Friday, December 31, 2010

To Leave You In Suspense...

I have only this to say-holy crap, that was that unbelievable.
     These words are typed by the fingers of a person who stayed up until a quarter after midnight last night reading Suzzanne Collins' masterpiece-and yes, I went there-masterpiece, Mockingjay. The best part, however, was that half of that time was not spent deciphering the words that forged the as always riveting plot line, but thinking about the meaning of those words in the larger scheme of the story. This is only the second piece of literature that has contained such an ingeniously moving message paired with a story line that could make you forget to comsume sustenance. I must stop there, however, because the clock is ticking and I must see the end of the year through the eyes of American culture.
      The entire review, I promise, will come tomorrow-the first of January, two thousand and eleven. Wow, does that feel so strange to this rate, I'll be graduating high school in the blink of an eye. I hope all of your holidays were absolutely wonderful and that your new years resolutions for 2010 have all become true. Sailing in that ocean, I also decided to give this blog a bit of a late Christmas present: a complete makeover! The premiere layout was thrown together on Thanksgiving day and had not been expanded much since then, but now I hope that this webpage looks quite exquisite.   There are also now links to different pages, one of them a new section-Fiction! The creation of this page was the product of me finally figuring out that maybe some people would rather read new and original work rather then comments about the pieces that others have composed. One should always plan to give something equal in value to what they have recieved, for otherwise they might as well as not have recieved it in the first place. What would happen  if the roots of a plant absorbed water, but the stem refused to grow? The single farmer betting his entire life every day on the harvest from his crops would not waste his time sprinkling water onto that plant, now would he?
       Even though the notion has come out of an almost totally unrelated topic, that is what I would like you to keep in mind as we charge foward into the new year. Give back what you have recieved, because in the end, water is not given to plants that do not grow, wings are not passed to fledglings who dont't fly, voices not embedded within those who don't speak...
     Life is not given to those who do not live.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Panem and Mark Zuckerberg Have in Common

So now proceeding a one-week hiatus from writing, I am glad to greet everyone again after a fortnight (I love that word!) High school is buzzing with anticipation for holiday break, and with that anticipation comes the hours of studying for the oh-so-wonderful exams that our teachers love to throw at us before we forget everything we've learned within one short week. But that's part of the fun of it! Now let's see, some new found developments for the day....oh, I know; when I looked down my mailbox today to discover what parcels would await me, I received a rather unexpected and actually very unwanted surprise: a twenty-something-year-old guy staring right at me with strikingly green eyes, every brown freckle palpable on his cheeks. That's right, people, TIME has chosen their Person of the Year, the "Connector", Mark Zuckerberg! And then there's the customary twenty-page article about all of the good he's done for the world in making it a less private place and all that...but one question strikes me very hard: why is he on the cover this year? Don't get me wrong-I don't have any grudges against Mark Zuckerberg. He did what so many have attempted to accomplish and from what I understand never meant to do in the first place: unite the world under one umbrella, provide one service that helped millions of people enrich their lives. But why now? I read in TIME that Facebook has collected its five-millionth user, but why was five-millionth the number? Why couldn't they wait for the one-billionth member, or ascertained him as the Person of the Year as the millionth individual forged an account?
      While you're hanging in suspense, let's get down to some serious business-some Panem business. Catching Fire follows the story of our favorite heroine, Katniss Everdeen, when she returns from the Hunger Games to a life that makes her wish she was back fighting for her life for the pleasure of the peoples of the Capitol. It turns out that the extremely controversial action of (and if you haven't read the books PLEASE don't read the following highlighted words)  suggesting to Peeta that the both of them should commit suicide at the end of the Games so that there would be no victor and the Capitol would be mocked has sparked a surge of rebellion in Panem. But the leader of Panem, President Snow, makes a deal with her: if she can convince nation that she performed such a questionable act because of her mad love for Peeta, then Snow will not punish her in any way. Fate intervenes, though, and after a show of defiance to the Capitol in District 11 and the planning of one in District 8, President Snow is ready for revenge. Soon comes a Quarter Quell, an event that transpires every 25 years since the Capitol defeated the districts and an occasion where there is always a twist thrown in to make the Games even more gruesome, and this year there is a surprise that I guarantee you will never expect.
     Yet throughout this book, I feel something that I have felt with most other fantasy series I have read-a sense of triumph whenever the districts revolt, a burst of excitement whenever I hear the word rebellion and see the peoples of an unjust government rise above the regime that oppresses them. And somehow it annoys me how there is an element of that in most great fantasy novels (except the masterpiece of the Harry Potter series, but I'll explain that in a post later in the year.) Actually, forget annoys, it downright scares the hell out of me to think that. How can we ever reach a stable world order when humans have this passionate lust for rebellion and therefore change as a whole? Think about it-every powerful nation in history that was rooted in a single ideology has been born from a revolt against a government with a strictly different ideology, and later that ideology was slayed in yet another revolt. Think about Russia-first it was under the great Romanov dynasty, then all members of the family (except one whose name became the title of one of my favorite Disney movies) were killed in the rise of Communism, and then that regime was abolished for yet another one that opposed Communist ideals. Face it-people love change, and any strict and enforced idealism around them makes them desire it even more. When you were in high school, wasn't it the case that when a strict teacher was replaced for a substitute for the day, pandemonium always occur ed among the students? This is the same concept with Mark Zuckerberg's domination of the public eye this year -did anyone see the irony that is Zuckerberg being praised for his work in a nationally acclaimed magazine the same year that a movie is released, The Social Network, that accuses him of being a desperate introvert who used someone else's idea to create his fortune and ultimately have a killer social life? I'm sure all of you wonderfully intelligent people out in the world did. So basically the reason why Zuckerberg is suddenly being so interesting this year is that there was a cultural rebellion against the public image of Zuckerberg as an innocent techno-geek with a great idea that we have come to know as the extremely prosperous company of Facebook.   
     What is the antidote, you may ask? Well, I'll give you a hint: we already have it and it was created like two thousand years ago. Yeah, you excellent people know what I'm talking about: democracy, both direct and representative. In democracy, all we have to do to change a reigning ideology is to vote differently on our ballots. There is no need to overthrow a democratic government with force because the nature of the government is to be in accordance with the people's wishes. Why do you think England has existed for so long? The integration of the power of the people into English government began with the Magna Carta and continued through the establishment of a Parliament and now is present in the Queen being only a public figure who is a benevolent reminder of England's heritage. Of course, democracy can go wrong as well-if there is the domination of only a few ideologies  in especially a representative democracy (hint-hint-wink-wink, politicians), problems can potentially occur. The real issue, though, is that some nations in this world are not governed by such a blessing. As a result of this, conflicts may rise between these states that may eventually involve some parts of the free world. 
      But Christmas is in a week, so let us give thanks that this free world includes us. 


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sliiiiice Up the Fruit Cake.....

Now, it is not my preference to read two books simultaneously-in some odd way it gives me the feeling that I am cheating on the novel that I initially began to read-but sometimes it is necessary when a friend begs me to read another book, or when the book I am reading is just not very attention-getting.  This, however, was not the case with the last week; about a month ago I had heard great things about this novel Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, a fairly new and not-very-well-known book that was a bit similar to Mark Haddon's bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I picked the novel up about a month ago and have been reading it through the duration of my tearing through of The Hunger Games, whose finale was so incredibly amazing (but that story is for the next post.) So even though I was ravaged with suspense after I read the premiere pages of Catching Fire last Sunday, a combination of Marcelo in the Real World getting extremely riveting and my not feeling very cheery about starting off the Christmas season with the sequel to a book about adolescents murdering each other caused me to read the remaining portion of Marcelo. And with no offense to Suzanne, am I glad I did.
      Marcelo in the Real World is essentially a coming-of-age story, but a hell of a lot more-it is a superb mix of philosophy, deceit, and realization. Marcelo Sandoval is socially disabled, but not so much so that he can not effectively participate in the "real world." However, his attendance at a school for the disabled called Paterson has caused Marcelo to still be enveloped in an extended childhood where he spends most of his weekends in a tree house analyzing the IM, or the internal melodies that independently flow through his brain. Marcelo's "special interest", as he calls it, is religion-he can recount excerpts from the Bible by the word and spends a great amount of time reciting the Scripture in his head to make himself calm. Arturo, Marcelo's father, does not see the point of his son going to Paterson and would like him to attend public high school for his senior year, so he makes a deal with him: if Marcelo works at Arturo's law firm for the summer and follows all of the rules of the "real world" (I know I'm killing you with quotation marks, but just bear with me!), Marcelo can choose whether he will go to Paterson or Oak Ridge High for senior year. He takes the offer, and from then on is jerked out of his peaceful utopia and thrown haphazardly into the hopelessly clinical world of lawyers who all have the premonition that he is retarded. Through his experiences there like meeting the arrogant Wendell Holmes, working with a talented pianist named Jasmine, and discovering the phenomenon of sacrifice through a discarded picture of a girl with half a face, Marcelo realizes that the Real World is a place with horrors and atrocities but a place that also possesses magic of companionship and the vigor of challenge. In the end, Marcelo is faced with one chance to choose between worlds with suddenly much different aspects,  his faith dancing on the broken glass sprinkled around his decision.
      Some of the people who start this book may obtain the premonition that this is solely a book for the religious. Well, it is not. Whether you are Islamic, Hindu, Wiccan, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, Unitarian, whatever, you will obtain something from this novel. At the denouement (one of my favorite words of all time) of the story, I reasoned that one of the main themes was that applying a world of both hope for the human race and of action ignited purely by my God's will into this harsh world around us is sometimes a seemingly hopeless challenge. And for those who believe in it, isn't Christmas truly about surmounting that challenge? At what other point in the year does the world set aside a time from its occasional selfishness and anger for the celebration of humane goodwill and the amazing outcomes that can come after centuries of hope? Not to mention it is the sole point in the year when you can go around the house singing "I'm Mister Heat Miser, I'm Mister Sun, (da-da-da-da) I'm Mister Green Christmas, I'm Mister Hundred-And-One" without being called a nutcase. I know that for many this holiday is just really a time to fling presents at each other and enjoy the antebellum before that fifty-thousand dollar credit card bill comes in the mail, but I hope people will eventually realize that the Christmas Season is a lot more than that. This is the only occasion when even though your life can be rolling around in a sewage pipe, you can say, "Hey, at least it's Christmas," and a smile will be on your face. It is the only occasion when you can be as cheerful as you want in public and not have everybody hate you because they are wallowing in self-pity. And it doesn't have to be Christmas, even-the entire holiday season has the same feel of goodwill and hope for a positive future that I have mentioned above. Yes, I do know that I sound like a character from one of those Christmas specials where all of the people look like clay, but what's wrong with that really? It's as I've said: at any other point in the year these specials would be treated as a laughing stock, but yet spectacularly through the holiday season we just can't get enough of them. These characters emulate the ultimate optimists, and this is the one time of the year where optomism reigns supreme. Is that a bad thing?     
     How will I be enjoying the beginning of this glorious Christmas Season, you might ask? Well, you can more than likely find me either tearing my way through Catching Fire, studying (I've got quite a few exams this week,) or maybe even sitting down on our ancient couch with a mug of hot chocolate watching the Harry Potter Weekend on ABC Family. If I feel like it I may just try to finish decorating our puny tree outside with sparkling red ornaments, but that probably won't happen because of today's failed attempt. What can I say? After half an hour of the frigidness numbing my fingers and my Dad's cumbersome classic rock blasting through the radio, I had had enough. I much rather prefer decorating the miniature Christmas tree in my own room as a way of spreading my cheer, even if it keeps falling over.