Friday, June 10, 2011

Big Man On Campus.

Everyone has their comfort zone. For me during the summer, it extends from my room, to my kitchen, to my den. Any further and I'm out of my element. So you can imagine my first thought when I was accepted to this workshop and was faced with the prospect of spending a week on a college campus. My mind raced from thought to thought (as it usually does) in mass thinking about the week. Are the dorms nice? Who's my roommate? What if my roommate is weird? What if he thinks I'm weird? What will I eat? Where will I hang out? Will any of my friends be here? What if I'm a bad journalist? Then I simply told my self to not think about it and continued on with my present life. Eventually, the week arrived and I threw my suitcase into the car and headed over to USM with my mom. After we actually found the building (it's kinda tucked away), we headed up to meet my fellow journalists. This is the worst part of any new setting: the meet and greet. I'm a social person, but there's always that little bump to get over when you meet new people, kind of a "testing the waters" mentality. After the good byes to my mom and the dinner, I settled in to meet my dorm mates. I can honestly say I've never clicked with a group of people that easily. It was like we were all  connected in some way, shape, or form. We went from not knowing each other, to trying to remember life before we knew each other. A few events stand out in my mind. Watching Game 2 of the NBA finals with Malaizsa on the first night. Playing Just Dance 2... every night. Finding my twin telepathy parter in Yolanda. Elizabeth and I taking our "lovey-dovey" picture. Interviewing alongside Becca, Ashleigh, and Dana. Talking Colbert with Helen. Playing Would You Rather with DeeJay. My witty banter with our very own Tooth Fairy, Savannah. Racing John up the stairs in the elevator. Singing with Justina on the last night. Hanging out with Jonathon and Zoe the first night.  And finally there was a moment that just seemed... right, we were on an escalator heading upstairs and I thought "I'm going to remember this forever." But on to the actual work I did here at the camp. First off the instructors were amazing for all four mediums of journalism. Photography taught me the difference between a picture and a photograph, as well as to always take off the lens cap... always. Thanks Sicily and Dr. Coleman! Video was amazing, Keona, Rodney, and Jared helped us so much and the interviewing was a blast. Radio was a lot of fun, being on the air was nerve-racking, but Sarah and Justin helped us all the way. and finally, Print was like a return to normalcy with writing, and Jonathan was a huge help. the best part about camp though was just... talking to people. The interaction, using communication, was what I enjoyed. So I got into a program where I thought I'd learn a few things, and had a memorable experience. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Little Guy On Campus.

I'm at college. I am at college. No matter which way you say it, it sounds weird. I'm not... ready to be at college. Notice I say "at" and not "in". I'm not enrolled in college, but I'm spending a week here for Journalism camp.  I've been around town, I'm used to that. Same with my school, I know every inch of Oak Grove. But college is... an oddity. It's bigger, and there's a lot of walking involved. I'm still getting used to it, but I'll need some time I suppose. This complexity shall be unraveled.

All the World is Media

So it's three days into the journalism workshop and I've learned a few things. One, it's possible to trip over anything. And I mean anything. Two, Just Dance 2 is fun whether you play or just watch. And finally, if you're in a new place with new people that you need to break the ice with, try comedy. But in all seriousness, I've had a lot of fun learning about the different kinds of media and their various applications. My favorite so far is video. Why? Broadcasting video in a news format is... just plain fun. The interviewing, the filming, interacting with people, I feel... in my element. Plus I got to do a voiceover, like that guy who introduces every movie in the theater like it's the most intense thing ever. Video so far is the best experience for me and I'm looking forward to the rest of the week. Until then I'll continue to crack wise about my experiences here.  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Striking sparks.

   Alright, so I'm pretty pumped to be reading Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 right now. It seems to have come along just when I've been on a dystopian kick with reading books like The Hunger Games series. So, with that being said, let's jump into this cesspool of rigid order, brutal totalitarianism, and blind conformity, and see if we can't uncover this situation's particular brand of crazy.
   In the beginning, there was fire. No really. Seriously, this book starts with fire! As the main character, Guy Montag, is living out his perfectly satisfying job as a firefighter, we find our first intresting bit of information. Firefighters in this time aren't meant to stop fires, they're meant to start them. The reason? To burn illegal books. Well if you're trying to stagnate society, books are generally where you start. Sever their link to the past and you have clear opportunity to rewrite history... and set the future in stone.
    Next we come to this girl, Clarisse. I really like her, she reminds me of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter, she's the "out there" personality everyone needs. So was kind of mad when she disappeared and then died. On the other end of the spectrum, Mildred gets on my freaking nerves. She just doesn't have anything going for her to me. Beatty is the boss but still gets along with everyone, Clarisse dares to be different, the other firefighters are your regular drinking-buddy types, but Mildred doesn't speak of anything. Wait. I got it, Mildred is that wife that lives in the suburbs, throws parties and calls them "soirees", and subtly takes shots at her girlfriends for not being just like her. That's who she'd be today at least. On a side note, that three wall TV thing is scary. I watch too much TV now, if it was three walls and they talked to me, I'd be screwed productivity wise. And on another side note, If I seem a little to fond of Beatty and the other firefighters, I get they fully buy into the whole dystopian scene. But under that umbrella of "one-size-fits-all" mentality, they have distinguishable personalities that would make them generally likeable in our world. It's not that I don't like Mildred because she follows the crowd, it's that if she were here in our world, she would be no different, letting her life be dictated by magazines, the latest trends, whatever was in at the time, and those kinds of people annoy me. But hey, that's my opinion, and that and a quarter will get you twenty-five cents, and in my case, a good grade. Have I used that before? Oh well, moving on.
    I'm rather interested to see how this plan with the Professor (as I've dubbed him) will work out. After seeing the first few thoughts that Guy has had that stray off the beaten path, it's clear he has potential, but for what? He's striking sparks in that head of his, and it seems something will be catching fire soon enough (if you got both references, I'll be impressed).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No More Pi For Me.

Well, here we are at the end of Life of Pi and you'll be happy to know that I'm not super pissed off. But I do have some criticisms (and some praise). First, where the hell did Richard Parker go? I'd gotten to know that guy for most of the freakin' book and he just runs off? Not okay. It's like half the story left with him, seeing as he was one of two main characters. Plus he was a tiger... okay I'm just rambling now but you get the idea. Something I found interesting however, is the downplay of Pi's "superreligion" as I have dubbed it, and his subsequent transformation into a cynic full of sarcasm. It's kind of interesting to watch. And as for his interviewers? Let's just say if I'd just survived 227 days on the ocean with nothing but a tiger to keep me company, I'd expect bettter treatment. And then came the alternate story Pi told involving humans instead of animals, which kinda sucked in comparison to the real story. It only goes to show that most things are warped once you add humans. But overall, I liked liked Life of Pi, and it's ability to take a certain death situation and turn it into a pretty good story. Well played Martel, well played.

Almost Out Of Pi

Annnnd here we are again in Life of Pi. You know, for a book that I originally thought was 401 pages about a boy getting eaten by a tiger, this turned out pretty good. As we check in on Pi we see a few things have happened. First Pi has developed some serious issues with being... bipolar almost. One minute he's super happy and carefree, the next he's clinically depressed. It's like that movie Tangled when Rapunzel goes "Best day ever!" then two seconds later she's all "I'm a terrible person!" Eh, what else are you going to do on a boat with a tiger (besides get eaten)? But I'd like to return to the whole "401 pages about a boy getting eaten by a tiger" thing, because it's here that Martel shines. I couldn't write an essay about this, he writes a freaking novel. And furthermore it's not one of those novels where he says the same thing over and over again, he actually continues to find new stuff to talk about which is pretty freaking cool in my (wonderfully biased) opinion. So Martel gets my stamp of approval so far. But if this book ends badly I'm gonna be unbelieveably pissed off.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pretty Good Pi.

"The ship sank." That's how this next part of Life of Pi starts. No ominous creaking that turns into a full blown disaster, or explosion that causes people to go running and screaming and no endless anecdotes that seem to go nowhere. Just one line,"The ship sank." In a world that is filled with over 100 ways to say one thing, you gotta appreciate simplicity sometimes. But I think the reason I love this line is because it seems like (because I'm pretty sure this isn't how it works) Martel looked at the first part and said "That's a lot of freaking description for no good reason. Any reader would probably be on edge with me right now. So to better portray the telepathic image of this fossil (Stephen King anyone?) I'll keep it brief. Now what happens basically? Well the ship sank... yeah that'll be it. So the much disliked superdescription is gone and the story gets even better. Pi's attachment to his faith (read:faiths) is more emphasized in his character this go round, and Martel brings that out more by staying brief and concise. I'm digging it so far, but time will tell...

Digging in to some Pi.

Hmm, it's been a while hasn't it? Time to dust off the old mental typewriter (yes I have a typewriter in my head because frankly, I'm old school) and get back to blogging. As for my loooooooooooooooooooooooong absence, I can only blame my chronic procrastination. But, on to Life of Pi. I'm rather skeptic about Martel's writing in his "discovery of the story", I don't dislike it, but I'm not super thrilled with it either. But once we get into the story things get a lot better. When Pi and his parents were confronted with the "three wise men", I cracked up. One thing that confused me however, is the multi-religion thing. Pi finds 3 different religions at the same time and follows all of them. Wait, backup, rewind, I thought the whole "one religion" thing was kinda important. Seems like it'd help you keep your priorities straight at least. But I find no glaring problems with this, it's rather interesting actually the way it's just... simplified. If I had one negative comment though, it'd be this,"Does there have to be so many freaking lists?" This is where the book begins to sound like me on super drugs (that was for you Shaw) and goes random and tangential (please let that be a word). Random animals, anecdotes that seem to go nowhere, it detracts from an otherwise good story. But bottom line I'm enjoying Life of Pi and am looking forward to reading more.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Freshly Served Oddities Here!

Okay, reading further into The Color of Water,  it gets... better? I really can't decide actually. James McBride still kinda ticks me off with some of the situations he presents and Ruth is still pretty fascist, but it goes... somewhere. First let's start with James, specifically his apparent manifestation of what can be construed as either narcississm or just plain garden variety crazy in the fact that he kisses his reflection. I didn't know what to think of this really, it was kind of an "Oh... that's cool." moment, where you don't know what to say so you sit there and look really freaking awkward. But I digress. Then in every chapter, McBride tries to impart some kind of wisdom in the end. Sorry buddy, but I find your advice just a bit questionable. Okay that was a joke, but what really irked me was the fact that at the core, this is a story, a narrative. Tell the story for the hell of it sometimes, don't try to impart life lessons with every chapter. But that's just my opinion, and that and a quarter will get you 25 cents. Then we come to his dad, who by now seems to be McBride's idol. Until he ignores the fact that his dad is in the hospital for two weeks until his mom forces him to go. Then he says his dad isn't a man of dialogue, and that dialogue was his mom's job. Huh? What the hell? Last I checked, fascism didn't involve dialogue. It was more like, "I run everything, you have no autonomy, hop off." The only dialogue there had better be "Ja Fraulein." McBride confuses me the further I read into his book. Ruth, however, kind of redeemed herself in this section. Her childhood made me feel a little sorry for her. Not enough to pardon the totalitarian regime, but you know. But here is the one point this book made me crack up: The Jewish family had a German maid. Maybe I was a little delusional at this point, but hey, it was ironic to me. This whole Rachel vs. Ruth thing is kind of tiring though, you can't separate yourself into two people without losing something good in the process. And yes Elijah, I got your point on that one. So to wrap this thing up, if it seems like I don't have a clear direction on this thing, I don't. I still don't like it, but I need to convene with myself to see if I still hate it. It's like Portal, it confuses the crap out of you (feel free to let that whiz over your head, it's mostly for a conversation I had yesterday). But I stand by my question. Why the hell is this a good book?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Virtues of Nazi-ism and Facist Mentalities

That's what this book should be called. After 85 pages of James McBride's oh so fan-freaking-tastic "novel", it ranks somewhere along an essay I wrote I third grade while hyped up on sugar. Now I'm by no means the best writer or literary connoisseur out there. But I know what I like. I like authors who can tell a story, make it interesting, throw in some humor (if they're good at humor and if it serves to further the purpose of the book), and have a consistent theme or message of some sort that makes good reasonable sense. What I don't like however, is this amalgamation of an autobiography of the author and a biography of his mother (though it's written like an autobiography, you'd swear he was the world's first freakin' telepath or something), that complains about the issues of sibling rivalry and tries to portray a psychologically questionable Nazi-esque mother as sweet and caring. The way James McBride writes it, he wants you to feel sorry about the fact that she essentially turns her kids against each other in a form of in-house Darwinism, brainwashes them into being afraid of anything not having to do with school and Church, to the point even, that they fear sharing the most minute details of their lives, and finally enforces this with a strict purist Nazi-like policy of : Explore ze outtside und you vill be punished vit ze beatings. Alright, maybe I'm getting a little ludicrous. And to some extent I do feel sorry for Ruth. Being sexually molested and beaten by her father, I'd be more worried if she didn't have issues, that had to be horrible. But there's a point where you just can't blame a person's actions on their childhood anymore and you have to see that it's them. And Ruthie passed that milestone a while back. I suppose my giant rant about all of this is asking the question,"Why the hell is this a good book?" It's pretentious, has terrible morals, and quite frankly, some serious grammar issues. If there was ever one to unleash the flying monkeys on...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Final Deal With Mr. King.

Well all good things come to an end I suppose. Here I am at the end of On Writing and I've learned so much. The thing is, I never felt like I was in a classroom of the mind taking notes. Instead I learned about a man who learned to write from books, then wrote a book about it. Mr King has taught me telepathy, what to put in my toolbox, and finally archaeology.

Telepathy. It seemes like such a strange concept but it couldn't be simpler. Authors use books to practice telepathy en masse. They construct vivid worlds for us to see in our minds and characters we can imagine walking down the street on any given day. King for a large part of his life was the end of the telepathy link with books like Combat Casey and others teaching him about the mental link between writer and reader. It was this that pushed him to become a part of the creating aspect of telepathy, or the sending aspect, telepathically sending  images to readers everywhere.

Next we come to the toolbox, every writer's trusty set of devices to unearth a story. Here we see the dislike of passive voice by King. Oh my God. I just made a literary joke. Folks, I'm sorry, it'll never happen again, I swear. Moving on from that abyssmal moment in my life, King stresses the importance of grammar and literature and yet makes a point to make sure that it is our own. Add this to the intracacies of character development, what with characters acting of their own accord and it gives the idea of books coming to life a whole new meaning. Reading books by authors like Bradbury and Faulkner were obviously influential to this line of thinking, by reading so many books and seeing so many different forms of syntax and grammar, not to mention so many different types of characters, King realized that there was no set way to write, just that writers wrote best when they wrote like themselves and not someone else. But at the same time, King admits to trying to write like Bradbury and others in his youth. I suppose to find your style, you have to try someone else's and see how it fits. Food for thought.

And the final lesson King and On Writing teaches us is... not one I expected to learn. Ever. The lesson of archaeology. See the story is there and it's our job to dig it up, making sure it's as whole and undamaged as possible. That's what our toolbox is for you see? And the development of the characters, the description of the setting, simile, alliteration, metaphor, all these thing contribute to what exactly your fossil looks like when you're done. So Shakespeare, Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson, and Austen weren't just great writers, They were crack archaeologistsas well. And reading all of these authors set King on the path to becoming a writ- ahem excuse me, an archaeologist himself.

So let's put this whole confusing, flummoxing, and just plain weird thing in perspective. Coming up with an idea for a book is finding a fossil that's been there waiting for someone to discover it. Writing the book is the writer using the tools in their toolbox to bring out the story (taking care not to damage it). And then by reading this book, the author telepathically sends the image of the fossil the found to us. All clear? If you say yes, then you've got a better handle on this writing thing than I do but hey, you might be the next Stephen King.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We do big things.

It's not hard to find someone willing to tell you what's wrong with this country. It seems to be the only good thing that has come out of our recent adversity is the peoples renewed interest in the actions of the government, like a TV show they lost track of for a few seasons and are trying to get current on again. And tonight President Obama in his State of the Union speech provided an excellent summary of the nation thus far, as well as some of the highlights of where this show is headed. One thing I wasn't expecting was the particular section of the speech on innovation. We are a country of innovators without a doubt, and the apparent focus on new ideas and inventions was... unanticipated but not unwelcome. High speed rail? Clean energy research? Alright, not bad ideas. Next up is education. Now we're somewhat back on familiar ground, our education system could certainly use some work. Preparing 100,000 teachers in the fields of math, science, and engineering is a great start. Permanent tuition tax credit? Good news to soon-to-be college students like myself. I'm not sure what to think on the foreign students deal though, that deserves a reservation of judgement. And we move on to infrastructure. A great point if you're from Louisiana (the state that road maintenance forgot). I've already stated the high speed rail project, but high speed Internet and highway repair round out this point. Okaayy. Next President Obama discussed business. Namely the lowering of the corporate tax rate and the cultivating of the import export business with India and China. Well we do kind of owe China... Then healthcare came up. I'm sure we were all expecting this. I have to say I agree on this aspect. It's easier to change than to start from scratch. There are good and bad parts about Obamacare, and at this stage reform is the better option in my opinion. And we come to debt. This is what we've all been waiting for. As for the cuts in spending, where will they come from? Who will be affected? Reorganizing government? Not a bad idea, but how without domestic spending? Okay, defense. We've done well overseas, what with START and the Middle East and all our usual issues. Briging our troops home by July was a nice way to round out the point as well. And we end with a reminder of the American Dream and how it's made itself evident today. All together a great speech in terms of uniting the country. But the one thing this speech lacks is what was lacking in President Obama's 2008 campaign. The mention of how. If you stuck with the speech all the way through, you'll realize that was a hell of a list to get through in two years. So how are we going to do this? It's great to say we're America and we kick tail and take names but at this point a battle plan would be nice. We have two years before we enter another election and apparently in those two years America is supposed to undergo massive change that makes things better. We shall see.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Business is booming.

Well here we are again it seems. When I last posted about On Writing, I ended with the line let's get down to business in an attempt to sound cool and mysterious. Well I liked it so much that I decided to make it the theme of all my On Writing posts. But more than that, the theme of business fits with this story (or so I feel, feel free to disagree, I'd actually enjoy it) because the further I read, the more I understand exactly what business King is trying to explain. Archaeology. His take on writing stories being like unearthing fossils is on the same level of freaking-coolness as the whole books = telepathy bit in the What Writing Is section. As for vocab and grammar being on the top shelf of our toolbox, let's just say I was one of those kids in 10th grade English who understood grammar (any Shoemakers out there?). But I think what I like most about this section is the character development/description usage part. Here is where King takes two very difficult processes and simplifies them. And as characters are coming to life and doing things of their own accord and our minds are lazily stretching out into areas of thought previously unexplored, King maintains that although you should try to please some readers, Don't be afraid to... screw around basically. Go nuts, do whatever the hell you want, then sit back and look at what you've made and look for underlying patterns and revise as needed. This is the business that King has mired himself in and is explaining. And it would seem that business is booming.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Let's get down to business.

Before I start, let me say I don't usually read non fiction. Ever. That's because most of the non-fiction I've tried to read is boring, dull, blank, and just plain not fun. I'd much rather stay in my fantasy world and batttle with knights, wizards, dragons, heck maybe even supercomputers bent on world domination or somesuch. And I've been like that for the majority of my life. So when I opened On Writing it was with the notion that I was going to have another excursion into that drab real world I so despise. Then I read the first three forewords. And I realized something in those few pages that made me set this book apart from other non-fiction books I'd tried to read in the past. This Stephen King guy is funny! So with my curiosity piqued, I read further into the C.V. Past some hilarious stories involving poison ivy, newspapers, and high school (the eternal joke as far as I'm concerned) the humor continues. I was amazed quite frankly, this guy makes fun of others, he makes fun of himself, he tells the good times and the bad, he uses foul language yet creates some very sentimental moments and still manages to be as candid as possible. And then I reached the end of the C.V. , much to my dismay and just as I thought the book couldn't have anymore of an effect, it did. Stephen King takes writing and transforms it from a lengthy activity to a mental construction unrivaled in its' complexity. And let's face it, that bit about books being a form of telepathy is just freaking cool. And finally Mr. King lays down a challenge, not to come to the blank page lightly, that we can do business. Well Mr. King, you have my attention. Let's get down to business.