Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reading:The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – one of the all time literature classics.  Growing up, the story was always forced upon me and I don't mean that in a bad way.  I just mean – my teacher's read it to us in the form of picture books, the school library had an entire fantasy section with lots of Narnia quotes and pictures (and of course the books), and then when I was in middle school the films came out.  I finally got a chance to read the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series when I was in 10th grade – The Magician's Nephew.  I loved it!  I couldn't quite call it my favorite book but looking back, I always smile when I think about the first book.  That's what I love most about books.  You aren't just reading a story about fictional characters, but forming your own story in your life because you read this story. 
            The Silver Chair is the sixth book in the Chronicles of Narnia series.  It centers around a character named Jill and her friend Eustace (who readers or movie watchers may remember from Voyage of the Dawn Treader) who travel to Narnia after escaping some bullies at their awful boarding school.  The two are separated for a short while and in that short time, Jill meets Aslan the lion who gives her a mission – to find the son of King Caspian X, Prince Rilian, who disappeared many years ago.  When the two characters meet up again, they begin their quest where they encounter large talking owls, hungry giants, a lady wearing a green dress, and people who live miles under Narnian soil. 
            The Silver Chair was another great book in the Narnia series.  While it is easy to miss the four Pevensie children we’ve grown to love (since they are missing from the book), the new characters are very likeable.  Adventure and mystery are at every turn and this is a great example of an adventure/fantasy/ “fairy tale” novel that brilliantly ties in moral lessons with the events that occur.  It is an easy read that I had a hard time putting down sometimes.  The only complaint I have is that a lot of scenes were drawn out too long and the characters were sometimes stupid because they didn't realize the most obvious things that I noticed straight away.  That sort of ruined the book for me because I knew what was going to happen. 
Overall, I give The Silver Chair 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Social Norms: Smart Phones

This past summer, I switched from a regular cell phone to a smart phone.  I didn't really want to do this because I didn't have the money to pay an extra $15 a month for internet charges but all the other phones were crap.  Turns out my new phone is crap too – I bought a blackberry.  Bad decision.  I guess should've gone with the iPhone.  Most kids my age have an iPhone.  In fact, most adults have iPhones.  I'm sure more than 50% (maybe even more than 75%) of the US population owns or has owned an iPhone.  Now one of my closest friends owns an iPhone.  I just happen to room with this friend who I know to be addicted to her cell phone.  She is on it all the time.  When she wakes up in the morning, she checks her facebook through her phone.  When she is watching TV or doing homework, she is texting.  When she goes to bed, she is playing a game.  She listens to a Pandora App even though she has a perfectly working iPod. 
            Anyway, let's get to the real point of this blog.  The other night my roommate and I were both laying in our beds talking.  She was on her phone texting or something, of course, and I was on the other side of the room watching the backlight dance on the walks.  Our conversation changed every minute or so and at one point we began talking about things we loved and felt we couldn't live without – material things of course.  I said I couldn't live without a notebook to write in, books to read and I couldn't live without my music, etc.  We kept naming other things as they cropped into our brains and as I was trying to name a 5th one, my friend says "your phone?".  Now, she had already listed her phone as something she couldn't live without which didn't surprise me but she knows how I feel about phones.  Why would she ever assume I would say I couldn't live without my phone?  Is it because most people today can't live without their phones?  I mean seriously – what makes a smart phone so great that people can't live without them?  If anything, I've observed that phones (smart phones in particular) take away my personal time – personal time with myself, personal time with my friends, family, and MY LIFE!  If anything I wish I could live without it!  And it isn't just me this is happening to.  People all around the world are falling victim to their smart phones!
            Smart phones are apart of society now.  Society has also replaced books with the kindle and says its okay to carry around an iPad to check your twitter while you go on vacation because as you know, vacations aren't for relaxing and getting away from everyday things like twitter!  Oh and another thing, that was sarcasm.  Seriously?  We can't leave our home without our iPad or smart phone?  Why do people bring these things with them when they go out to eat?  I went to my local Burger King and saw a dad eating with his kids but he was on an iPad ignoring them!  Why do we need to watch TV on the go so badly?  Do we need that on our phones?  Last time I checked, I used my phone for, I don't know, PHONE CALLS!  Why do we need to text our friend that badly?  Will they die if we don't text back in a minute or less?  Why do we need to see our facebook newsfeed every five seconds?  Is this all an addiction? – because it seems to me that people are as much addicted to the internet and mobile technology as alcoholics are to the drink. 
            One commercial I see constantly is for AT&T and it is about how high speed their internet is.  Before I go into how ridiculous this commercial is, let me say how ridiculous their promotion for high speed internet is.  I have AT&T and their internet is crap.  They claim it is this great thing but when I just go on to check the weather (because there's an App for that!) it won't load and says my internet server is down!  So what is supposed to be convenient is actually more of a hassle then just flicking on the TV or getting a thermometer!  Anyway, in this AT&T commercial, it shows these two guys at a football game and they are getting all their information at lightning speed and they know everything before anyone else because they are hot shots.  The commercial then ends showing the two guys sitting next to each other texting.  Does anyone else see the problem with that picture?  Or is it not obvious enough?  What happened to face to face contact?  What happened to actually talking to your friends when you see them?  Because through that commercial and personal experience, I have found that people would rather text everyone on their contacts list than sit and pay attention to my prescience.  And it's not that I'm full of myself.  I get that people sometimes have other things on their minds.  But when I have a friend over, I barely text at all.  In fact, I sometimes ignore my text messages while I am with them!  And guess what?  I can't win that way either because then the friend who texted me is mad about why I didn't text back right away!  Oh, I'm sorry – are you mad because I have A LIFE?  Are you that bored that you are depending on my response to entertain you?  Go read a book for crying out loud! 
            Going back to friends texting while you are hanging out with them: I get that you want to text back a short message like okay, 4 sounds good to meet for lunch tomorrow.  Texting is apparently apart of our lives now so things like this can happen.  No big deal.  But if you are texting every minute and not listening to what I'm saying to you, it is a big deal!  Do you know how much that hurts?  The same friend I mentioned in the beginning of this blog constantly texts while I talk and either acts like she hears me even though it is clear she didn't, doesn't respond at all to what I'm saying, or says "what?  I didn't catch that".  One day I found the guts to confront her about it and she got defensive and said "I was texting my friend Sara!  I haven't talked to her in a while" and got mad at me for wanting to have a conversation with her.  I mean, after all, we are best friends and last time I checked, best friends don't listen to what the other has to say.  Catch the sarcasm again?  If you're going to be with someone, be there.  If you're texting, you are not there.  You're just not.
            This is an addiction.  My friend sleeps with her phone.  Literally sleeps with it by her side as if it is a teddy bear.  She claims to be tired but keeps texting and then goes on to say she can't sleep.  Maybe if you turn the phone off, you will be able to sleep.
            Now don't get me wrong, I know there are some good sides to smart phones.  After all, they are supposed to make our lives easier and technology really does help the world out a lot.  As a college student, I rely a lot on getting my email directly to my phone because it tells me if I have a cancelled class.  Another thing I check a lot, as I stated a few paragraphs above, is the weather (when it works).  But you know, I could live without those two things.  I mean, for most of my college career I have lived without a smart phone.  If I did it before, I can do it again. 
            Here's the question I pose – are smart phones really that smart?  Because it seems like they are making us stupid – and lazy.  Sure they have some good qualities but it seems the bad outweigh the good.  People are addicted to their smart phones and are forgetting about their lives.  Self-esteems are becoming lower and lower.  I dare you to turn your phone off tonight.  If you use it for your alarm, turn it off anyway and ask a friend to wake you up.
            Better yet, I dare you to watch this video by youtuber, BlimeyCow.  Take a look and then take a second to think over how smart a smart phone makes us.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Art:The Wonders of Disney Animation

     I'm a child of the Disney Renaissance so it is no surprise that I am obsessed with Disney, as are many others born in the 90's generation.  I'm also a huge fan of Youtube and one thing I love about Youtube are the covers talented musicians post and montages created by am-mature video editors.  This video most likely showed up in my news feed on Youtube or on the related videos column on another video...I don't quite remember.  Either way, this video somehow entered my life and is probably the best tribute to Disney I have ever seen - PERIOD!  I can not watch it without tearing up.  Everything is perfect.  The picture quality is perfect, HD and everything!  The use of clips is fantastic and every clip fits into place perfectly.  The beginning and ending of the montage fits well - showing Walt Disney (I believe) as the conductor for the montage's music.  And speaking of music, the music used in this montage is beyond amazing!  First it start's out with the brilliant Alan Menken (Hunchback of Notre Dame), followed by an underrated score from an underrated Disney film (Dinosaur composed by James Newton Howard) and ends with a very popular song used in A LOT of film trailers titled Finale by Randy Edelman from the film Dragonheart.  I doesn't get any better than this!  Finally, the last element that kept this montage moving was the voice overs from Disney movies!  Now, there are many more I can think of that would have fit perfectly in the video but that doesn't even matter much - because every single voice over fits perfectly!  Seriously, how can you not cry when Pinocchio cries "I'm a real boy!" or when Lilo tells Stitch "Ohana means family"?
     I'm posting this for the purpose of art.  I do consider this montage to be a piece of art, not just because it is about Disney which is an art in itself but also because the montage is beautiful and truly captures that sense of Disney magic that we all know and love!  For best viewing, view the video on youtube here!

Reading: A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Here is an interesting fact – I'd never heard of this book until last Christmas when I read Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Just like with Peter Pan, the main character Charlie was assigned to read A Separate Peace and it seemed interesting so I added it to my list of books to read.  It is a book that most people read in high school.  My best friend read it and claims she loved it.  I bought the book at a used book store in January and expected it to be about two best friends at a boarding school during the war and their adventures together.  That is very broad statement.  What I truly expected it to be was two boys become friends at a boarding school during world war II and possibly one goes to war or a father goes to war and one friend is different from everyone else and changes the other friends life for the better.  A Separate Peace was not this.  In fact, the plot was so different from my expectations that I began to confuse myself.  I sometimes find it difficult to keep my own expectations and experiences separate from the story I am reading. 
            The book starts out with the two main characters, Gene and Finny, who are best friends at an all boys boarding school.  Gene is the boy who obediently studies while Finny is the boy who tells the jokes and loves sports.  The two of them, along with a few of their other friends, sit by a tree during a summer session at Devon (the boarding school) and Finny climbs the tree and jumps into the river next to it.  The jump is difficult because if the boys don't jump far enough they will land in the shallow water.  Luckily for Finny, he survived the jump and pushes Gene to do it too.  Gene obeys reluctantly while the other boys refuse.  As the story continues, Gene begins to envy Finny.  Finny's charisma lets him get away with anything and his athletic ability is outstanding (he breaks the school swimming record on his first try!).  In turn, he begins to convince himself that Finny is jealous of his intellect and a hatred grows inside of him as he keeps his friendly composure.  He soon comes to realize that Finny was never trying to keep him from succeeding and the jealousy he once felt slips away.  The two boys head over to the tree for a swim and what seems like a simple event turns into a life changing experience for both of them. 
            A Separate Peace surprised me in every way possible.  It was nothing like what I expected and was nothing like any book I've read in the past.  The book didn't have a huge epic storyline to it.  Everything about it was simple.  The conflict was simple yet mind blowing.  It allows the reader connect with their inner childhood fears and battles.   The characters were all relatable and I know I was able to pick out friends from school who fit each character's personality.  Another thing I could relate to was Gene and Finny's friendship.  Who has ever had a best friend and not felt a bit jealous at times?  Gene was a deeply personal narrator and doesn't so much talk about what's on the surface but what is beneath the surface. 
            There were some down sides to the novel though.  I found the language to be a bit hard to comprehend at times.  I constantly had to reread sentences to catch the meaning.  I also thought the ending was very cliché and blah.  It all happened so fast and I was left thinking, that's it??  Overall, it was an original novel and very poignant so I'm going to give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Excited for the Hunger Games?

     When I arrived home this weekend, I was excited to see a package waiting for me in the kitchen.  I knew right away what was inside - the three Hunger Games books I had ordered.  I quickly opened the package and couldn't help smiling when I saw the books sitting before me.  I've only read the first book (The Hunger Games) at the end of the fall 2011 semester but now I'm ready to continue reading the trilogy.  And to continue with Hunger Games excitement, the film is due to come out at the end of this month!  How exciting!
      Have any of you read the first Hunger Games book?  Have you already read the entire trilogy?  Are you excited for the film?  Do you think it will be as good as the book?  And for those of you who haven't read the books, are you excited for the film anyway?