Friday, November 30, 2012

Social Norms: What Fictional Character Would Make A Great U.S. President? (QUESTION POST)

In a recent article I found on, author Matt Blum lists the top 10 fictional characters that would make great U.S. Presidents.  Indeed we do read about many strong and powerful characters as well as see them on the big screen.  Politics can be such a gruesome topic to discuss and I wanted to touch upon it without actually outright saying my political beliefs and such.
So, before you read the article, I have a question for all of you.  What fictional character do you believe would make a great U.S. President?  Let me know in the comments section!
Here is the article on -->

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wasted Wednesday: Black Friday Religion

Here is a random fact you should know about me - I hate shopping.  When I say shopping, I specifically mean shopping for clothes, shoes, jewelry, and basically anything that a typical girl should like to shop for.  I would much rather go to a book store or a CD store or...well Best Buy and Staples are pretty fun I'd say. ;)  But let's face it, most girls (and A LOT of guys) love to shop for clothes and the other things I listed.  In fact, our nation seems to pride itself in the clothes people pick out and wear.  Yahoo's top news story the other day was about Kate Middleton's sister who apparently has bad fashion sense!  We have pre-academy award shows where stars are interviewed and the first question the interviewers ask is who they are wearing (not what - who!), and it is usually a dress or suit from a famous designer.  Now when I see these things, I get bored sick.  But Americans generally love that kind of stuff.  The only thing Americans obsess over more than their fashion sense is celebrity fashion sense...or rather, celebrities in general.  Americans obsess over the things celebrities do with their money; whether it be wearing expensive clothing or getting their kid's book deals or renting out a theme park for the day or buying a frozen yogurt; Americans love it all.  Material wealth is what celebrities have and Americans want it!
So naturally when Black Friday rolls around with these so called "amazing deals", people jump on top of it.  They clip coupons and set up tents a week before Black Friday and stand in the freezing cold lines only to get an iPad to waste more of their time with by looking at celebrity news!  People actually get violent at these events!  They want that big screen TV so badly that they are prepared to punch faces and trip the handicap to get what they want.  Black Friday, to the customer, is all about me me me.  Black Friday is not just about the customers though but also about the stores.  Big companies prepare for Black Friday months before the event!  They come up with some good deals and some not so good deals that seem good.  "Let's figure out how to make a deal look enticing when secretly it will be just like the store on any other day," they say.  "How about we mark that big screen LED TV $400 but it is a no name brand and probably won't give people the quality they expect.  And make sure we only have 25 of the name brand TV's in stock because, let's face it, we can't afford to give these things away for free!  And no exceptions.  Remember, it's the holidays.  No time to be generous.  This is the time we will be getting the most cash.  Say, mark down the Barbie dolls and all Barbie products, would ya?  I am a feminist and speak against them but make sure other parents buy them for their kids.  That'll boost our toy sales a lot.  Parents are just suckers for those Barbie products.  How can they not buy the Barbie beach house for little Suzy after she threw her temper tantrum for it?"  The fact that they decrease their prices on one day of the year probably brings them the most bang for their buck.  Black Friday, to the stores and companies, is all about me me me.  See the resemblance?  No matter who is involved on Black Friday, it all comes down to me me me.
Now before I continue, I know that there are small businesses who do not use these tactics to trick people or gain more cash by ripping people off.  I also know that some Black Friday shoppers use this day to be generous and buy Christmas gifts.  However, big corporations and dedicated Black Friday shoppers do not get this excuse.  Let's look at the basics of Black Friday for a second.  Both consumers and companies prepare for this day as if it were a Holy day.  People discuss Black Friday as if it is the event of the century every single year.  People dedicate their weeks to clipping coupons and scrolling through their emails and figuring out what they want that is on sale.  And it is not just the preparation for Black Friday.  It is being a part of it.  People set up tents and stand in huge lines for that one product they so desperately desire as if it will fulfill their hopes and dreams...and well, their life.
John Green recently wrote a blog post about Black Friday and says, "I would argue that all these people standing in line aren’t really there to save money. (Like, standing in line at Best Buy for four hours to save $20 on a TV is almost never an economically rational decision.) They’re standing in line to be part of something. And the something is consumer spending, the foundational idea of (and driving force behind) America’s relative economic health. And because we associate economic health so closely with community health, Black Friday is a way of both giving thanks and making an offering. In the end, I would argue the rituals surrounding Black Friday—combing through emails and advertisements for coupons, waking up before dawn, communing with strangers in large indoor public spaces (Target, Wal-Mart, etc.)—aren’t just similar to religious rituals. I would argue that they are religious rituals, just ones played out in a secular world."
John says it better than my entire Wasted Wednesday post ever could.  But just think about what I am saying and what Green is saying.  Black Friday truly has become a religious holiday.  It is a day people devote their lives to and I would argue that more people devote themselves to Black Friday than Catholics do to Lent at Easter time.  I mean, it's completely ridiculous.  Yet people do it every year as if this is what life is worth living for. 
Let me tell you all something - Black Friday is nothing someone should be fighting to live for.  Black Friday is now a religious tradition in America and it all ties into this ideology Americans hold that material wealth is how one gains happiness. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Reading: The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

The Member of the Wedding is a very peculiar book.  When I first began reading it, I found it to be downright strange.  To my dismay, I set the book aside since I did not have to read it for my class just yet and when I went to pick up where I left off, I noticed that my bookmark had popped out.  I did not want to start reading the book over again but did so anyway and I am glad I did.
The Member of the Wedding is a story of a girl named Frankie on the brink of becoming a teenager but still stuck in her childhood world.  Frankie longs to be apart of something but it seems that everything about her sets her apart from the rest of the world.  She feels disconnected to the earth, to the people who surround her, and her peers.  She is tall and lanky with short hair and often envisions herself joining the freaks at the carnival because of her look.  While the world goes on around her, she does the same thing everyday for the entire summer and sulks in her misfortune.  To her surprise, her brother comes home after being stationed in Alaska for the military and announces that he is getting married.  Frankie begins to question who she is and where she belongs and goes on a journey of minor self-discovery that accurately does not take her very far but far enough to start to grow up.  All Frankie can think about during the novel is how she no longer wants to just be a "me" anymore but instead a "we". 
There were a lot of literary style elements to this book that I loved.  One thing that made this book unique was it's ability to capture time.  The novel literally only takes place in the span of two days or so.  The narration is very reflective and honest.  It is hard not to relate to Frankie in some small way.  Her inner thoughts take the reader back to his/her adolescence and set the stage for all of the crazy thoughts racing through a 12-year-old's mind.  Frankie is an innocent girl yet sees herself at one point as a full grown adult, referring to herself as F.Jasmine.  She wants to join her brother and his new wife on their honeymoon as if it is normal for people to tag along.  She also fails to realize when an older man is obviously coming on to her.  Frankie's ignorance is a bit annoying but in terms of character, it was spot on.  This book also shows the human mind at work and how quickly a person can change his/her mind in an instant.  The reader sees how Frankie got from point A to point B and it all makes sense and feels real as if the reader was the one thinking things through.
Overall, the novel was good but no where near a favorite.  It was just good and that was it.  Nothing special.  I will give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reading: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

To start out this book review, I want to talk about why The Shallows by Nicholas Carr was a book that I felt that I needed to read.  I'm a kid that grew up in the 90's generation and you know what that means - when I turned 13, I was an internet junkie.  If the internet was considered a drug, I would probably be high off it every single day - actually, I am high off it every single day.  Or maybe I'm low off it every single day.  The computer used to be this fun place where I could play Backyard Baseball and Jumpstart Typing.  Then the internet became more accessible when we got rid of dial-up and got Comcast internet, now known as Xfinity.  At the age of 13 I was obsessed with music that most people my age didn't like.  I turned to the internet to connect with other fans and found that I could be more myself in front of the computer screen than in front of actual people.  I made tons of Xanga blogs and then moved to Myspace where I updated my profile probably ten times a day and then I moved to facebook where I just had to update my status time and time again and pray to God that it would get lots of likes and comments.  Then I entered the world of college where texting was unrestricted.  We didn't need the internet anymore to automatically connect with our friends and our internet friends. 
It was when I entered college that I began to realize the effects the internet and technology had had on my life.  I was still just as shy as I was at the age of 13.  I couldn't connect easily with other people and felt safer at my computer chair.  My heart became jealous all of the time of my friends and how they always seemed to talk to each other through texting and facebook but never to me.  My friends would text about someone in the same room as them!  Even when I was chatting with my friends, they would text while I was talking and they wouldn't hear me.  They would text while we watched TV and then turn to me asking what just happened.  When I confronted them, they became defensive.  I also found that I couldn't even get through a chapter of a book because my phone was vibrating every second and I felt the need to answer every time because if I didn't, my friends would get mad that I had a life separate from them.  It made me so frustrated all of the time.  Typing about it now just brings bad memories that are just so so bad that it makes my heart ache.  I hated who I was becoming.  I was always...angry. 
Another thing that seemed different about me was that I was never reading or writing.  I mean, sure I still read and wrote but not as much as I seemed to in high school.  In high school, I finished writing a novel that was 402 pages long.  In college, I had barely written 50 pages.  Reading was easier because it didn't require the same amount of effort as writing but I was still on my computer and the internet way more than I was reading.  I found that I had a hard time writing if I wasn't using a computer.  I found it hard to stay focused in my daily life.  I found it hard to juggle my internet life, my social life, my literary life, my student life, and my spiritual life.  I knew technology was an addiction but I continued to do it anyway and so did everyone else.  When I entered my junior year, I finally realized that this needed to stop.  I didn't want to buy an ipad and I didn't want a smart phone.  I didn't want to keep depending on computers.  I became aware how my brain was changing but didn't know how to explain this to my friends and family.  I added this book to my Amazon Wishlist and was so excited to see that it was required for a class in Fall 2012.
The Shallows is a detailed look at how technology has altered our brains.  While the book is specific to the technologies today such as the internet and computers and smart phones and e-readers, it greatly touches upon technology itself and talks about earlier technologies such as the clock and the printing press.  Technology has been changing for years and our brains have changed along with it.  For example, before the printing press people were used to oral storytelling.  When the printing press arrived, books became the new medium for storytelling and while oral storytelling didn't stop, it wasn't as popular as it once was.  Socrates, the believed founder of Western culture, claimed that writing would destroy the rich oral culture and Carr writes, "Socrates argues that a dependence on the technology of the alphabet will alter a person’s mind, and not for the better. By substituting outer symbols for inner memories, writing threatens to make us shallower thinkers, he says, preventing us from achieving the intellectual depth that leads to wisdom and true happiness."  I have to disagree with this statement because I believe writing and reading makes me think a lot more and helps exercise my mind.  If Socrates were speaking of technology today then I would probably agree.  While technology can bring a lot of benefits, we humans often use it to our demise.  As J.K. Rowling says in The Tales of Beedle the Bard, "Humans have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them."
Carr also discusses the brain a lot in this book almost to the point where I wondered what it had to do with the book's topic.  He talks about studies done on the brain and relates these studies to technology and today's culture.  One thing I felt when I became annoyed with technology was that I was always being shouted at.  The radio shouted loud and obnoxious music with no deeper meaning and the TV shouted at me to be a certain way and act a certain way and the internet shouted at me about politics and understanding every single culture on the planet and my brain felt like it would explode!  Carr writes, "By combining many different kinds of information on a single screen, the multimedia Net further fragments content and disrupts our concentration.  A single Web page may contain a few chunks of text, a video or audio stream, a set of navigational tools, various advertisements, and several small software applications, or “widgets,” running in their own windows.  We all know how distracting this cacophony of stimuli can be.  We joke about it all the time.  A new e-mail message announces its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site.  A few seconds later, our RSS reader tells us that one of our favorite bloggers has uploaded a new post.  A moment after that, our mobile phone plays the ringtone that signals an incoming text message.  Simultaneously, a Facebook or Twitter alert blinks on-screen.  In addition to everything flowing through the network, we also have immediate access to all the other software programs running on our computers – they, too, compete for a piece of our mind.  Whenever we turn on our computer, we are plunged into an ‘ecosystem of interruption technologies,’ as the blogger and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow terms it.”  The goal of technology today seems to be to distract us human beings!  How do they expect any of us to get work done?  Technology demands of us our full attention and we, with our now shallows brains, commit to this as if this is the way the world works.  The reason I first began questioning technology was for the fact that my friend once got mad at me for not texting her back in an ideal time.  I asked her, how did we communicate before texting?  How did people communicate before phones existed?  We should be grateful that we have them, not abuse the privilege!  Technology demands my attention so I can't give my attention to anything else.  No wonder I'm juggling all of my separate lives!
Overall, this book was a great read and really insightful to how technology has been affecting our brains for centuries.  The ideas Carr presents really helped me understand technology in my own life and I can finally explain my reasons to my friends and family without sounding like a total loser.  If there was one thing I didn't like about the book, it was that it seemed to stray off topic at times because it became so in depth about the brain and technology before our time.  While I believe all this content was necessary, I couldn't help but grow bored while reading.  That could be my modern technologically shallow brain talking though, right?  But, in a world that worships this technology, this book is a flower in the rain.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  I recommend everyone pick this up!

Reading: Meet Kit by Valerie Tripp

When I was ten years old going on eleven, there was nothing I wanted more in the world than an American Girl doll.  Both of my best friends had one and I was extremely jealous.  Each doll had her own beautiful hair and beautiful face and beautiful outfits and six books that told their story and they were so much more sophisticated than cuddly soft Kelly dolls.  The only thing that bothered me was that each doll was so expensive - $100.  To me, that seemed like a fortune.  My mom took me to Barnes and Noble in the fall to buy the first two Samantha books and I remember reading them during free time in fifth grade.  But the doll I really wanted was Kit.  I loved her short blonde hair and her pretty purple outfit and beige hat.  Christmas 2001, she was wrapped up under the tree with her first book, Meet Kit, beside her.  I loved Kit and I loved reading her book.  I never read an American Girl book since then though.  I always wanted to read the full Samantha series and Kit series and I even had the Molly series but I read other books instead.  What I loved about the books was the history element they held.  Each American Girl is living during a certain time period and has different struggles to face.  At the end of each American Girl book was a brief history lesson that I seemed to enjoy reading far more than my history book.
What is great about this 50 book challenge is that I have the opportunity to read and re-read a lot of books that I most likely would have never picked up.  I always wanted to come back to the American Girl novels just to relive the experience of reading them.  Meet Kit was a great place to start.  American Girl can sometimes be seen as an over-hyped franchise but I think it does live up to it's promise.  With these dolls and stories it gives young girls someone to relate to.  No one I knew personally as a kid wanted to write a newspaper but Kit did and I longed that she were a real person so we could create a newspaper together! That is what is so, for lack of a better word, magical about reading!  You are taken to so many different places to meet so many new people!
Meet Kit was an easy read but very enjoyable.  While the book's writing wasn't anything entirely special, the story was.  Meet Kit is the story of young Kit Kittredge who is living during the Great Depression.  The gossip is that people are loosing their jobs left and right and Kit can't wait to write about it in her notepad.  But the excitement about this gossip fades when Kit realizes that her father is one of those people who has lost his job.  Wanting to do something, Kit creates her own newspaper and writes about what is going on.  Her mother rents out their empty bedrooms so the family can earn money and not be kicked out of their home like so many other families had been.  Kit is a very resourceful and relatable character.  Her love for writing was one that I'm sure my eleven year old self could have related too. 
Meet Kit was a very fast read as well as engaging.  It was interesting to read about the Great Depression through the eyes of a young girl who doesn't quite yet understand the world.  Wouldn't it be interesting if these books were rewritten in a more literary way?  I would love to see that.  Anyway, it was a good read and I give the book 3.5 out of 5 stars.