Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Arcade in the Suburbs is on Fire! Great...

Arcade Fire-The Suburbs
     Arcade Fire's relatively new album, The Suburbs, is a very deep and profound album with extremely poetic lyrics. Unlike most music today, the lyrics of Arcade Fire's song actually mean something that pertains to life, not partying in the club all day. Anyways, my two most favorite songs are unsurprisingly the most popular tracks on the album: The Suburbs and Ready to Start. 
     The Suburbs is probably the most dramatic track but maybe I think this because of the music video. However, the lyrics show a level of reminiscence mixed with regret. It details how fleeting and carefree life is while being a kid in the suburbs. While they are waiting to grow up and experience the world, they pass the time playing in the neighborhood. The lazy sounds and relaxing lyrics contrast very nicely with the quick tempo and higher pitched instruments. However, the song sometimes drones on in certain areas but its meaning will keep the listener alert if they really analyze the song's setup while listening. Overall, it's a mellow song that still catches my attention.
     The last song from "The Suburbs" I chose to highlight is "Ready to Start." This track describes a nonconformist outlook on life and explains how people should be themselves even if that means being alone and isolated. The lyrics are full of intense pathos but intense pride also and express conviction in his words. This track is one of the more exciting and lively songs although the singers voice is still nonchalant and relaxing. In a few points, the song can become slightly monotonous and feels like it could use a sudden change  of pace of tone but it eventually all blends together. All in all, the new Arcade Fire album has a good amount of high quality songs with good quality lyrics.

The Suburbs:

Ready to Start:


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Blue Jay and Carraway Seeds

     Jay Gatsby is a mysterious and deceptive man who twists people and uses them for his own benefit. One such person used by Gatsby is his neighbor Nick Carraway. Popular and affluent Gatsby invites Nick to his extremely well-known parties to build a friendship with him. Unbeknownst to Nick, Gatsby forms a rapport with his neighbor because of his family connections. However, Jay never reveals his true intentions directly to his companion but sends messengers to communicate his bidding. When he decrees his plans, Jay insinuates that these statements are orders since it seems that no one wants to be on Gatsby's unfavorable side. Nick is told by his love interest, Jordan Baker, of Jay's plans to see Daisy, his former flame, by Nick extending an invitation to his second cousin, Daisy. 
     Gatsby formulates ideas that Carraway and him are friends just to be friends but he later reveals his real intentions for their relationship. He transmits his will at others' expense only with his needs or desires in sight. Gatsby also wants to give impressions that he is the whole package with his Oxford attendance and his war medals. He feels everyone should be lower than him because Jay is a social-elite and therefore, can control people with his power given to him by his inheritance money. Each person is a stepping stone to make it across the raging river and Gatsby doesn't mind getting dirt on them or moving them out of place, as long as he gets there. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter Poem

Wind in the evergreens
And her voice in the air
Made the winter's spite
Easier to bear.

Pure snow rested on the branches
Of the naked and somber trees
And the sky was free and open
As clouds couldn't endure the weather
And as we stood together
It seemed like our eternity was close at hand.

The birds needn't sing a song of love for us,
For our togetherness was perfect.

My crystal blue eyes
Reminiscent of ice
Were warmed and melted
By her shy and confident glance.

But by the next winter
They were frozen once more
Like how her hand felt the last time I saw
My perfect snowflake, my Snow White.
She couldn't be brought back with true love
Or a tender, reviving kiss.
No dwarves had told of her impending doom,
No one could come to save her.
Snow White was never awakened.
Snow turned to mud and never more comes another winter or snowfall,
But I am still cold.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Being Thankful Up in This Place

     I would have expected this prompt to be utilized near the end of the year since a lot of people don't know each other that well, but I do understand its relevance since it is around the time of Thanksgiving. Anyways, the two people that i am most thankful for in the American Literature class are Clara Torres and Morgan Mason. Firstly, I have a pretty good relationship with Clara since we were in biology together last year and I sit by her during division. She is a very smart and outspoken person that has strong beliefs. In division, we usually have conversations about controversial things and it is insightful to listen to her well formulated ideas and standpoints. Clara is a very interesting person to talk to because she raises a lot of questions without forcing doctrine or ideas.
     The next person I am thankful for is Morgan. I only met her this year but she is basically in all of my classes and sits in my vicinity in almost all of those classes. She is the biggest help in Pre-Calculus especially because she is brilliant at math and she also sits next to me. Morgan explains things spot on and helps me if I need assistance. Besides being a math wizard, she is a nice person to talk to and always makes me laugh when we walk to American Literature class.
     All of the people that make my life more enjoyable are those I am most thankful for, whether it be their humor, their assistance, their love, their acceptance or even just their presence.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ich bin ein Pflug

     The rustic French farm I grew up on was my prison; but in some sense it was my freedom and my innocence. I was held inside the boundaries of the calm but active wheat and barley fields that outlined the border between our farm and the dark forest that spread into tumultuous and violent Germany. As an eleven year-old, I didn't essentially believe I was on house arrest by my Mamma and Pappa but in retrospect, I see how limited my outside exposure was until I went to Marseilles to work and then eventually to the worldly mecca, Paris, to learn to cook. Every morning with my father's alarm ring, I would be coaxed into maintaining the farm which was a family affair. I was the plow of the family; I manned the wheat and barley farms since I was eight and tilled and plowed the soil for days to get it to perfection. The rest of my family tended the garden or cared for the animals. The farm was literally our reason to wake up in the early hours; well that and spending time with each other in the evening.
     One particular day, the day our world started to turn on its back, was a momentous and frightening for all of France. Hitler's Third Reich decided to push into French borders on May 10th and we were one of the first towns that was encountered by "die Menschen aus Deutschland." (the men from Germany). Our little farm was soon forcefully occupied by the Wehrmacht. They "asked" our family to keep-up the farm to provide local troops with food. We had to capitulate and therefore, agreed, the best choice to maintain our heads. The soldiers approached me and asked what a scrawny kid like me did on such a farm, pick the flowers to put in my hair? I sternly replied, "Je suis une chaurre." They laughed. One of the ugly brutes with a fat red face came up to me and yelled "Nein! Du bist kein "chaurre." Du bist ein Pflug!!" He then proceeded to beat me until I looked worse than him. I didn't speak a word of French until they left years later. I was no longer une chaurre but ein Pflug until they burned everything when the war took a turn. No one was left after the fire, only the plow.   

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Directions?

     Does Mr. McCarthy's 7th period American Literature class need a new direction, organization or goal? In my view, our class could use a slight readjustment in some areas. Firstly, the novels featured for a month or two seem to be afterthoughts in every day class. The journals seem to be the main focal point of each period which are usually unrelated. Writing in response to them is enjoyable but it just seems like busy work sometimes.
     The second issue I have is that formal writing should be more prominent. The blogs and journals are forms of writing but they only act as an outlet for ranting and feelings rather than cohesive ideas. I would feel more productive if I was improving my writing skills for future use in upcoming grades and possibly in college. Most of the students will not become creative writers or authors and will therefore have no productive, daily application for this writing style.
    The final complaint is the frequent use of the vocabulary books. Last year, the vocabulary exercises were extremely beneficial for me and especially for the class. I have encountered all of the words while reading various types of literature. Before, words I had no knowledge of would just be skimmed over and disregarded. Now, I can actually understand those words and their use and I am able to incorporate them into my personal vocabulary for employment in my writing. There is no downside to learning new words for furthering facts, statements and opinions.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The worst form of slavery

     Generally, when society pictures slavery, they formulate pictures of forced laborers working in the fields, collecting materials for their masters that punish them for every slight transgression. However, one of the largest and unfortunately, most lucrative types of slavery is in prostitution or in other sexual services. This type of prostitution is usually derived from debts, causing the debtor to be forced into the industry to fulfill the payment. Unwillingly women and children are the most common slaves thrust into this world of abuse and humiliation. Millions of the slaves are trafficked from place to place and from client to client. Each visit poses the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, the risk of severe physical and mental abuse and the risk of death.
     In American society, slavery is an evil of the nation's past and it seems like a foreign practice only seen in civil war movies. However, thousands of American citizens are involved in the illegal sex trade that affects countries around the earth. I am astounded that such a demeaning and destructive clandestine business is still pervasive in a modern society that prides itself on providing justice, liberty and equality. Regular, consensual and legal prostitution should be permitted since it is the woman or man's choice but forced prostitution is rape in my book. Considering that half of the slaves involved are minors, supporting this trade is vile and completely immoral. Those urges that humans "need" to go through with aren't worth violating people. Some people need to learn to control themselves and stop when they have gone too far because a slave sex trade can benefit NO person, no matter the profits and the seconds of immoral pleasure.     

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In the town where they were born

     The first largely colonial section of the now United States in the 1600s, Massachusetts, is the setting of many historically interesting events regarding Puritans and it is also home to the Romantic novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote about Puritan society. Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter and of The House of Seven Gables among others, was born in infamous Salem, Massachusetts where deadly witch trials took place approximately a century earlier. Remarkably, Nathaniel's ancestor was a judge in the witch trials whose surname was Hathorne but Hawthorne was compelled to disassociate himself with his great-great-grandfather and therefore, he added a "w" to his name. Later in life, Nathaniel wrote his most famous work, The Scarlet Letter, detailing Puritan methods of life and of punishment through his character Hester Pyrnne, an adulteress.
     The town of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is a devout Puritan theocratic society, run by the word of God. The citizens of Puritan towns were governed by extremely strict laws. They regarded any form of enjoyment as a sin. Rule breaking such as not attending mass for one Sunday led to punishment and raised questions about "sinner's" moral and religious conviction. Small acts like this could, in fact, result in accusations of witchcraft since the community had a strong belief in demonology. Those condemned would be put to death like the adulterers and murderers were. In this religious society, the roles of the family members were rigidly outlined; men were expected to provide for the family and held sole authority, women worked around the house and bore children, and the children should abstain from any form of enjoyment and comply with all adult expectations.
     The effects on current American society that the Puritan society caused are very minimal in everyday life. However, we are held to the same moral standards of a Christian belief system that the Puritans were. Disobeying these laws will almost result in jail-time which is a beneficial aspect to our nation. Fortunately, the nation is becoming increasingly secular and tolerant towards other lifestyles.      

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Two extremes of a vast nation

     For the entirety of my life, my parents have subjected me to the true beauties of the United States: Our National Parks. As I increased in age, I began to realize through exceeding exposure to these parks that the United States was a land of great untamed wilderness and of many spectacular cities; the best aspects of this country go from one extreme to the other: simplicity and sophistication. I can only bask in the glory of America in these two landscapes and they are where I notice pride in my country.
     Cities such as Chicago, San Francisco and New York are worldly Meccas with arrays of ethnicities that culminate into a city of many worlds. People from all backgrounds find communities they can identify with, yet still experience other lifestyles if they desire to. One method to do so would be to venture to ethnic restaurants. Metros are usually littered with such areas and after visiting a plethora of cuisines, my appreciation for America's diversity and a sense of nationalism grow within.
     From the first journey to Hawai'i when I was a few months old to my most recent excursion to Zion National Park in Utah, I always contained a feeling of tranquility and easiness while present in a National Park. Being immersed in natural grandeur seems correct and I can't help feeling anew and at peace. Then I wonder why more of the nation's land cannot be allotted to the National Park Service to be preserved and protected from urban encroachment. Pictures do not provide justice for the natural magnificence. Their greatness defies all expectations and instills greater respect for the environment which Americans usually toss aside. My ideal America would be a nation of wilderness where its people are connected with nature and a nation of cities where all peoples could assimilate into a cohesive and tolerant society that enjoys experiencing other walks of life. I would have the highest level of patriotism in such as country.
    
    

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pacificism, not terrorism!

     In recent years, large conflicts have arisen from religious tensions, specifically terrorist attacks throughout the world. September 11th, the London underground bombing, the 2010 Moscow Metro bombing and 2004 Madrid train bombings were all terrible attacks resulting in a needless loss of life. However, in the United States there was a terrorist attack in 1995 which was fueled purely by politics and took the lives of 168 people aged three months to seventy-three not including the unborn children of pregnant women in Oklahoma City.
     On April 19, 1995, at approximately nine in the morning, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols exploded a large bomb in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. These former U.S. army soldiers were driven by their conflict with the government, particularly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They felt that the federal government acts without valid grounds or is a corrupt body. Although McVeigh wanted to make a statement for his cause, his radicalism turned all peace-loving people entirely against him. However, Timothy's goal may have been to instill fear in Americans for his militia group which it most likely did.
      Numerous groups rise out of a disappointment towards their government but usually, instead of destroying lives, they protest, elect officials that have like ideas or lobby senators or representatives. Any idea that involves harming innocent bystanders is the worst possible way to go. They should enact nonviolent movements such as those in the Civil Rights Movement and in the campaign for Indian Independence, lead by the most notable pacifist in modern history.  These made impacts. They actually caused change without casualties. Violence is almost never the proper course of action.
  

Thursday, September 30, 2010

John Proctor- Hero or Stooge?

     Throughout Arthur Miller's The Crucible, John Proctor's actions are all influenced by his desire to protect his  honor. Proctor's clandestine affair with the young housemaid, Abigail, prevents him from testifying against his lover. If he would have revealed their inappropriate rapport, then her accusations against a plethora of the Salem townsfolk wouldn't have been as credible. However, John wished for his name and his status to remain unsullied within Salem. Yet at Mary Warren's hearing, he divulged that he now "knew her" in an attempt to expose Abigail's lies but he only dug himself into a deeper grave when Proctor's wife, Elizabeth, did not corroborate his story. He was incarcerated on an account of lechery and later on witchcraft.
     In the final Act, John is asked to sign a confession admitting to involvement with sorcery and he is also interrogated concerning the identities of other witches. During his examination, he resolutely mentions no names to add to the multitude of convicted Salem citizens, saying that he can only tell of his own sins. Then Proctor is asked to sign a confessional. He hesitantly agrees to the testimony but soon renounces, it earning him a noose on the gallows among seven other condemned "witches." John Proctor imagines how his signature will be etched into this document and destroys it because he would be ashamed to be remembered for abandoning his beliefs. By doing this, Proctor is redeemed from his stooge-like demeanor at the opening of The Crucible and transforms into a hero who stood for his companions while maintaining his ideals and honor.        

Thursday, September 23, 2010

God hates us? I don't think so

      The Puritan theologian, Jonathan Edwards, illustrates how he believes God views humans in a graphic excerpt from his Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Edwards explains how God can destroy any man with the extension of a finger or with a hand movement. According to the passage, the ruler of heaven and earth takes pleasure in inflicting his wrath upon his "sinful" subjects. He Jonathan claims that one sin in a person's name equates to God's eternal hate. The Puritans' harsh belief that one was predestined for damnation or salvation supports this portrayal of God in that a person's good deeds are irrelevant factors in deliverance to heaven.
     Christianity is based on the beliefs of redemption from sin and of the inconceivable love God and Christ have for humans. It is my opinion that God would never condemn his beloved creations to eternal agony and suffering as depicted in Jonathan Edwards sermon. He would allow sinners to redeem themselves through recollection, acceptance and forgiveness. Why would God allow us to sin if he wanted us to enter heaven? Are we really “ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful and venomous serpent is”? If God has such an enmity towards the human race, then why hasn't He dealt out with all of us? Jonathan's theory concerning certain damnation doesn't bear semblance to the "forgiving" God mentioned in the New Testament. Edwards's tactic appears to be to instill fear into its readers causing them to lead better lives and be free of Puritan restrictions.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I came up in the place and they was like "WHAT"?!

     Beverly Hills, a little sector of the United States’ best city: Chicago, has no semblance similar to the wealthy, celebrity-stocked, and affluent West Coast community in Los Angeles. My residence is tucked away in a niche on the Southwest side of Chicago. Beverly is a gentrified neighborhood composed mainly of Irish, Polish and German families which are entirely Catholic. It is littered with church after church and school after school filled with preppy football and volleyball athletes. .  Our only link to downtown and the more exciting Northside is the Metra train on which all working adults and commuting students ride.  The kids walked around in huge groups making pilgrimages from the playground to Starbucks, “the place to be” for kids twelve and thirteen. This is the quiet and cohesive town that our family moved to when I was young child.
     When my family moved in, I was four and my sister, Steph, was six. We were the cutest toddlers in the town but our happy grins were only a fa├žade for our true personalities. Like all little children, Steph and I had evil hidden agendas waiting to be hatched upon the unsuspicious neighbors. We would construct an oligarchy, with us the supreme rulers and with our neighbors’ children as the subjects.  The only problem that existed was a lack of followers. There was one kid on the whole block, which was the boundary of the realm due to our young ages. But Nora, the single child in the vicinity, was extremely gullible and therefore was a prime specimen for aiding us in expansion when our peripheries could broaden. 
     Soon, the block had another resident and luckily brought two twins with them. Natalie and Magda were younger than Stephanie and myself so we would be able to control them. Our clandestine regime incorporated the twins making us five strong. With a greater work force, our oligarchy could then build forts and such in our backyards for scheming. Our main goal was to commandeer our neighbors yard because it was a pivotal region for   maintaining stable control. 
     The neighbor, whose name shall not be mentioned, was a sour and unpleasant middle-aged women whose specific instructions were for the gang to go in her garden. This decree only made it more enticing to play in this forbidden forest. That is were the trouble begins. 
     Her lot was the most fantastic place to be at the time. It had bushes that we would weave in and out of, a swing for four, secret passageways by the garage and side of the house, vines to swing on, wood to build clubhouses with, a cat cemetery surrounded by blue bell flowers, platforms to jump off of and gigantic bees that we would battle for possession of the driveway when the lady wasn't home. But of course we would be surprised by her and be admonished for breaking her regulations. Multiple times, our parents would be confronted by her with orders to keep their children out but we never heeded her warnings. 
     As time passed and as we matured, the group soon annexed the parks under our rule so the gaze was turned away from that mystical garden to more achievable goals. However when Stephanie began eighth grade, she resigned from her position and took the twins with her. Nora and I continued the legacy gaining one or two territories but within a few years, our active involvement ceased. The little children reclaimed the playgrounds and the empire ended as all things must.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Introductions

      Most people would not be able to formulate one word that personifies their essence and life.  Many think, “How can a single word capture my complex, multi-layered life?”but then, there are those that perceive the ability to be second nature. For me, I am able to effortlessly condense my life thus far into one word: food.
    Food is the center of my universe. My interests and pastimes all derive from my affinity of salty, doughy, crunchy, sweet or mouth-watering food which arose through my parents’ influence. I come from a family of big-time eaters and without difficulty, my father and I can inhale an eighteen-inch pizza in less than twenty minutes. Even my petit sister, Steph, can pack a few avocado smoothies in. We claim that we were bred for eating and each time we sit down for a meal this proclamation is verified.
     At an extremely young age, my mother and father rapidly introduced me and my sister to different ethnic foods. Even in the womb, my sister and I had our “taste” of foreign delicacies. In fact, before each of our births, my mom sat down to a fiery and aromatic Devon Avenue Indian cuisine. The spices must have kicked in because Steph and I were out in the open the next day.
     The weekly visits to Chinatown, the late night Ethiopian food, and the small but hectic Korean Barbeque restaurants, among other worldly cuisines, caused my family’s desire to encounter hundreds of cultures through food. So approximately a year ago, we journeyed to Italy for three weeks to have our share of bella la cultura italiana (The beautiful Italian culture). We were captivated by Rome’s weathered ruins, Florence’s intensive and vast museums, Venice’s ornate churches and Amalfi’s clear blue sea. The splendor of Italy’s cities was no match for their unbelievable food. Throughout the trip, it seemed that we plainly killed time in between meals.
     Other introductions to the world’s innumerable tastes unearthed my buried interests. Soon I sought information concerning the nations behind the food. It advanced to a passion for geography and while studying countries, rivers and mountain ranges, I discovered the history tied to each one followed by its languages, its philosophies, and its religions. This culminated in the decree of my current life goal: traversing the globe and immersion in various foreign lifestyles.
     My exposure to multiple cultures via food enhances my abilities to relate to others and provides me with a valid basis for being open-minded. “You don’t know until you try”, my dad would say while coaxing me or my sister into tasting a dish, a phrase exemplifying the benefits of being unprejudiced. Life has countless relations to the restaurant table which would be unknown to me without my parents’ lessons. I pride myself in being a gastronome and a slight glutton because it brings us to the dinner table where the things that I enjoy most in the world: family and food. Food is not just for nourishment; it is a tool to amaze, to comfort, and to bring people together.  In Italy, the day revolves around meals and like me, they live to eat.