as an English teacher"

But everyone hates a post that says "great things are afoot, but you can't know," so I'll tell you about some of the broader concepts we touched upon over the course of our conversation.

He thinks that once computers can self-evolve, they'll overtake us at an inconceivably huge rate, and they will simply cease to care about us. They won't blow us up like in Terminator because we won't be viewed as a threat.
I, of course, found it pertinent to make another sci-fi reference (you'll love this, Zaphodora) and said: "But what if they want to make an interstellar bypass and the Earth just happens to be in the way?"
He says that that's one of the major issues the researchers are working on. If the computers are changing themselves, how are we to know that they'll continue to believe anything we tell them? I guess most parents ask that about their kids as well, but kids are so much less objective in regards to their upbringing that it hasn't really needed to be considered as closely before.
He's been listening to AI lectures like mad for the past two weeks or so. There's a major summit every year to discuss all of these things, and he really admires the thousand-or-so people involved.

That's one of the reasons he wants to write this book: because he can't actually go work on it himself, but if he writes a brilliant-enough novel that's true to the current predictions and research, they might like him. And he wants to be liked by all the cool kids at school. 

I'm...afraid his is going to be better than mine, actually. He doesn't have much experience with writing fiction (although he's a great oral storyteller), but he's fantastic at organizing ideas and phrasing them well. 
However, I intend to help him with it as much as he wants me to, so perhaps I can wrangle a percentage of the royalties out of him in a non-I'm-paying-for-your-tuition sort of way. ;)