Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Important Milestone (not really)

“Religion is a response to revelation and different people respond to revelation differently. We cannot continue to assume that each religion represents only one set of ideas…It is not just one thing. With every revelation, some people respond by making the world better and some respond by making it worse… The revelation isn’t the problem. We are.” - John Green

I like that quote. I like that an awful lot. I don't know if I agree with it 100%, but...

Today is an important day in the history of this blog as declared by Me, because today made April 2011 the first month in which I have gotten over 1000 views, which is made more exciting by the fact that it's come very close in 3 other months (December, January, and March). Not that I expect any of you to care all that much, but I thought I'd mention it. Also, thank you, since you're the ones who are responsible for that probably-irrational boost to my sense of self-importance. :)

Today is also important in that I actually did some research on my district's congressional representative (in the House) and discovered that he's actually doing a good job representing me/my views, according to the database I found. Yay for effective representative democracy!

(Although now I'm not sure what to say in my email to him for my Civics assignment-- I was intending it to be a persuasive letter, since one of the requirements is for it to be "concerning my views on an issue." Suggestions?)

In other news...

John Barrowman singing a Jack/Doctor slash-fic Wicked parody, courtesy of a friend of mine. Enough said. Go listen to it. It's seriously very, very awesome.

EDIT: I hit "Publish" and then went over to YouTube to watch the latest WheezyWaiter video and what was his about? How celebrating arbitrary milestones like numbers is a waste of time (it's his 500th video). Wow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where's The Mouse?

Today, Tuesday, I learned not to fill a post with random semi-interesting things going on in my life too early in the day, because odds are something more interesting will turn up within half an hour of posting it and then I have to schedule it for tomorrow and yaddah yaddah yaddah.

My dad sent the above link to me and said "I'm so stuck on this idea of the digital world accelerating and effecting the youth in such remarkable ways.   When I was your age they talked about a generation gap like it was a difficult concept that people might not even accept.   Now we have a generation gab between you and Oscar where his world is already substantially different than yours."

Oscar being my neighbor who was born in August. It's not just between me and him, though. A friend of mine teaches piano to 11 year-olds who don't know what a VCR is. 
At least record players are easily-recognizable so my generation can recognize them even though we've never had them, but a VCR is just a metallic-colored box. I guess maybe the thing of our generation is the white iPod standard-issue earbuds? Those are pretty iconic.

My dad's right, though. Progress is nothing new, but progress is speeding up considerably, and that is new. According to history, I shouldn't be that much different from someone 15 years younger than me, much less 4. Yet I am, and it's weird to think about.

I've always felt that I was born right on the boundary between two different "generations." I watched the TV shows all the 90s kids watched, but I didn't get a gaming console until all of my cousins' Game Cube games were old news (hence why I got it- ha). Harry Potter (which is according to Wikipedia part of "Generation Y") is my thing, but I was too young to be into Lord of the Rings while the movies were coming out.
Remember when I mentioned my 8 year-old neighbor asking me who Ron Weasley was?

There's even a slight difference between my sisters and I, and the oldest of the two is only 15 months younger than me. They use different slang and have different mannerisms and different idioms and different fads going around their school... I'm not supposed to understand my future children when they talk. These are my siblings. (So I may be exaggerating a bit in this paragraph, but it's just to get my point across.)

I mean, I don't think the "generation gap" is bad-- just a bit strange to think about.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

March of the Elvi

"You know when you break up with someone, you start to forget what it felt like to love them. Every time you meet a new person it feels like all fresh and even more intense than the last time and you start to question 'oh maybe I didn't love them as much'. But no, like, that's not fair to those people. Like, you did have something special with those people."-Alex Day
George Takei, portrayer of Mr. Sulu on some tiny little show no one's ever heard of called Star Trek, heard about that "Don't Say Gay" bill I wrote about recently and tweeted the following: "In case you missed it : TN bill willprevent use of word "gay" by teachers. I'm lending my name: "It's okay to be Takei."

So now all the gay nerds in Tennessee can geek out while they're being oppressed.

Moving on. We got this new song in band today called "Godzilla Eats Las Vegas." It comes with its own program notes to give to the audience so they know what the heck is going on.
The program notes are awesome and random and detailed. ("Godzilla rampages through the streets, trampling hysterical vegans. Cut to an army of Elvis impersonators marching to fight him.")

This concert at the end of May is going to be insane. We're also probably playing something that simulates the bombing of a German town called Dresden (and simulates it very well in Musical Form), and "American Elegy" for all of the people we've just fictionally murdered, among other things.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quakers Are So Cool Like

"The emergence of the novel as a 'character art' very likely reflects the increase in self-consciousness that has been part of the development in our civilization." - Jerome Bruner, 1962

(Again, points if you get the reference in the title.)

So here's a snippet of what was discussed around the dinner table at our house Saturday night.

My sister was complaining that the pastor who taught her Wednesday-night class had been ranting about how stupid Jewish people are.
My mom told her that she didn't expect her to believe everything that was taught, and that she thinks you should basically find the religion that most-closely matches your beliefs, and then ignore all of the parts with which you disagree.

I take it a step further and think religion is a very, very individual thing, so big organizations with preachers shouldn't be necessary. People should read their own holy book, and figure out what they think about it. If at some point they decide to change their minds because they've realized something, they can change their minds. And I said as much.

She said that religion isn't just about the theology-- it's also about the community. Fair enough.

But that's what I love so much about the one Quaker Meeting I've been to-- the actual "religious" part is completely individual: everyone's sitting in a room together, but in total silence, doing whatever it is they feel like they should be/want to be doing for their own spiritual fulfillment. Yet they still have a community; there are activism committees and youth groups and game nights and all sorts of other things. Like-minded people get to spend time and talk with each other without squabbling over the details of the theology.

It was so cool: there was me (who for the sake of the post shall over-simplify and identify as an agnostic), people with Christian leanings, a Muslim woman, and probably a whole bunch of others who fell in-between and on both outside ends all doing our own spiritual thing in the same room together. A very diverse group, yet a huge feeling of community within that room (not to mention the community during all of the other activities I've participated in with them).

And that's what I think "organized" religion should be about.

My best friend tells me that she doesn't write any blog posts because most of what she wants to talk about is how awesome Quakers are, which isn't a Quakerly thing to do. I, despite loving all of the time spent at her Meeting, have no such inhibitions. So this is my plug. 

I realize (mainly through extensive Wikipedia-ing) that other Meetings are rather different, so please bear in mind that I'm just talking about my experiences in one specific establishment.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Slightly After 10 This Morning, I Rose. Alleluia.

"In poker, if people believe you have a good hand, then you have a good hand. In poker as in politics, perception of reality, is reality. That certainly makes conversations around authenticity a bit more multi-layered and complex." - Andrew Slack

Jeez, I should title posts with Doctor Who quotes more often-- I got almost a hundred views just from Google searches on that last one. Ha.

All right, so if you're a Christian who is likely to be offended by people behaving improperly during church, stay away from this post. Otherwise, read on.

Going to church with my dad is always fun in the sense that he whispers witty comments to me throughout the entire service. He has a large number of such comments on Easter.

For those of you who don't celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, perhaps you aren't aware that throughout the month or so leading up to Easter (Lent), the word "Alleluia" is not allowed to be spoken (which of course ensures that we do, because we're blasphemous children of Satan and all that).

On Easter, the word's taboo status is revoked. Also on Easter, our church prints every single hymn and piece of liturgy in the bulletins that are passed out at the beginning, because taking up all that extra paper is worth making sure people don't have to flip to the right page in the brand new liturgy/hymnal books.
So at the beginning of the service this morning, I counted how many times we were going to be saying "Alleluia." 

The total? 63.

My dad, of course, thought it would be amusing to only say/sing "Alleluia" when he wasn't whispering to me. Mid-hymn he had the brilliant (and offensive, and annoying, and hilarious) idea to sing them in a ridiculously bad falsetto (this began during the stanza marked "women only." He didn't want to miss out.)
I asked him "You do know you're not in a Monty Python movie, right?"

Among other things, it was also determined that everyone in the church was decidedly Team Edward-- they seemed pretty keen on drinking blood.

His Facebook status this morning was: "Alleluia! Another day I have risen. Now that I'm getting older I've learned to appreciate each new day and the ability to get out of bed every morning. Each new day is a gift. That's why we call it 'the present.'"

When we got to church and picked up said bulletins, we saw that the covers read "Our Redeemer lives." My dad immediately said "Cool, they've already seen my status."

I'm sure you're all wondering what my mom thinks of this-- perhaps I shall write a not-all-that-personally-detailed post regarding her views tomorrow.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

He's Hot When He's Being Clever

Ok, fair enough. I mostly just wanted to use that as a title for a post (although cleverness is attractive, of course). If you caught the reference, you just won today's imaginary non-prize. Congratulations.

I actually want to talk about something else.

So very, very early this morning I read this, which links to another related post I read very, very late this morning after I woke up (because I'm a teenager, which means I have weird sleeping habits.) They deal with the bloggers' experiences with mental health...problems? Issues? Conditions? I'm not sure what the politically-correct and/or most-polite term is. They deal with mental health. Let's just go with that.

I encourage all of you to read both of them, but in case you're too busy gearing up for the Doctor Who premiere (who am I kidding, you all watched it online this afternoon just like I did) to read it, I shall now quote from the end of it:

"So, hopefully by now you agree with me that I am pretty screwed up. I want you to do that not because I desire pity, which would be fairly hurtful, but because someone this screwed up can get into a PhD program, be genuinely and exuberantly happy a couple times each week, and manage rudimentary human interaction to varying degrees of success. So, if you feel screwed up too, hopefully you will agree that it is possible that the ok life is a possible outcome."

I'm not going to write a soul-bearing post like both of those brave, admirable people did. If you really want to know all of my internal insecurities and whatnot, you basically just need to find my most abstract, "philosophical" posts, and read in-between the lines. I don't use personal examples with any of those, because I don't believe a blog is a place for people to freak out and ramble about their personal problems, nor do I feel particularly comfortable writing about mine in a non-freaky-outy sort of detailed way.

This is more to say that I appreciate those posts in more ways than one, and I think they both have important messages regarding self-awareness and working through things.

Because, gosh darn it, I do feel screwed up and insecure and all of that other totally un-fun stuff, and I'm sure you do as well from time to time.

So there are my thoughts on those posts. Now for what I want to add.

I think it's important for all of us to remember that everyone else on the planet has their own strengths, weaknesses, and difficulties. Everyone else on the planet has his or her own internal conflict and pain. And we have to keep that in mind when interacting with others, take it into consideration, and be as supportive and forgiving as we can without significant damage to ourselves. "Respect others as you would have them respect you" or something of that sort.

(Off to watch the Doctor Who pre-show before watching "The Impossible Astronaut" again-- with my family, this time. Allonzy.)

An Abundance of Quotes Part 15

"You can love someone so much, but you can never love people as much as you can miss them." - some John Green book

"It's simple to love someone, but it's hard to know when you need to say it out loud." - Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me

"There is nothing to fear but fears themselves, such as monsters, rejection, food poisoning, redundancy, monsters, and Oxford commas." - Craig Benzine

"If you want to spit out brilliance, try spitting things out." - rock4ever95

“WORTH IT and perfect are different things. No one’s perfect, yet in romance, everyone becomes WORTH IT. And that’s the trick.” - Maureen Johnson

"Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody." - Mark Twain (Yes it can *cough* Doctor Who *cough*)

"We are often told that we are what we eat. In our world since the printing press it might be more accurate to say we are what we read. How each of us digests what we read is a mystery. And what people read is sometimes as puzzling as what they really think." - Daniel J. Boorstin, 1989

"Let others be ashamed who have buried themselves in books that they can offer nothing for the common enjoyment." - Cicero, 62 B.C.

I know there's a fair amount of love-related quotes in there. It wasn't intentional. I just stock up on them for awhile in order to make an AoQ post.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The "Don't Say Gay" Bill

I haven't written a rant about an article in awhile, have I? Fortunately for all of you, this one is pretty short.

In case you didn't go to read it, the title should be enough: "Tennessee Senate Panel Approves School Gay Ban Bill," also known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
It basically prevents any discussion of any sexuality other than heterosexuality from taking place in Tennessee classrooms in which the students are 8th grade or younger. It doesn't matter whether it's in the context of sex-ed or not, and apparently not even the kids are allowed to talk about it on their own.

The bill makes me angry, of course, as does some of the phrasing in the article itself (teachers can't teach anything that's not in the Board of Education's "family life curriculum."), but when I think about it...
We never discussed non-heterosexuality in class up until high school. I don't think there's any laws preventing it, but it didn't happen. And even in high school, it wasn't in health class. It was always in English, either in the context of a speech on a controversial topic or that of current events, when there was the series of suicides last year.
Then again, heterosexuality was never really discussed in health class either. It was all "yay abstinence! Oh, and there's this thing called birth control, but we don't need to tell you much about that, since you should all BE ABSTINENT!!!!"

The article itself is pretty impartial, which is a relief. However, I have to disagree when the head of the office who created the bill claims that it's "neutral. We should leave it to families to decide when it is appropriate to talk with children about sexuality – specifically before the eighth grade."

Then they should ban all discussion of sexuality in school before the eighth grade if they really want to be neutral.

Here's how my schools did it: 5th grade was "There's this thing called puberty. Here is what happens during it. Here are some diagrams." Not much sexuality there, really. It was all focused on understanding what is/was about to be happening to the individual students-- not how it relates to others.
For middle school, see my summary of abstinence-oriented education above, which is also basically "sexuality is bad," which in my opinion isn't the best message to be giving.

My schools' policies on the matter are flawed, yes, but that bill is even more so. Sex-ed (or any other type of discussion regarding sexuality) shouldn't be a matter of heterosexuality vs. other. It should be a matter of sexuality in general. More like "Hey kids, you're sexual beings. It's a very complicated issue, but here are some healthy, safe, and respectful ways to handle it."

I don't care whether a kid is gay or straight or anywhere in-between: sexuality is difficult enough to cope with regardless of the kind, and each and every student needs to be able to have the information, acceptance, and emotional support that he or she deserves (and each student deserves an equal amount.)

I'm not saying "hey, being straight is tough too so stop focusing on everyone else so much." I'm saying "sexuality of any/every kind is something that needs to be given its due in school (or at the very least the opportunity to be discussed, even if it isn't a mandatory part of the curriculum), because the point of school is to educate kids in a safe, supportive environment."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dueling Pianos

"Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle." - Robert Anthony

After lunch today, we rented a U-Haul and drove over to the elementary school. Why? We were going to pick up our new piano. 
No, not a replacement piano-- an additional piano, because we're huge snobs and one simply wasn't enough anymore. (The real reason: it only cost us about $25, and that was for the truck, so why the heck not?)

So you're probably thinking "Huh? One woman, one teenager, and one eleven year-old are going to move a super-heavy piano all by themselves? That's insane."

See, I bet you didn't know that all three of us can bench 100 pounds--a hundred British pound notes, that is. ;)

(We ended up getting the principal to help out with the loading, and our neighbor with the unloading.)

And now we have two pianos in our front room: the baby grand we've had my entire life, and an ex-player piano-turned-mirror-piano that was made in 1919 and is so horrendously out of tune that I've pretty much banned anyone from playing it until the piano tuner guy can come fix it. It's a bit crowded, but my mom and other sister are going to have fun playing things together when they both have access to a full keyboard instead of sharing.

So now for a bit of history, as well as what a mirror piano is:

During World War 2, the piano industry wasn't doing so well (I wonder why). There weren't many new ones being made, so what the companies did was find antiques (most of them gutted player pianos, like the one we now have), take off the top and attach a mirror. This made it look smaller and more modern.

Then they'd sell them to all of the people who wanted the Smallest, Sleekest, Lightest, Shiniest Newest Thing (these, of course, are the grandparents of the Apple fanboys) for a profit, not caring that they'd lowered the value of the antique pianos by thousands of dollars when adjusting for inflation.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In Joy We Face The Storm And Defy It

"It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it." - Amelia Barr

Now there's a quote that deserves to be at the beginning of a novel.

A recent vlogbrothers video dealt with some of the more commonly-searched things on Google, mocking them while "answering" the questions. It's kind of sad that so many people would search using the queries mentioned-- but I'll let John Green give you the details.

Sometimes it worries me to look at my Stats page and see what Google searches brought people here. Also, it's strange to see which combinations of keywords leave me on the first page.

Examples from this week:

  • "is rangers apprentice gay"
  • "craig benzine gay"
At least we know what the greater internet cares about now (To be fair, most of the other Google-based views were from keywords involving books.)

I've no idea about Craig, but Ranger's Apprentice actually seems to be fairly asexual.

And on that note, a question for you: do you prefer romance written by a male author or by a female author, regardless of the gender of the main character? Is there much of a difference?

(This came up while reading RA#9 over the weekend-- my best friend said the romance doesn't measure up because it was written by a guy. I think that what little romance there is is very sweet. In fact, I think most of the best romance I've read was written by guys. I guess "best" is up for debate, though. Go ahead and put your thoughts on that in the comments too, if you want.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Crazy Raving Girl: Ranger's Apprentice

“Human sexuality is not an either/or proposition, and trying to deny its complexity is going to make both you and your partner miserable.” - John Green (something to think about)

As Kenny's comment on my last post reminded me, it is rather difficult to fathom a 10 (and counting)-book series that doesn't degrade into word-soup by the end. Most get bad around book 3 or 4.

One of the things that makes Ranger's Apprentice unique is the "nature of its conception." John Flanagan didn't sit down and go "Oh, I think I'll write a book" and then a year later "Hm. I'll write a sequel" and so on. The series began when his son was 8 years old (he's in either his 20s or 30s now) and didn't like to read. Flanagan began writing his son short stories about a boy rather like him-- kind of small, not built for being a knight at any rate-- who shared his interests-- archery and knife-throwing. 
He gave his son one of these short stories every Friday afternoon. One week, his son appeared at his window and said "Dad, where's my story?" and he knew that he had succeeded. 
The short stories didn't grow into novels until much later-- and each novel does indeed contain elements of one or more of these original stories. 

Books 1 and 2 go together plot-wise, as do 3 and 4, as well as 5 and 6, and 8 and 9. 7 is out of order in terms of the time-line, because he realized he'd left out an important time in the main character (Will)'s life, so it stands alone.
The plots aren't really based around "Oh no, the Rangers have to save the kingdom!". Sure, sometimes they do, but they're very much driven by the characters (and the bonds between them). The books really don't get worse over time, as difficult as that may be to accept.

As I said yesterday, Will's mentor Halt is one of my favorite characters ever (EVER), and the relationship between the two of them is something that everyone will become very attached to as they watch it develop over the course of the series. That's really the driving force of the entire thing, and it does it well. The interplay between the two of them and their knight friend Horace is hilarious.

The kingdom of Araluen (yes, it is a very obvious parallel of England-- get over it) views the Rangers as near-gods capable of anything. They aren't, of course, but they're still incredibly awesome, using their knowledge and cleverness (and archery skills) to do the things that a laymen would assume were only possible using magic. And that just makes what they do even more impressive.

In conclusion, I want to be a Ranger when I grow up (and I'm the same age as Will when he started his apprenticeship! RANGERS OF NORTH CAROLINA, SHOW YOURSELVES!), and the world of Araluen is a wonderful place with wonderful characters in which you should definitely want to spend hours of your time. I cannot express to you just how much I recommend these books. They really are some of my favorites ever (and I'm not just saying that because the author expressed interest in my own book, no I'm not no I'm not no I'm not).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In Which I Am A Proud Teenage Book Nerd

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thought on the unthinking." - John Maynard Keynes

Well hey, I didn't die in a tornado this weekend (and that's not a random thought-- it was considerably more likely to happen this weekend than at any other time in my life). It didn't come near us at all, up at Lake Gaston as we were. Good thing too, since the house we were staying in was very, very long and very, very thin and therefore had very, very few interior rooms.

We watched the news, and worried about our family and friends who were actually in the direct path, and my best friend and I read book 9 of the Ranger's Apprentice series (Halt's Peril) aloud to each other. We left my house at about 10 Saturday morning and got back at about 9 Sunday night. That book is 386 pages long. Right before we pulled into my driveway, we reached page 360.

Go ahead and mock us for spending so much of our time together reading a book, but we don't regret it. The book is seriously freaking awesome (it's my second favorite series EVER-- second to Harry Potter, of course), and it wasn't as if we were reading constantly without ever saying a word otherwise. In our defense, we also painted a room and went for a boat ride. And talked a lot, for we are Teenage Girls so we tend to do that sort of thing.

Reading this book together made me realize a few things:

1. My best friend is seriously awesome, and while I already knew that and she knows I think so, I thought it would be a good thing to mention.
2. The writing isn't perfect (he tends to use the same word in the same paragraph in that way that's sometimes annoying, if you know what I mean), but I don't particularly care, because the characters are Just That Awesome and Real-Feeling and the plot is super-intense.
3. The characters are Awesome and Real-Feeling, and their interactions with each other, and the strength and power of their relationships are even better. Halt is probably one of my favorite characters ever, and Book 9 in particular really spotlights his relationship and meaning to Will and Horace.

So you really, really should request book 1 (The Ruins of Gorlan) from the library, and actually go to the library to get it when it arrives, and then read it. And if you don't, I may just have to sit you down and read it to you myself. And then read you the second one. And the third one. I'll make you read some of the chapters because my voice will be rather tired by then. And if you aren't completely hooked on the series by the end of the third book, well, I'll just move on to the fourth one. Book 10 comes out on Tuesday, so I'm sure we'll be spending a lot of time together. ;)


I'm going to write another post about Ranger's Apprentice tomorrow, probably. One that focuses more on the actual content of the series rather than how muh I love it. But for now, just know that it has my highest recommendation.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Sad, Beautiful Link

"Time travel is awesome and useful. That sentence had a typo when I published it...the first time." - Craig Benzine

"You don't have to be gay to be a supporter -- you just have to be human." - Daniel Radcliffe

I know there's probably a few of you who have read this already, but for those of you who haven't, here's a wonderful blog post about the simply gargantuan amounts of pop culture we'll be facing in the future:

I occasionally have mini panic attacks regarding this issue. There's so much good stuff out there, and there will be more and more great creators of such stuff, and those creators will be creating longer and longer as average life expectancy increases.

As the article (which you should read, since it's much better than what I'm writing here)) says, it isn't possible to get to all of the good things that are worth our time. We just have to make sure to spend our time on some of them, put a little effort into finding the best of the best, and lament the fact that we can't get to all of it.

(P.S. I'm writing this Monday night-- at the beach! The next two days shall be filled with sunshine and ice cream and lying on the sand using my Chemistry binder for a pillow. Awesome.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Random Interesting Religion-y Factoids

"Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert Green Ingersoll

I reserve the right to disobey that advice. ;)

Right, so yesterday I saw a rather thought-provoking chat-status about Jesus working best as a metaphor. I mentioned it to my dad on the way to school this morning, and he shared an interesting bit of information that he learned in his Religious Symbolism class that he took in college.

He learned a grand total of two things in that class that he currently remembers. The first is "religion" meaning "re-binding," meaning it's a thing you must do repeatedly to keep yourself close to God. Meaning that (most forms, anyway, of) Christianity is technically not a religion, since the whole point is that God is always with you all the time. But that's not what this post is about.

This post is about the second thing: that during Biblical times, apparently, when Jews referred to someone as "the son of" somebody, they were referring to the cultural tradition that when a boy/man comes of age, he can then speak for his father in business deals. So calling Jesus "the Son of God," by this reasoning, means that people just really liked his teachings and thought they made sense so he may as well be speaking on behalf of God- not that he was literally His son.

And regardless of whether you believe that, or whether or not you think Christ works best as a metaphor, it's an interesting interpretation. And I'm all for unique interpretations (as long as they're not completely out of the ballpark, anyway).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


"Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments." - Rose Kennedy

"If you hear the past speaking to you, feel it tugging at your back and running its fingers up your spine, the best thing to do-- the only thing-- is run." - Lauren Oliver, Delirium
I'm not convinced that I agree with that, but it sure is poetic.

This post is dedicated to Elijah, for becoming my 20th official follower (cough haha rock4ever95 I now have more followers than you today is a momentous day cough).

Today in the midst of a daydream in the midst of 4th period (within a daydream, within a daydream, within a daydream), I realized that I was daydreaming, and wondered about it (as I am prone to do. Introspection is both a blessing and a curse, but that's another post entirely).

In my defense, it's something my dad and I were discussing on the way to school. I said "I'll just leave you to your delusions, then." He said "Sometimes that's all that gets me through the day."
Now, "delusion" has a bit of a negative connotation. However, there are both "good delusions" (henceforth referred to as either fantasies or daydreams) and "bad delusions" (the kind that make you kill people or convince you that you're a god).

At first thought, I'd consider myself a fan of living in reality. Living in the real world. But then I think "Hang on. I'm a writer who spends a lot of time reading and enjoys movies and TV who argues that it doesn't matter whether or not the top falls at the end of Inception."
So perhaps not as much.

Unless we're so totally immersed (such as while dreaming or in a virtual reality sci-fi thing) that it truly doesn't matter whether or not our delusion is reality, though, it's important to keep a handle on what is and isn't real. It might seem counter-intuitive, but I think the most dangerous daydreams are the ones that are close enough that they might happen, even if it's not actually terribly likely.

Example: A conversation with a friend who I'm going to see later that day is more likely than getting an A on my next chemistry test is more likely than getting my novel published is more likely than winning the lottery.
What's the most dangerous to daydream about? The chem test, because if I convince myself I'll get an A with 0 effort, I'm not likely to try as hard (although if I'm having said daydream during chemistry, odds are I'm not paying much attention anyway).

Even more dangerous still, though, is those sorts of daydreams involving other people. Because if you start attributing fictitious traits/likelihoods to real people, they're going to disappoint you (sounds like I've had a bad day- I haven't. Just a thought.)

So...keep your talismans with you, I guess. That's my Pretentious Teenager Advice For The Day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

"Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment." - Rita Mae Brown

"Nothing is perfect. Therefore being perfect is being nothing, and that's a great way to lose weight." - Craig Benzine

I want to give this book four separate reviews. I think it divides fairly well into four distinct parts, and I have different feelings about all of them. However, it is one book, so it gets one post (sorry it's so long-- I had a lot to say). Page numbers are approximate (give or take about 20).

In the world of Delirium, love is a disease known as amor delirium nervosa, and there is a Cure. This Cure is administered to everyone as soon after their eighteenth birthday as possible. The narrator, Lena, is three months away from her Cure at the beginning of the book, and she can't wait.

Part 1 (pages 0-100): The Awesome Part

I read this part in one day, and I raved about it to anyone who would listen. It focuses around the dystopian-ness, and how their society works (they read Romeo and Juliet as freshmen just like we do...except they read it in health class- how awesome is that?). Despite the fact that they view love/passion (for anyone in any context or any hobby or whatever in general) as something to be eradicated, I think this part treats the idea of love pretty fairly and gives it a realistic representation.
I read chapter 1 (it's only about 4 pages) three times before moving on. This part gets 5 stars.

Part 2 (pages 100-200): The Cliche Part

This is the part where I saw every single plot "twist" coming from a mile away. However, it wasn't cliche in an annoying way, so I didn't particularly mind. The awesomeness of the first part carried me through. 
This part gets 3 stars.

Part 3 (pages 200-300): The Twilight Part

This is the place where everything goes all Twilight-y and I start rolling my eyes.
Ironically enough, it's in Part 3--the part in which Lena realizes that love is a good thing-- that I start to be annoyed by its portrayal. People in love might act like air-heads on occasion, but they're not complete air-heads.

Seriously: It's one thing to enjoy kissing, and to want to do it often. But it's quite another thing to say that everything that happened in your entire life before you kissed random shirtless guy in a shed that smells of wet dog didn't matter. Okay, so he wasn't a random guy. He was the guy from Part 2. But still. 
(Also, there is an entire two paragraphs about how awesome this guy's chest is. I had to put the book down and laugh just because there really isn't any other way to react. Just tell me he's very attractive, will you? I can fill in the details on my own. I flipped back to that page during lunch today and passed the book around just to show how ridiculous it was.)

In this part they also visit Awesome Chest Guy's home in the Mysterious Wilds. And when they get into his house/tent/trailer thing, it turns out he has a transparent roof with a romantic view of the moon and then he starts lighting candles. REALLY? 
 I've nothing against candles or watching the moon, but...both of them together just seems completely excessive in this context. This is the middle of the forest in a camp run by the homeless impoverished outcasts of society. It's a freaking dystopia. (Plus I think they'd feel a bit more awkward than the book depicted.)

But then it turns out he has huge stacks of books lying around his trailer, and he pulls one out. So he's redeemed himself a bit, right? I love being read aloud to.
But then he starts reading love poems to her. NO. Too much. That's really, really too much. Read her anything else (even a story that happens to have romance in it!) and the night is lovely (ha, unintentional pun) and romantic (even if slightly over-the-top with the candles, but hey, they don't have electric light) and perfectly enjoyable. BUT NOT LOVE POETRY. 

So this part gets 2 stars, 2 only because it flew by so quickly I didn't have the time to get even more annoyed with it before reaching

Part 4 (page 300- End): The Stressful Part

Hand me a book, and chances are that I'll like the first third-or-so best. Authors are simply better at writing beginnings, since we get more practice with that. In addition, beginnings are more about immersion (see review for Part 1 and also Avatar) into the world. And you know I love the worlds.
Endings are more formulaic, because stuff has to be resolved somehow.

Part 4 was the adrenaline-filled Ticking Clock Ending that is so common and rarely fails to keep the book open on my knees hidden under the desk. Because despite how ridiculous Part 3 was, I didn't actually hate either of the protagonists, so I wanted them to live happily ever after because on the one hand I'm an enormous sap. However, on the other hand I'm a reader/writer who enjoys dark endings.
So if it had ended happily, I would have been glad for the characters and written a bad review of this part.
It didn't end happily, though, so I'm a bit sad for the characters and am writing a favorable review of this part.
3 stars, for being a decent-enough resolution.

(SPOILERIFIC NOTE: Awesome Chest Guy shows up on a motorcycle dressed all in black with his Golden-Red Hair Blowing In The Wind and there is a huge chase scene before he sacrifices himself so Lena can escape. Everyone loves Awesome Chest Guy.)

Overall: It's a good book, and I enjoyed it. Part 1 ruled at being Awesome Dystopia, Part 2 was good enough, Part 3 was fun to laugh at, and it was also successful at being "hooray perfect love story make the non-cynical people jealous" (and while I wasn't busy being cynical, I may have liked it), and Part 4 wasn't a sell-out.

So 3.5 stars overall. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

An Abundance of Quotes Part 14

"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull." - W. C. Fields

"Don't be a hater-- you'll just end up like Darth Vader." - Alex Carpenter

Which I am posting just because the Star Wars reference made me laugh.

"Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another." - John Dewey

"The history that lies inert in unread books does no work in the word." - Carl Becker, 1932

"Right and wrong is just a matter of perception. The only way you can be wrong is if you believe you're wrong. Or if I say so." - Lord Voldemort's Twitter feed

Also, the funniest "your mom" joke I've heard in a long time, courtesy of one of the people I eat lunch with: "Your mom's so fat that her patronus is a cake."  (Did you guys know that in Latin, "expecto patronum" means "I await my godfather"? Talk about subtle foreshadowing. **worships J.K. Rowling**)

Also Also Also (and this is being added several days after I started adding quotes to this, so I'm sorry it is similar to the Voldemort one): "I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong." - Craig Benzine. I want that on a T-shirt. And I want my mom (specifically her) to buy me said T-shirt, because she (and I) would think it funny for her to buy it for me.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Community Service Mini-Informal Essay Thing

This is another queued post, because I have no life and therefore spend a heck of a lot of time thinking about blog-worthy things yet I don't want to post more than once per day. You'd think I'd have better things to do than contemplate the assumptions, trends, and connotations associated with the word "liberal." Well guess what: Either I don't, or I just multi-task rather well. Or both.

(Paragraph of Self-Deprecation Has Achieved Completion)

Anyways. I was actually working on my Civics & Economics (we're in the Civics portion now) homework and realized the mini-informal-essay I was writing might be of interest to you guys, since it's about my involvement with my old elementary school's writing club, which I talk about on here from time to time. (I can't help but feel that my teacher's judging me, though. I write my Economics book report on For The Win by Cory Doctorow, interview Alan Lastufka for the Economics powerpoint, and now I'm confessing that I write novels in my free time for Civics. Nerd pride, you guys. DFTBA.)

At any rate, here is the essay:

I volunteer as a mentor in the writing club at my old elementary school, and have been doing so for over a year. This club is comprised of 4th and 5th graders, and meets on a bi-weekly basis.
In June 2010, the teacher-sponsor of the club announced she was leaving to take a job at a different school, so in the fall, my best friend (the other mentor) and I were the ones to take the initiative in finding another teacher to keep the club going.
Our job main job is to circulate among the students throughout the hour, answering their questions, proof-reading their stories, and keeping them on-task. Sometimes we lead small groups in which the students read their stories aloud before listening to feedback given by the others. In November, I organized participation in National Novel Writing Month’s Young Writer’s Program, the adult version of which I have now completed two years in a row. This involved helping the kids to set a reasonable word-count goal for themselves and to then meet it by the end of the month. The majority of them completed and even exceeded their goals, and several of the same kids are now in the midst of NaNoWriMo’s sister program, Script Frenzy.
Being a high school mentor for these kids is a unique experience, because I don’t hold the status of at teacher, nor do I view them as being strictly under my authority despite that I do expect them to listen. There is a relationship of mutual respect and understanding, which has done wonders when it comes to them listening to my writing advice. I’m close enough in age that I’m not in the “I’ll never be that old” unreachable category, but I’m also in talks with a literary agent to get my one completed novel published. This allows them to believe that I give them suggestions based on experience rather than curriculum or “this is just the way I want you to do it,” as is sometimes the belief regarding teachers.
I find volunteering with this club to be very fulfilling. It’s exactly the kind of club I wish the school had had when I was there, so I’m glad to be a part of making it possible for the kids like me who are there right now.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Trends in Political Party

Today (or rather yesterday, since I'm going to queue this up to post tomorrow) in Civics I was sitting at my desk working on some stuff for chemistry (yes, I see the discontinuity. It's true.) and these two people who sit near me (one of whom I have known for nearly five years and the other I've just known of) were mock-arguing and saying they were going to have a fight and such.
So the girl (the one I've known of) says "Olivia'd back me up, right?" and the guy says "No. I've known her for ages. She wouldn't fight. Right, Olivia?"
And I smiled and said "Mhm."
And the girl said "Why not?"
And the guy said "Because she's a pacifist." (at which point some conversation of which I don't remember the exact words happened with someone else who basically also said she wouldn't fight)
And then they guy said "It's because you're both Democrats."
And I smiled again and said "Yep."
And he, being the Republican that he is, laughed.

(I also wanted to say "Just remember that I've been grading your papers for five years. I might not want to fight you, but I'm boss at non-violent protest." Except I didn't.)

Which of course made me think "there is a blog post in this."

Now most of my friends have very liberal political views, and most of my friends are generally pacifists, but is there such a strong connection to really say that Democrat = Pacifist? (and Democrat and liberal aren't even always the same, since Democrat is a party and liberal is a perspective.) I don't actually know.

The joke, of course, is that "liberal" is synonymous with "awesome." But while that's fun to say with your liberal friends, we all know there are plenty of exceptions on both ends (and if you're a non-liberal, the people that fit this rule ARE the exceptions- ha).

So I guess what I'm wondering if how much of the correlations we joke about are actually true. Like my best friend once observed "People who are Team Edward tend to be Republicans, and people who are Team Jacob tend to be Democrats." (guess where she falls when she bothers to care either way.)

What does being a Democrat or having liberal views actually mean? I can give you an issue and you can tell me what the people of each side tend to think about that issue.

But how much of all the other similarities is coincidence, and how much actually comes with the description?
Like how most nerdfighters are Harry Potter fans. It's not required to like Harry Potter. It's just that the vast, vast majority of us do.

So, More-Politically-Knowledgeable-Than-I-Am Readers Of Mine, discuss.