Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Reviews of the Semester

Romance has dominated my reading selections this semester. From a fluffy, teenage drama by Sarah Dessen, to a cliche revisit of the current fad Twilight, to the dark classic Wuthering Heights, I sense a pattern. Apparently, I'm a sucker for forbidden love. The following books, in no particular order, were processed through my consciousness within the last 4 months:

  • Along for the Ride, a melodramatic young adult fiction novel, was a quick read. Most of Dessen's stories are remarkably similar and predictable and this one served to bore me. Auden, just like all of the authors' other crazily named main characters, visits her dad over the summer and realizes his new life is just as dysfunctional with a new wife and baby as it was with her mother. She meets the stereotypical perfect boy-tall, dark, mysterious, and against all odds, their love blossoms. But a selfish miscommunication will create a chasm between the lovers that bitterly ends the summer fling. This book is truly one to take to the beach, to lazily read while thinking about the skin the sun is peeling from your back and foolishly longing for the proverbial summer love.
  • Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series reached the threshold of popularity and obsession and is now ridiculed and scorned by the former fanatics. While I do recognize that the hype about the series and the movies borders ridiculousness, I am a sucker for a love story, and I did reread the book that started the Vampire mania. I can identify with Bella (as I'm sure every other teenage girl in America absolutely can) in so many ways. Last year, while making my way through the series, I was sure I had found my Edward, sitting next to me in biology class no less! I've gone through my fair share of presumed Edwards since, yet still I have an almost eerily similar personal version of Jacob. (Which is fine by me because I've always been a Jacob fan.)
  • Wuthering Heights.....I still don't know what to think of this classic. I was all for the thwarted love and revenge stuff at first, but the dark twisted plot was a little weird for my taste. All in all I found the book depressing and hopeless-stories of arranged or forced marriages always seem hopeless and miserable to me. However, I'm glad to have read it simply because it is a classic story and I feel more "educated" and "well-read" for having done so.
  • One of my absolute favorite reads this semester is undoubtedly The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Her tale of sacrifice, separation, and survival is thrilling and inspiring. I only wish for Katniss's bravery or Peeta's devotion. Katniss sacrifices herself to save her sister from the brutality of the Hunger Games. Peeta is happy to have been chosen for the competition, not because he finds joy in killing other children, but because he is in love with Katniss, a phenomenon she cannot understand. As they grow close through training and eventually through aid and survival in the arena of death, they are ever aware that to end the game, one or the other must die.The action in this ominous novel makes it impossible to set the book down. I actually took this book with me to lunch one day and read as I ate in the cafeteria. Now that is a worthy book, that makes one endure the ridicule of her fellow classmates! This book, unlike Wuthering Heights, is full of hope, which I liked.
  • Soon after finishing The Hunger Games, I obtained Chasing Fire, the sequel, in a black market exchange. Just kidding! Although it was near impossible to find. I was not disappointed in the second book. The suspense, the plot twists, the development of Katniss and Peeta's relationship, along with the tension between Katniss and Gale, her male best friend, make the story wonderful. In this difficult, post-apocoliptic world, citizens of district twelve struggle for survival even before the officials at the Capitol start the crackdowns intended to thwart the revolts that Katniss and Gale aroused in their victory tour. When the two victors are pitted against each other, they rally for a way to beat the system. Love, humanity, morality, and decency are central issues in this trilogy. I can't wait for the third book.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Rogue Maverick

Sarah Palin, self-proclaimed political maverick and the object of media scorn and ridicule, has certainly made a splash in the GOP.

While no one can deny the revolutionary path she carved in being the first female to run for the vice-presidency on the Republican ticket, it's time to realize that the girl is no serious politician.

From her comically repetitive campaign slogans to her familial controversies to her less than eloquent television interviews, Palin has not presented herself in the best light. Even in the early days of her candidacy, when her approval ratings reached 53%, some conservatives viewed her as a political liability. The McCain campaign's refusal of unscripted press conferences with the candidate and her indigence at the "gotcha" moments she fell into did little to dispel this feeling. Throughout the campaign, as Americans saw more and more of the true Palin, approval ratings dropped, and now, on an average of all parties, the former Alaska governor is disfavored.

While some Republicans root for the former Alaskan soccer-mom-turned-mayor-turned-governor to run for president in 2012, others bluntly call her a joke. Supporters warn not to underestimate the power of her "fan" base. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called Palin "an exciting figure" and stated that the party "needs that kind of excitement." However, I question if an exciting personality, beauty pageant history, and the ordinary soccer mom voter base is enough to qualify a person for the highest office in our nation.

In two days, the book Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin will hit the shelves. Her publisher calls it the story of "one ordinary citizen's extraordinary journey." While Mrs. Sarah Palin definitely draws attention to the seemingly neglected GOP, is she truly a viable 2012 presidential hopeful? I think not.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Awakening Sentence Analysis

Chapter 6 of Kate Chopin's The Awakening teems with rhetorical and grammatical gems. Her insight into the female mind of the late nineteenth century enlightens readers and invokes consideration of the imprisonment women of that time suffered.

To view our visual interpretation of one of her sentences, click here.

The author's dramatic diction, further elaborated here, enforces her tragic emotions evoked by the then taboo thoughts and feelings she simply couldn't shake.

Chopin's syntax illustrates the chaotic and unorganized beginning to her perilous journey of self-discovery. See here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Ancient Art of Marriage

1959. Typical American household. A working father, his doting housewife, a strapping athletic son, a smart pretty daughter. All sitting down for a family dinner.

2009. Typical American household. A single mother. Her boyfriend. Two rebellious daughters. A sullen teenage stepson. All in separate rooms going about their own business.

As Rebecca O'Neill stated in Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family, "For the best part of thirty years we have been conducting a vast experiment with the family, and now the results are in: the decline of the two-parent, married-couple family has resulted in poverty, ill-health, educational failure, unhappiness, anti-social behaviour, isolation and social exclusion for thousands of women, men and children."

Over the years marriage has lost its luster in our society. Some people view matrimony as a dated, stifling ritual. Others have broadened the term's definition to include multiples types of unions including same-sex relationships and even "marriages" between humans and inanimate objects! The institution of marriage must be redefined and standardized to restore order to our culture.

We have become flippant regarding marriage. The phrase "till death do us part" seems to carry little to no weight in modern marriages. More and more wedded couples are separating, severing families and burdening children. This decline in the traditional nuclear family is altering society. Stepparents, half siblings, and child support are becoming the norm. Alternative lifestyles are emerging with unmarried couples living together and having children out of wedlock, homosexual couples creating families, and single parents depending on child support from their ex-spouses. Our culture is so comfortable with disposable, ephemeral marriages and abnormal unions that marriage is no longer taken seriously. Marriage is even the subject of elementary playground teasing-"If you love basketball so much, why don't you marry it?" Marriage is no longer considered a sacred and holy union between one man and one woman. The cries of egalitarians for equal marriage rights are somewhat off-base. If people choose to love someone of the same sex or choose to love an inanimate object such as the Eiffel Tower, that is their own prerogative, but to call these relationships marriages is inaccurate.

Fundamentally, marriage is essential for a thriving society. Humans crave companionship on both a physiological and a biological level. We are not creatures created to live alone. Once children reach adulthood, they must leave the comfort of their parents' care and begin their own lives. Traditional marriage satisfies both these needs. Without marriages to create new families, society would become a free-for-all mating ground. I realize that technically, marriage is not essential for reproduction and thus the advancement of generations, as current trends no doubt illustrate. However, children born out of wedlock typically grow up with a weak sense of familial values and continue the vicious cycle of illegitimate births, shotgun weddings, divorce, and remarriages. Children need both maternal and paternal influence throughout their development. Who is better suited to be their character role models than their biological mother and father? I realized that certain situations practically demand divorce and that remarriage can be a blessing, but all in all, marriage needs to be respected and preserved as a sanctified right.

Unless we as a society redefine true marriage, and resurrect some traditional family values, we will raise a generation with no sense of family values or structure who will only continue down this slippery slope of cultural decline.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sentence 12

His sentence: And this is a question which I should like to ask of you, who have arrived at that time which the poets call the "threshold of old age": Is life harder toward the end, or what report do you give of it?

From Plato's Republic

The author begins the sentence with a conjunction and announces the upcoming question to a character "you," referred to in the following adjective clause that proceeds the colon. Then comes the question which juxtaposes two nonparallel dependent clauses.

My sentence: But, I wish to inquire of You, who hung the moon and the stars: How can you love me so, or where does this love end?

Sentence 11

His sentence: I was delighted with the procession of the inhabitants; but that of the Thraciams was equally, if not more, beautiful.

From Plato's Republic

Plato's compound sentence is separated by a semicolon and a conjunction. The phrase "if not more," which qualifies the adverb equally, is set off by commas and solidifies the speaker's opinion.

My sentence: I was happy that she escaped the accident unscathed; but the policeman was too forgiving, if not entirely remissive, of her crime.

Sentence 10

His sentence: When I walked the streets in Germany, I found it impossible not to carefully survey groups of people loitering near buildings, and I found myself scanning windows in the business district, watching for snipers.

From Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

Starting with a subordinate clause, and incorporating a participial phrase before the second independent clause set off by a conjunction, this sentence is compound-complex.

My sentence: As stare up into the golden leaves, I catch myself dreaming of snowflakes clinging to my windowpane, and I long for December to come.

Sentence 9

His sentence: I feel sort of . . . protected.

From Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

The author's use of an ellipsis adds suspense to the sentence.

My sentence: You are . . . astounding.

Sentence 8

His sentence: She began removing items-her wallet, sunglasses, visor, a tube of sunscreen-and handed them all to the blonde before wringing out the bag.

From Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

The author uses dashes to set apart a list-a list characterized by asyndeton.

My sentence: I check my bag once more for contest essentials-scissors, hairspray, glitter, extra gloves, shoes, pants, sequins, whistle-and head for the bus just before roll call.

Sentence 7

His sentence: It wasn't just her slightly gap-toothed smile, it was the casual way she swiped at a loose strand of hair, the easy way she held herself.

From Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

Sparks' asyndeton allows the parallel phrases to easily flow into one another as they would in one's own stream of consciousness.

My sentence: The test itself didn't phase me, what got to me was the pressure to succeed, the expectations of every adult in the school.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sentence 6

Her sentence: It hit the steps (good) but then banked into the nearby bushes (not so good).
From Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

The author's use of parenthesis to insert opinions about the character's actions adds to the character's voice.

My sentence: I hit the high note (finally) but forgot the words to the next verse (humiliating).

Sentence 5

Her sentence: It landed right on the front stoop, the delivery version of a perfect ten.

From Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen.

The subordinate clause at the end of the sentence refers not to a single word in the sentence, but to the entire action described by the sentence.

My sentence: The band fell apart in the middle of our showcase, the epitome of my worst nightmares.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sentence 4

Her sentence: Two couples, dressed for a night out, walked between us, chattering happily among themselves.
From Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

The author's use of participial phrases provides a different form of description.

My sentence: The boys, dragging after practice, fumbled for their keys, struggling to keep their eyelids open.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sentence 3

Her sentence: But that was what I was doing: playing. Until the game was up.
from Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Dessen's use of a colon creates a pause, identifying the antecedent of "that". The following fragment qualifies the previous statement, highlighting the speaker's frustration at her own actions.

My sentence: But I knew what I wanted: everything. Always the selfish one.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sentence 2

Her sentence: "I do my best, thinking of them one by one, releasing them like birds from the protective cages inside me, locking the doors against their return."

From Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Her use of parallel phrases chronicle the mental steps Katniss takes to get past the agony of leaving her family and dear friends.

My sentence: I storm away, blocking their petty screams out of my memory, sealing my eardrums against the inevitable attacks, vowing to forget them and rise above the filth of their incessant squabbles.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sentence 1

Her sentence: "The blonde hair, the green eyes, the number...it's Glimmer."

From The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

The use of asyndeton emphasizes the list of familiar attributes that Katniss rapidly recognizes in her mutated enemy, resembling a stream of consciousness type of writing. The ellipsis builds suspense until the realization hits...the mutts are the fallen tributes.

My sentence: The ambulance, the blood, the shrieks...we're in trouble.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Channeling My Annoyance

In an insightful book, A Whole New Mind, author Dan Pink tells of the shift of our society toward a world in which the logical, sequential, formerly superior L-directed way of thinking (using the left hemisphere of one's brain) is no longer sufficient.

He suggests that in order to succeed in what he calls the "Conceptual Age", one must be proficient in all the L-directed skills, but also possess a different realm of thinking techniques that occur on the right side. Pink breaks these R-Directed skills into six categories: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. I dug deeper into the element of design to test my right hemisphere's abilities.

At the end of each chapter of the book, Pink presents several simple activities to exercise one's right hemisphere. The activity I tried was one entitled Channel Your Annoyance.

Pink borrowed this suggestion from Stefan Sagmeister.

1. Choose a household item that annoys you in any way.

2. Go by yourself to a cafe with pen and paper, but without a book and without a newspaper, and, for the duration of your cup of coffee, think about improving the poorly designed item.

3. Send the idea/sketch as it is to the manufacturer of your annoying household item.

After reading this, I was inspired to go forth and improve the design of some flawed object. Although I did not do this alone in a cafe with a cup of coffee (I don't drink coffee, you see), I did think of an object (an object that is questionably household, but an object nonetheless) that I could improve.

How many of you have watched clumsy young boys in rented tuxedos knock over an intricate array of candles in an attempt to light them all with one of those long, spear-like candle lighters on America's Funniest Home Videos? Although such a sight might provide a laugh, knocking over lighted candles indoors is extremely dangerous. Think of all the bloopers you've seen in which the wedding dress ignites or the flower arrangements burst into flames because the candles fell over when the ceremonial candle lighters slipped up.

The traditional candle lighter used in weddings looks like this:

With a retractable wick to light multiple candles and a cap to snuff them out later, this design is relatively simple.

I suggest adding a trigger to the base of the wand, where one holds the pole, that would control the release of a small amount of the substance used to extinguish fires in case of emergency. This improvement would not alter the aesthetic appearance of the traditional device, but would greatly decrease the risk of its use.

This exercise forced me to use the creative, "out-of-the-box" type thinking of the right half of my brain. Perhaps, by continually trying simple tasks like this one, I can alter the way I see the world and gain a "whole new mind."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Last Days Of Sophomore Year

Wow! I can not believe that in two days I will no longer be a sophomore. My friends and I can't decide if this year went by fast or slow, and I can see it both ways. In some ways, this year has dragged on for eternity. For example, the homework assignments seem never-ending. But, when I think back to everything I have done in the past nine months, time has flown!

From cheering at high school football games and being in the colorguard of the BHS band, to basketball games and turning 16, I've been busy. The past two months of tryouts and elections have been hectic and crazy, but I'm excited for next year.

I don't expect a lot of change in becoming a Junior, except that I will no longer be part of the lowest class on the high school hierarchical ladder.

Although this year was busy, I know the next will be a blur. Among club responsibilities, cheering on the Pioneers and directing the band as drum major, I must also fit in a full schedule of classes-whew! I'm tired already!

But this is the life I choose, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Soon, it will be my friends standing at that podium, making speeches, and pulling off senior pranks. Here's to being one year closer to graduation!

One More Sunrise

Michael Landon Jr. and Tracie Peterson's One More Sunrise is touching romantic novel-just the kind I like.

Landon's Christian view is promenient in this story of a marriage that takes the back burner to Joe Daley's failed dream of becoming a fighter pilot.

Joe, a crop duster and alcoholic, failed his medical exam and was denied the ability to fly for his country. He lives the the shadow of his older brother who died a war hero overseas. Constantly depressed or drunk, his irresponsibility irritates his high school sweetheart and wife, Meg.

An old school friend and son of the town traitor starts courting local farmers in an attempt to establish corporate farming in the area, but something's not right.

After Meg kicks him out and he nearly dies in a mysterious plane accident, Joe realizes he must change his ways to win her back.

Can Joe truly change, give up the alcohol, and get past his disappointment to recreate the romance of Meg's high school years? Read this book to find out.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Of Mice and Men Review

Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck is one of my new favorites. The tale of struggle and loyalty-and ultimate betrayal (but can it really be called betrayal if it is for the good and happiness of a friend?) is to say the least, heart-wrenching.

I won't lie-I cried at the end of this book.

George, a smart, hard-working man takes care of Lenny his huge, mentally retarded friend after Lenny's great aunt passes away.

Their dream of a better life with a house and a farm of their own drives them through their many menial jobs during the Great Depression.

Lenny, perhaps the most misunderstood character in the book, likes to pet soft things, which gets him in some tough situations. Through it all, George is by his side, helping Lenny out of the messes he innocently creates and acting for his own good.

Although this book is a tear-jerker, it is a fast read and well worth your time. If you can get past the language used by ignorant ranchers of that time, you will enjoy the touching story of two friends.

The House on Mango Street Review

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is unlike most of my usual reads. Comprised of short, unconnected vignettes about a young Hispanic girl becoming a young woman, it was a little hard to follow.

Each chapter granted a quick glimpse into various worries in Esperanza's mind. From her hair to her neighbors to the hardships of living in the slums of town where her nationality is a burden, the book covers many topics.

For me, one who likes a solid story line and a happy ending, this work left me slightly unfulfilled. However, the book did provide an excellent view into the life of a typical young girl of a different cultural and racial background and ended with a sense of hope for a better future.

This quick read would benefit someone who wants insight into a different culture, but I would not recommend it for leisurely reading.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Giver Review

Lois Lowry's profoundly prophetic novel, The Giver, tells of a bland future society. In this world, Jonas, a young boy, is selected to become the new Receiver of Memory at the annual Ceremony, where children of the age twelve are assigned to occupations.

Although I have read this book twice before, I always find new, deeper meanings.

This time around, the harsh, controlling society stood out in my thoughts. The people in this novel had basically no freedoms.

From birth, citizens learned what was "polite" and "rude" and made formal apologies for any comments or deeds that caused discomfort or brought attention to differences. They dressed the same and lived in the same houses. Food was delivered at set times. All children born in a year officially aged at an annual Ceremony.

The Elders choose occupations for each individual. Couples had to apply for children, up to one boy and one girl per "family unit".

In this strange world, only the Giver and Jonas, the new Receiver, truly have feelings. Jonas suffers under the weight of all the memories of the history of the world. This is the society's solution to keep from repeating history.

However, Jonas and the Giver realize that their peers are missing out on so much. Their plan to release the memories back to the masses goes defunct when Jonas makes the life or death decision to save a small baby from the inhumane procedure of Release.

Ms. Lowry's book truly showed that a true "Utopia" is can only be reached outside the society's "perfect" boundaries.

Animal Farm Review

George Orwell's Animal Farm, billed as a fairy tale, is anything but. In fact, it is an allegory of the Russian Revolution.

Pigs represent Stalin, Trotsky and Lenin. Horses and sheep are the proletariat. There are even dogs to portray Stalin's secret police.

In this tale of rebellion, betrayal, and irony, the animals overthrow their human master in hopes of establishing a land of freedom. However, greed and the lure of power get in the way, leading to a dictatorship more miserable than the animals could have imagined.

Orwell tells it like it is is this novel, not painting a picture of a harmonious utopia, but rather showing the true discontent of the public when authority gets out of hand.

This book sheds a different light on the Russian Revolution and provides a grim warning for all democratic societies. I enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone with an interest in protecting their freedom.
Some of you may have heard of the poem by William Carlos Williams entitled The Red Wheelbarrow. It goes:

So much depends

A red wheel

glazed with

beside the white

After reading and discussing this poem (notice how the words of each stanza appear in the shape of a wheelbarrow), we wrote our own poem in the same style. Here's mine:

So much depends upon
a tattered sheet of music

yellowed and torn
covered in penciled squiggles

sitting on the stand.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Favorite Techie Tool

Of all the technology now integrated into our educational systems, my personal favorite is this, the blog. Mostly used for English assignments, the blog provides an outlet through which my thoughts can freely flow.

I love the freedom of my blog. My assignments, opinions, and ideas are published for the world. In my posts, I really feel that my "voice" is heard.

Another great aspect of blogging is the feedback. I can read other classmates' entries for ideas and they can comment on my work. My teacher can also let me know how she likes my writing.

In this era of instant, global communication, it seems the world is ever shrinking. Expressing myself through this blog is one way I use the astounding technological advances of today to enhance my education.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Perfect You Book Review

Have you ever thought that your life was in a downward spiral? In Elizabeth Brown's Perfect You, Kate Brown's sophomore year is not going as planned.

To start, her father quit his job at a software company to sell Perfect You vitamins because of a freak accident in which everything on his desk was broken excepting a vitamin bottle.

Her best friend Anna suddenly became popular over the summer and now can not find time in her schedule of cheerleading, perfect boyfriends, and pretty friends to even speak to Kate. What really bothers Kate is the fact that no one ever asks why she and Anna are no longer friends; they simply accept that the new Anna had no room left for Kate in her life.

Because of Mr. Brown's sudden career change, Kate's family is stressed. Her disapproving grandmother moves in, toting her checkbook, and Kate begins working at her father's vitamin booth in the mall to help cut the cost of employees.

Not everything is bad in Kate's life, though. Will, whom she has been in love with since her first day as a freshman, starts talking to her on his breaks from his job at the shoe store in the mall. After an encounter in the storage area behind the mall, Kate and Will develop a love-hate relationship.

If you've ever lost a best friend, you know how horrible it feels to watch her walk down the halls with her new posse. High school is tough and Elizabeth Scott's tale is both touching and wise. I recommend this book to anyone.

279 pages

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring Break

I was fortunate enough to spend my spring break with 75 of my closest friends in the "happiest place on Earth". That's right-the band went to Disney World!

Although the 17-hour, overnight bus trip was made slightly more comfortable by the charter buses we rented, I would not recommend sleeping in those chairs.

Once in Orlando, we visited Disney's Hollywood Studios, home of the Rockin' Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. Ask some of the guys what they thought of the Little Mermaid show too! Even though I learned to love roller coasters on the trip, the Beauty and the Beast musical was my true favorite.

One night we ate at Medieval Times, a dinner and tournament show where grown men dress up as knights and joust on horses. That was quite entertaining, let me tell you!

I also got to go to Universal Studios and Island of Adventure for the first time. All the best roller coasters are in those parks. Dueling Dragons and the Hulk were probably the most fun. I never knew how much I loved zooming through the air and above water on thin pieces of steel while defying gravity until that day.

On Saturday we competed in the All-American Music Festival. We played the three songs we had prepared for the judges and attended the awards ceremony that night in Universal Studios. We won our division and also overall for concert band. The Mardi Gras parade that night only heightened our excitement.

On our last day in Orlando, we had park hopper tickets and used them to the fullest. The group I was with went to Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom that day. The highlights of Sunday included posing for the camera on Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, watching the fireworks show over Cinderella's castle, laughing hysterically as Sam nearly got thrown out of the park for chasing Goofy and poking him, and singing Part of Your World from the Little Mermaid at the top of our lungs on the ferry while leaving the park for the last time.

The ride home was easier to endure because our exhaustion made sleep a necessity. I am grateful for the opportunity to go on such a trip and know that I will not soon forget all the fun we had.

P.S. For a glimpse of some of our wacky experiences, check out Carrie Beth's videos on Facebook. Our dance is hilarious!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Anthem Essay Contest-An Excerpt

Ayn Rand's Anthem is a tale of the victory of the individual human over the philosophy known as collectivism. The main character, Equality 7-2521, scales multiple hurdles in his quest for a better lifestyle. Although he ends up a vastly outnumbered fugitive of the only home he has ever known, his undying hope leads him to a more liberating freedom than he could ever have imagined.

After reading Rand's novel, my English class submitted essays to the Ayn Rand Institute for a writing competition. The following is an excerpt from my entry:

"In Equality 7-2521’s world, society as we know it lies abandoned for centuries, while Equality 7-2521’s crimes seriously challenge the Brothers’ social order. He believes he has done an admirable service by finding his new light, but the Scholars say that “what is not done collectively cannot be good,” (Anthem, page 73) The philosophies of choices and freethinking, along with what we consider today certain, unalienable rights, are unheard of in this fictional future.

The society Equality 7-2521 was born into facilitates monotonous beings that perform pre-assigned labor with obsolete technology. The authorities in his world discourage individual thought. As Equality explains in the beginning of the book, “it is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down on paper no others are to see. It is base and evil…and we know that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone” (Anthem, page 17). Thus, members of his civilization have been taught.

Through all this strange hardship, Equality 7-2521 clings to the hope for a better way of life. He searches for knowledge at every opportunity, risking his life to make discoveries in his beloved, sacred tunnel."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Hope springs eternal. What an inspiring phrase. What a comforting thought to know that the sun will always rise on a new day. Hope is a main theme in Ayn Rand's Anthem.

Drowning in a sea of sameness, the main character, Equality 7-2521, is tired of living for the "Great WE". He longs for knowledge and the freedom of individual thought. The authorities in his society enforce mundane and obsolete ideals.

When Equality 7-2521 finds a tunnel full of treasures from the Unmentionable Times, he adopts that place as a sanctuary for discovery. Risking his life for his precious light, he tries to enlighten the Council, only to be reprimanded to the point of having to run away through the Uncharted Forest.

Along with his true love, Liberty 5-3000, Equality 7-2521 finds an ancient house full of texts of the long-lost knowledge.

Can Equality's spirit of liberation and hope prevail over his insanely oppressive society?

This story of unfailing hope is a must read.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Have you ever felt like your life is out of your control? That nothing can go right for you? That no matter how hard you try, he just will not love you? Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream may hold the explanation.

In a story of arranged marriages and forbidden love, fairies and enchanted flowers intrude upon four Athenian lovers' lives. Helena, engaged to Demetrius, but in love with Lysander, runs away with Lysander to escape her father's wrath. Hermia, Helena's best friend and confidant, tells Demetrius of Helena's escape and lovingly follows him into the wood.

Once in the forest, Puck, the Fairy King's servant, in a misguided act of kindness, causes everyone to fall in love with the wrong person, creating a very tangled web of affection.

Shakespeare's romanticism and well-timed comic relief in the form of a hodge-podge acting troupe who are preparing a play for their king's nuptials, are vital to this classic tale.

For a light-hearted love story with a few laughs along the way, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is the book to read.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

To Make My World Perfect...

In my personal utopia....
  • The world would live in peace.
  • No one would have to deal with poverty or hunger.
  • Deadly diseases would be eradicated.
  • Nations would help each other instead of fighting to stay ahead.
  • Humans would fit into the biosphere without trying to control it.
  • Cupid would never stop working.
  • Everyone a person loved would be near, not 800 miles away.
  • Crime would be nonexistent.
  • Jesus' name would be proclaimed from every corner.
  • Life would be meaningful and precious, not something casually flung aside.
  • Love would prevail.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Walk to Remember Review

Do you remember your very first true love? Or, like me, are you still waiting on it to come along? The number one New York Times bestselling romance novelist Nicholas Sparks outdoes himself in A Walk to Remember, a touching and timeless story of young love.

Landon Carter, a typical high school boy has known Jamie Sullivan his entire life and never given her much thought. Desperate for a homecoming date, he resorts to Jamie, the daughter of the local Baptist minister. She agrees on one condition, he had to promise not to fall in love with her.

Through drama class and the annual production of the Christmas pageant, Landon and Jamie get to know each other. In a predictable fashion, he falls for her, the nerdy girl in a brown cardigan who is never without her Bible.

Landon must overcome his insecurities about being seen in public with Jamie before their love can truly take flight. In the winter months, Landon becomes completely smitten with Jamie, who obviously likes him too, but is holding something back.

Can their young love stand the tests of God's plan?

This book is both heartwarming and tear jerking. I recommend it to anyone with a romantic side or anyone looking for a good cry. A Walk to Remember is a great valentine read.

Taking a Stand

"'Cause when push comes to shove, you taste what you're made of. You might bend till you break 'cause it's all you can take. On your knees you look up, decide you've had enough. You get mad, you get strong, wipe your hands, shake it off. Then you stand.'"

The country music group Rascal Flatts sums up the meaning of taking a stand in their hit, Stand.

Sometimes situations become dire enough that a person must take actions. Although standing up for one's beliefs may bring about immediate negative reactions, it is always a positive choice to follow one's heart.

Back in sixth grade, my group of friends had a tumultuous time. My best friend's mother was battling cancer. My new baby brother was in and out of the hospital seven times. My other friends were constantly battling over the same boys. Life was hectic.

In that world of middle school drama and best friends forever scandals, the dynamics of our formerly close-knit group constantly fluctuated.

Sixth grade was the first year of the magnet programs, so we had classes with brand new people. Some of these people were unbelievably fractious and just plain mean. One particular girl had her mind set on stealing my best friend. She left me out of slumber parties and secrets. On the playground, she would not let my best friend play with me. I was devastated.

Finally, I had had enough. I was sick of this girl's fake friendship and trouble making. One day after school, I confronted her. I told her that she had no reason to be mean to me and had no right to steal my friends. I said that I really did not care what she thought of me because I knew what true friends were and she did not fit the bill.

After that incident, she stopped coming between my best friend and me. She found another girl to befriend who helped her harass less assertive girls.

I am glad that I stood up to that bully because if I had not, I probably would still be tormented today by her and would be a far less confident person.

By letting that girl hear my voice, I made it known that I would not allow bullies to push me around and control my life. I live by the same philosophy today.

The Call of the Wild Review

Kidnapped and sold into a brutal workforce in the frozen Arctic, Buck is in for an adventure. Jack London's The Call of the Wild captivates readers with its realistic insight into the mind of a sled dog on a plight to find himself.

Buck, a domesticated pet from a southern home, is kidnapped and sold to go to work pulling sleds in the Klondike gold rush. He meets brutal men who rule with clubs, kind drivers who marvel at his talent and one man whom he learns to love. Along the way, Buck learns how to defend himself in the cruel, competitive world of sled dogs, steal necessary food, and stay on the winning side of fights. In order to become the leader of the pack, Buck even fights one dog, Spitz, to the death.

London, a seasoned gold rusher himself, paints vivid scenes of the Canadian wilderness, barren ice trails, and rugged trading posts.

Throughout the story, Buck finds a certain thrill from living in the wild. The instincts passed down from ancient generations tug at Buck's heart. After his best friend, John Thornton dies in a Yeehat attack, Buck finds that "man and the claims of man no longer [bind] him" (The Call of the Wild, 134). He can finally answer the "call of the wild" and join his feral brethren.

Buck is a strong willed character who stands up for his beliefs and gets what he wants. Even though he is canine, he can be a role model for people everywhere. I learned from Buck never to allow my past to control my path in life. I must take charge and answer whatever call my heart may feel.

I would recommend Jack London's The Call of the Wild to anyone and everyone. Readers will laugh and cry (if they have any heart at all that is) at Buck's journey to find himself. This classic is still a must-read.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Antigone Review

A family curse. A fratricidal duel. A woman disregarding a royal decree. These themes are center stage in Sophocles' enduring play Antigone. His Antigone, the epitome of feminine strength and will, is inspiring.

Antigone and her sister Ismene have lost both of their brothers, Polynices and Eteocles in an ill-fated battle. King Creon declared Eteocles a hero for defending his city and honored his death, but ordered that Polynices, who had left the city then attacked it as a foreigner, be left in the streets to rot.

Sophocles focuses on the issue of choosing between loyalty to royal authority and family. Antigone risks her life to honor her brother's death without a second thought. I am unsure if I would be able to take such a strong stand as she did.

This story, full of ultimatums and ironic deaths, is paralleled in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In both plays, suicide ruins romantic relationships in a quite untimely manner.

Because of the time period in which it was written, Antigone may not be the average reader's cup of tea; however, I do recommend this tale of fate, rebellion, and brotherly love.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Persuasion-A Delicate Art

I have heard that people who have a knack for swaying the opinions of their peers generally become successful in business, politics, and even life.

The word persuasion often brings a negative connotation to my mind-images of wily, devious entrepreneurs making underhanded deals to get ahead. Although today many use persuasion for evil, this skill is not mendacious when used in a sincere manner.

Some of the most renowned leaders of our time have mastered the art of persuasion. A few trustworthy politicians actually inspire crowds to join their cause. Pastors, men usually regarded as holy, use this skill in every sermon when trying to win converts.

Being able to manipulate people is a useful skill, but one that should be carefully controlled. In persuading others to join a group, do a favor, or see a different point of view, one must never force his or her opinions upon them, but rather, present and support a point in a way that allows the audience to make the best-educated decision for them.