Progress Report

book pic

After months and months of deciding what was going to go into the book, we are finally in the stages of laying out the pages and ordering the physical copies.  It’s pretty exciting, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.  I spent a couple class periods figuring out how we were gonna group our essays together, and now we have to choose what illustrations we want to add, what fonts we want to use, and what we want our back cover to say.  Plus, I haven’t titled, um, any of my essays, so I think I should probably get on that.

The site we’re using to make our books is blurb.com and it has a ton of different options for making books, most of which are pretty affordable.  But one thing that’s a little difficult is the program they require you to use to layout your book.  It’s called Bookwright, and it’s kinda tiresome to have to transfer all your text from a different source (don’t even get me started on having to convert all the Word documents to Google docs), and you have to format the margins and everything yourself, instead of the borders being pre-laid out.  And if you make one mistake, it’s such a pain to have to go back and reformat everything.

Besides all the stuff I just mentioned, we still have to double check all the essays we’ve inputted, finish laying everything out and make sure it’s the right number of pages, format our back and front cover, insert all the illustrations and give credit where needed, write a dedication page, and fundraise to buy and distribute the books.  Sorry, this post kinda just turned into a list of complaints, but I know it will all be worth it in the end.  We had our own poetry books made in sixth grade and I still remember how amazed I was to be holding the copy in my hands and open it to find the words I had written myself.  I can’t wait to feel that again.

~Mad Hatter

Back on Track

Photo ©2011 by Walt Stoneburger [C.C.-by-2.0]
Photo ©2011 by Walt Stoneburner [C.C.-by-2.0]
“Read everything.”

My English teacher repeated the phrase after our class looked over previous AP Language and Composition essay prompts and realized that they were asking for our opinion about certain issues. I had always loved to read but I haven’t been reading much since the beginning of 2015 mainly because I was always procrastinating my homework so I never made time for reading. However, after hearing my teacher repeat “Read everything” again, I realized it was about time I picked up one of my favorite pastimes again. Continue reading

Click, Click. Are we Machine or Are we Human?

3249292348_5bb5cf7877_bI was planning on drawing again, but then I wandered upon this beauty by Flickr user Tobias Higbie.

Although I indirectly blogged about it last week, I didn’t make it quite clear.  Mr. John Steinbeck couldn’t have hit the nail on the head with the shocking claim that man created an intangible machine, an idea.  More or less, it’s the idea of a hierarchy and the concept that humans are replaceable; a mindset, I would like to point out, that may have been catalyzed by the Ford assembly line: faster, more efficient, one job, quicker, do it better, one task, another can easily take your place, work harder, better, “rinse, wash, and repeat.”  And what sprung forth from that idea was an unfeeling, uncaring, and selfish society.  I stated that “We are President Snow” referencing this machine, or rather one of the effects its had on us– tunnel vision.  But this time, (like March Hare) I plan on addressing what it’d done to us overall.

Everyone is taught that if you don’t catch up, you will never catch up.  If you get to the top, you are bound to be surpassed.  If you don’t match up, no one will care, you are replaceable, disposable.  There are so many amazing people, smarter and more modernized people, what makes you special?  Why should we keep you if all you do is hinder the company from its full potential: maximum profits?  The companyMy company. That companyCompanies.

In this era, people do dealings, but the status of the company is what matters.  Not the health of the people working their butts off to making it successful.  Not the good the company or the people in the company do, good deeds are usually commended for a few seconds and tossed aside.  Of course, we’ll listen to the scandals that a company employee did or a board member.  Ooh the corruption.  Let’s throw them out.  We’re not making enough revenue.  Just to back this up, here’s a list by Forbes of CEO’s, who also happen to be the founders, who were thrown out of their own companies.

How did we get so tangled?  When did we matter so little to those around us?  When did we become so worthless?  Since the machine took over.  Since we as a society valued scandals, profits, money, material wealth, and shortsighted gains over the lives of other.  Somehow we now find it easier to care for the well-being of an idea, an intangible thing, than we do other humans. 

Human… Are humans in high society even human anymore?  Aren’t we all a series of the same thing over and over again?

Wake up at 6, maybe 7 if we’re lucky.  Get up.  Stretch.  Rub the sleep out of your eyes.  Brush your teeth.  Brush your hair.  Wash your face.  Dress.  Greet your family.  Grab a breakfast.  Grab a lunch.  Say goodbye to the family.  Start the car.  Grab a coffee.  Go to school. Sit in a class.  First Class… Second Class… … Fourth Class… Lunch…  … End of the day.  Go home.  Greet the family.  Do homework.  Use technology.  Click buttons.  Scroll.  Click “Like.”  Repeat for thirty minutes.  Eat dinner.  Sleep. … Back to school.  … Take tests.  … Graduate. … Get more education.  … Train for a career. … Meet someone. … Settle down, but never stop. … Have a family. … Greet the family. … Go to work. … Grow old. … Love. … Regret. … Sleep. … SleepGoodnightForever

Continue reading

Some Sort of Storyline

I think we’ve all been taught to believe that our life is a collection of moments, and with each passing milestone, we get to put a little check next to our imaginary list and continue on the path waiting for the next big thing.  I mean, I’m pretty sure that’s how they made the board game.  But what happens in between those big, defining moments?  Lots of stuff.  You have a conversation with a friend, make your mom her favorite meal, pet a couple dogs.  Really cool things.  But somehow we don’t put as much value in these little moments as we do the more obvious things, like our high school graduation or our eighteenth birthday or our first Christmas away from home.  And it’s just weird because those “big days”, in the big picture, are such a small portion of the life we live.  Our lives aren’t really like the TV shows where something new and exciting happens every episode and we get to look forward to the season finale.  It’s more like that book that’s kinda hard to read because the author has spent way too much time describing what the protagonist does in her free time even though it has nothing to do with furthering the plot.  But while we’re certainly the protagonists of our own stories, I don’t think we’re living in our own novels.  If anything, we’re probably living in those journal pages that you see on Tumblr with the messy scribbles and the random poetry with the occasional breathtaking illustration.  Wild and unpredictable and just an overall mess.  I’m sure we’d all like to believe we all have some sort of storyline in mind, but in the end, we might just be hoping for a good plot twist.

One structure I’ve found interesting is these things called intercalary chapters.  They’re chapters that drift away from the main story, but somehow manage to find a way to relate back.  And I think the time between our milestones are a little bit like that.  They might not seem super important to our story now, but they really do matter.  Because the story wouldn’t be the same without them.

~Mad Hatter

Waking Up is the Hardest Part

"Just five more minutes..."
“Just five more minutes…”

I’m sure this is an experience many of us can relate no matter what our jobs are, but every time I wake up there’s always this thought in the back of my head just groaning and dreading the simple action of sitting up from my bed. I’ve never been much of a day person as I usually find myself staying up until late at night and sleeping in until one or two in the afternoon the next day (during the summer of course). Continue reading

Sleep and Your Average Teenager

A few days ago, when I was sitting in one of my classes, a couple of students came in to take a survey on the average amount of sleep students get per night.  As they called out the choices (3-4 hours, 5-6 hours, so and on), we raised our hands.  When they had left our classroom, our concerned teacher asked us why we were not getting enough sleep.  We answered, jokingly and seriously, that we had taken too many AP classes, to which my teacher replied that we shouldn’t have taken so many if it was compromising our health.

Not too long ago, I was reading John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and I happened across an interesting passage:

“And the migrants streamed in on the highways and their hunger was in their eyes.  hey had no argument, no system, nothing but their numbers and their needs.  When there was work for a man, ten men fought for it–fought with a low wage.  if that fella’ll work for thirty cents, I’ll work for twenty-five.

If he’ll take twenty-five, I’ll do it for twenty.

No, me, I’m hungry.  I’ll work for fifteen.  I’ll work for food.”

The migrant workers are pushed from place to place, hated and reviled by all though they are simply trying to make a living.  They are desperate for work, work at any cost, work at any price.  When they ask who it was that made them migrants, they get no straight answer.  All trails lead back to “the bank” or “the trust”, a merciless, immortal monster.  The migrants, who had previously been farmers, had been working in direct contact with the land for years and they could observe the direct give-and-take relationship between man and the land: plant seeds, care for the earth and the earth returns the favor by producing crops for sale and for the farmer’s own consumption.  For people with that mindset, it’s hard to imagine something that they couldn’t solve at all no matter how hard they tried.  It’s frustrating to hear and horrifying to think about a mysterious force that controls you like a puppet.  What is there that can hear your troubles?  It isn’t a person, but rather a corporation; how do you kill one of those?

Students are in a somewhat similar situation.  Though the students at my school are lucky enough not to worry about getting our next meal, we are impressed into a vicious competition against each other.  Do any of us really want to be competitors?  None of us do, but that is what we live with.  We enter high school as shaky, unsure freshmen, but in the assembly line of high school, we become jaded and grim.  Sure we could elect to do what we really want to do and not take as many AP classes, but what holds us back is the knowledge that there’s a lot of people out there who are taking many AP classes and excelling in them.  We wonder how we’d stack up against those sorts of people, who take challenging classes and excel in sports, dance or music.  Thus we push ourselves to the limit and sacrifice sleep to get good grades in the classes we take and participate in extracurricular activities to stay competitive in an increasingly challenging college admissions process.  We all say we’re tired, but there is no rest for the weary.

And in the end, how much does all this unhappiness pay off?  Will the end be worth it?  We have no idea.

It’s a sad reality, this life mentality.

Nature of Humans

Photo ©2007 by pixle [C.C-by-2.0]
Photo ©2007 by pixle [C.C-by-2.0]

I recently watched a TED video of Philip Zimbardo’s “The Psychology of Evil”, where he delves into the question “What makes a person good or evil?”. He brings up the subject of the released photos of American soldiers torturing Iraqis and his own account of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo’s talk centers on the point that people are not necessarily good or evil, it is the circumstance they are placed under that determines their action.

Continue reading

We are President Snow

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Something quick I drew… My first drawing for a blog post.

President Snow, the politician who deceives the people of the Capitol, is an object of hate in the Hunger Games Series.  He represents the oppressive society and the inequality plaguing Panem.  The elite percentage that live in the Capitol are mostly ignorant of the Districts’ struggles and the sacrifices the people must make to survive in the unequal society.  So does the ignorance of the elite make them bad people?  Suzanne Collins beautifully portrays the aristocratic society and the audience of the novel often times unknowingly hate on the Capitol without realizing, they, the readers, are citizens of the Capitol.  But more accurately, they are the “atrocious” President Snow.

As citizens of developed nations, we reap the benefits of trade, consumerism, and have security.  A majority of us don’t have an impending war, starvation, or lack to resources acting as our Swords of Damocles (1).  Instead, us, the fortunate elite of the world indulge in the “now.”  We are aware of the problems blaring in the world through news and media coverage, but do nothing to actively stop it.

2014: Millions still die from conflict every year.

“Did you hear about the wars in the Middle East?”  “It’s so awful, I could never imagine living in those conditions.  Wars and conflict everywhere.  People caught and dying in the crossfires.”

Approximately 80% of the world population lives on $10 a day. (2)

“That’s horrible!  They must be starving everyday!” “We need to decrease poverty!”

But when the words that come out of our mouths are almost never carried out.  We say we care, but our attachment and empathy towards those people runs just as deeply as Effie’s empathy towards the mahogany table.  We say those things, then proceed to eat our hearts out at buffets, spend money on trivial things, complain about the most infinitesimal tasks, and turn our cheek to more “relevant” matters.  We bat an eyelid at the poor, then go socialize with the affluent.  The poor band with the poor out of mutual suffering and hopes to improve their situation, while rich side with rich.  Of course the end result is that rich get richer, while the poor regress or stay in the stalemate of their social status.

Continue reading

We’re All in This Together

A long time ago, my friends and I announced our purpose in creating this blog: to share our writing and eventually write a book together.  Well finally, that day has come.

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  In the beginning, we were kind of lost.  We couldn’t read signs and we walked with the caution of a newborn fawn.  Writing wonderland was a great unknown.  However, throughout the year, as we slowly got more comfortable with our surroundings, writing became much easier.  As for myself, I don’t think so much when I write anymore; that sounds really bad, but what I mean is that I don’t overthink my posts anymore.  Overthinking used to lead to not posting at all, which is a lot worse once I got into a rut of just not posting.  Today, we post regularly and on a variety of topics: sometimes those topics are hot and trending, and other times they are more obscure and quiet.

Now that we have become familiar with our surroundings, it is time to turn our journey to our next destination.  Together, we are compiling our essays and blog posts to make a book.  This sounds pretty daunting, but I’m sure that this will be a bit easier with my friends working alongside me.  There’s still so much to do–editing, choosing essays, making a book layout, making a cover–but if we can’t start, then when will we?  To quote a very wise group of high school students, “We’re all in this together. . . We make each other strong.  We’re different in a good way, together’s where we belong.”