Ah, there’s nothing better than a Sunday night and the comforting knowledge that you have no responsibility to wake up to tomorrow morning. (Let’s not mention the piles of homework I’m hopelessly behind on or the number of AP tests I should be studying for.) Even before the weekend, while I was still moping my way through school, I could feel the salvation of spring break coming nearer and nearer. Just one more week, just one more day, just one more class. And now it’s finally here. And things have been going pretty well so far.
I’m gonna start with Friday because my mind starts going into weekend mode once it hits Friday anyway. Friday was really cool because the orchestra does this thing called spring grams where they go around the classrooms and deliver cards and leis to people, in combination with a performance of a prearranged pop medley – on spring instruments, of course. I love being able to hear violin across from my Spanish class and I also find it really amusing that my friend has to drag her cello through the halls (they draw the line at the string bass). And this was pretty much the inspiration for the title of this blog post, which really only references this paragraph, but let’s just move on.
I think Saturday was a weird transition day because it’s technically the beginning of spring break, but you already had Friday night and you know Easter is tomorrow, so you just kinda shrug your shoulders and let the passage of time do its thing. Most of my Saturday was probably spent making plans for Sunday. That and finding out how to do card tricks from my cousin and the assistance of the internet. After that, I spent the rest of the day doing who-knows-what and sleeping very very late knowing full well that I would have to wake up early the next morning.
I woke up groggy but with the happy realization that it was Easter, so my cousin and I rushed out to the neighborhood park where they set up festivities every year. We did some arts and crafts, ate quite a bit of barbeque, and snuck a couple of plastic-shelled eggs into our bags before heading home. Then we took my dogs on a really spastic walk, I lost miserably at Battleship despite having been at an advantage for the first half of the game, and we practiced our card tricks while sipping on various fruit-flavored beverages. And now I’m here and I’m typing this blog post, too tired to find a way to incorporate a rabbit hole pun into my story about Easter.
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.
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.
So a while back, my English teacher announced to the class that we would be participating in the Day of Play, basically a whole class period dedicated to some good old-fashioned play. He gave us permission to break out the board games, the basketballs, and even the Nerf guns (so long as we wore goggles). My table group and I got caught up in a pretty intense game of Disney monopoly. Needless to say, there was a lot of yelling, quite a bit of haggling, and my continuous questioning of why no one would land on the yellow properties because ohmygosh did I need money (or wishes, as they call them in the Disney world, which actually has a pretty disheartening effect because no one wants to lose 500 wishes). The bell rung all too soon, and as we put away the castles and wishing wells, we were all pretty pleased with ourselves.
And then last Friday, I went to my friend Jackie’s high school for her class play day. Jackie goes to this super small high school that could easily be driven past (which my mom and I actually did) and has less than a thousand students. We’re talking small, all-girls, traditional Catholic school. And every year they have this event where each grade presents a play. They design the set and costumes themselves, and the seniors this year actually wrote their own play. It was nothing short of amazing. And the acting was on-point – especially the male characters. Give a girl a beanie and an eye-shadow beard and she will own that stage. All four plays were really well-done; the freshmen play was centered around a talk-show host interviewing internet-famous cats, the sophomore play was based on Lewis Carol’s Through the Looking Glass, the junior play featured a talent show rehearsal gone wrong, and the senior play took the audience through a girl’s first day in a small, all-girls, traditional Catholic school.
The way I’ve related both of these experiences in my head (besides that they both involve the word play) is that each was something you might not expect to do in school, but was such a positive experience nonetheless. Both are really good ways to foster creativity and teamwork and I wish we would get a chance to get outside our textbooks and do things like this more often. I know that we can’t always spend a class period playing Monopoly and my school can’t force four thousand people to put together a play (though we do have a rocking theater program), but I can’t wait for the next crazy thing that one of my teachers decides to try. Four hour weekend bio lab, anyone? Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be awesome.
The debate over this dress is one of those weird internet phenomenons that we can’t quite explain, but we try to the very best of our ability to understand. I came home on Thursday to a confused and indignant storm of internet comments debating over the color of the dress. It took me an hour to figure out what was even going on or even to recognize that I had already saw the picture several times. My initial reaction was that the dress was so obviously, irrevocably gold and white. And then the color changed before my very eyes. I was utterly appalled to perceive the fabric as black and blue, when I had so vehemently disagreed with such an opinion minutes before. My experience left me questioning all that was true with the world, but it later gave me some sort of new breadth of understanding, as I felt like I could comprehend each side of the argument.
Now the effect of the dress going viral has been pretty extraordinary. What originated as a Tumblr post soon made its way across the internet, and even onto the evening news. I came to school the next day only to witness my classmates shaking their phones at each other to gather reviews of the controversial picture. Even teachers made it a point to take their position on the color of the dress. The whole thing was pretty unbelievable. And now, just a few days later, it seems like the internet has returned to normal. The hype has died down and barely anyone is even concerned with the original picture, unless they’re making a couple of memes poking fun at it. The entire situation is almost satirical. How could we all have been concerned with something so trivial, only to forget about it days later?
I think the outburst over the dress lends some significant commentary to human nature. The reason why the picture became so well-known was because it was a dividing line. You were either team blue or black or team white and gold (or some other poor, misrepresented minority). It is in our nature to assume that what our eyes see is correct, and no amount of our friends shouting their opposite opinion at us can change our mind. We are very convinced that our eyes cannot lie to us, and that our perception of reality is the truth. When you look at the actual science behind the varying perceptions, things get interesting. The reason most people see the dress as either gold and white or black and blue is a result of the principle known as color constancy. Basically, it depends on what people interpret to be the source of the light in the picture. For those who believe the dress to be lit with blue light, their brain subtracts the effect of the blue light and assumes the original color to be white. People who believe the dress is lit by yellow light perceive the opposite.
While a lot of people have found this whole ordeal to be pointless or waste of time, I actually believe it to be a valuable experience. I find it so amusing that such a huge number of people contributed their opinion over something as unimportant as the color of some stranger’s dress. In a way, we were united in disagreement. It also shows how willing we are as humans to stick to what we believe is the right way to see things. And it’s definitely not limited to a dress. Humans are passionate beings, and we get caught up in debates all the time; we can only hope they lead to compromise and progress. The situation also leaves room for criticism. It’s a little frightening that the internet was dominated by the image of a dress when we could’ve spent that time talking about social issues, actual problems affecting actual people.
But overall, I think we should remember these last couple of days of weirdness as not just some crazy meme that took over the internet, but a chance to learn that our perception of realities can differ from other people’s, even if we’re technically seeing the same thing. And we should try our very best to learn from each other, even if, at first, we don’t see eye to eye.
Have you ever thought about how much time we spend in school? It’s seven hours a day, five days a week, for at least twelve years of your life. And what exactly is the point? “Uh, learning, I guess.” Yes, hypothetical reader, that’s what I would guess too. School is meant to educate us so we don’t go running out into the world and blinding people with our ignorance. But a lot of school is simply about preparation. Preparing for the next test which prepares you for the final which prepares you for the next grade which prepares you for graduation which prepares you for college which prepares you for life? How much of school do we spend just waiting for the next thing to happen? Is looking so far into the future actually counterproductive to getting stuff done in the present?
Don’t get me wrong, I love learning. I love walking into a classroom and seeing my teacher get unapologetically over-enthusiastic about something they really care about. I love sitting outside with my friends at lunch as we exchange inside jokes and playfully make fun of each other. But I hate when one of my friends comes to me and says that they slept four hours because of copious amounts of homework or a test on a chapter they just can’t seem to grasp. I hate when someone says they’ll never be as talented as someone else or that they won’t get accepted by their dream school. School is supposed to teach us academically, but it also provides an ultra-competitive, high-stress environment that is not at all conductive to learning. I can’t tell you how many times my teachers have told us that they wished kids were less focused on grades and more about how much they actually understood what was being taught. How they wished students saw homework as a way to supplement their learning and not something to cheat their way through to get those “easy points.” I think there is something fundamentally wrong with an education system that puts every individual on a set path and expects everyone to succeed by the same methods.
So yes, the system is flawed. But I can honestly say that I enjoy school because my teachers all make such an effort to make what we’re learning apply outside of the classroom. Like learning a different language, how cool is that? How amazing is it to have the ability to communicate your ideas to people who would have never heard them otherwise? And biology. That stuff is going on inside of you, right now and forever. And the crazy thing is there is still so much we don’t know. History! Isn’t it great to know that there have always been people willing to change the world, to push for reform because they knew there was a better way? English. Just a couple days ago, my teacher put up a prompt that asked us if we could change school to accommodate our individual needs, what kind of classes and learning environment would there be?
In this kind of hypothetical situation, I think we would need to find the balance between classes that teach general knowledge and classes that teach about subjects you’re genuinely interested in. Give students a chance to explore different majors and skills. Have a class where you learn those random things that all adults just seem to know how to do. Like how to file your taxes or what the heck is a 401k. And then have classes that encourage creativity. There is nothing like the feeling of satisfaction you get when you look at something – whether it be woodwork, pottery, a painting, or a poem – stand back and say, “I made that.” And then I would have these one hour a week optional rant sessions where everyone could get together in the cafeteria and talk about everything they care about from the little things that bother them to the stuff that makes them question their existence and there would be snacks and bean-bags and everything would be okay. We would stop worrying about the future and concentrate on the present.
I hate when people refer to life after college or whatever constitutes adult life as “the real world.” Yeah, there’s an obvious difference between what it’s like to be in school all your life and getting a job where you’re presumably and expert in your field and paid for your work and under a whole new list of expectations. But I think we need to stop looking at school as a means to get somewhere and start looking it as a benefit in and of itself. When are you ever going to being in high school again? When are you ever going to have the chance to develop who you are while surrounded by a bunch of other people who are just as confused and plagued by hormones as you? Not ever. So we might as well make the most of it.
Question to anybody who has read The Great Gatsby (also spoilers ahead): Who is the main character supposed to be? I mean, we got Nick over here who is so unhealthily preoccupied in everyone’s lives that he can’t even remember his own birthday, and then we have Gatsby whose only concern is to have Daisy love him again. In a way, I think Nick and Gatsby are rather similar. Throughout the course of the novel, they both seem to nurse a singular obsession, Nick with Gatsby and his present story, and Gatsby with Daisy and the way things used to be. On the other hand, there are traits that make Nick and Gatsby fundamentally different. Nick is a person who is always moving forward in life, while Gatsby clings strongly to the past.
“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”
“Cant repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
Ironically, the thing that makes Gatsby great is also what makes him pitiable. Gatsby is so attached to an idea of Daisy, an image that he has created of her that she could not possibly fulfill, that he is willing to do anything for her. Yet this also makes Gatsby unrealistic, unable to comprehend that Daisy has a life of her own, that she was not able to stay frozen in time based on the mere hope that one day Gatsby would come back to her. Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy made it very difficult for him to form a purpose separate from her, like he did in his younger years, before he had met Daisy.
What makes Nick great was also derived from his own obsession with Gatsby. Nick took on the role of a (mostly) impartial storyteller, divulging to the audience the life of the great and tragic Gatsby. And in putting himself into this story, Nick became a true friend to Gatsby. Nick was unlike Gatsby in that he could see things clearly, without bouts of passion and emotion clouding his vision. Nick was highly sentient and nearly omniscient, he was blessed with foresight and reason while Gatsby insisted on acting on his emotions. But despite their differences, the two found each other to be in ecstatic cahoots, and by the end of it all, developed a level of mutual understanding and respect.
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder…
“You start a question, and it’s like starting a stone. You sit quietly on top of a hill, and away the stone goes, starting others.” -Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Cases of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
A question is a conversation starter. Questions are what allow a statement to expand. And the beauty of questions is all in the response. If I ask “How are you?”, you can reply with a simple “fine”, or you can reply with how you’re actually doing. “I’m doing pretty well and all, what with having to live through the complexities of the human condition.” Okay, maybe you wouldn’t say that. But there’s a lot of things you could say. You could tell me that your mood is “irritable because I spent all night studying for a test that was postponed until tomorrow” or “ecstatic because I didn’t study at all for the test today and it was postponed until tomorrow.” The best questions are the open ended ones, ones that allow you to ask another question, and another after that.
Asking questions while you’re reading is one of the most effect way to dissect the text. There’s always something specific or unusual that stands out, like a reoccurring motif or an odd choice of wording. Heck, you might even drive yourself crazy over the punctuation. We did an activity in English where we had to generate questions in groups about The Great Gatsby. I was really surprised at all the things I missed while I was reading. When I revisited the reading, I noticed some pretty clever incidents of foreshadowing and I was able to trace how the tone of the narrator changed in different situations. My group even started obsessing over the tiniest details – we decided to sticky-note every mention of trees or leaves in the book, just in case it had any significance.
Another thing about raising questions is it helps determine how much significance you want to assign something. Let’s face it, you could pose a question about every sentence in The Great Gatsby, and you’d never get all the answers. But asking questions in the first place is what gives you the opportunity to make discoveries, like the parallelism between two scenes or instances in character development. Questioning is what makes us more active readers; it allows us to have a relationship with the text, and it’s one of the best ways to connect with the words placed in front of us.
Isn’t it weird how once we enter a new year the first thing we do is make a to-do list? That’s pretty much what new year’s resolutions are. A list of things that we hope to accomplish in the upcoming year. And if you think about it, our lives are driven by lists. From the to-do lists we make in our heads to the “Best of 2014” lists littering the internet.
Why are lists so important? They force us to categorize – to prioritize. With the idea of a list comes the idea that there is a set order to how things are supposed to be (with numbered lists anyway). A typical to-do list is made in chronological order and order of importance; a list of top-ten movies takes a lot of things into account, from how much they made at the box office to audience ratings.
We did an activity in English class where we had to make three top ten lists about anything we wanted. That’s when I realized how hard it was – choosing a topic was fine, but deciding which items made the cut was more challenging. So, doing what I always do in the face of adversity, I turned to food.
Top Ten Ice Cream Flavors
It’s considered one of the “classic” flavors, but it’s not really in the same class as chocolate and vanilla, unless of course, you’re talking about Neapolitan. If you really want a fruit-based frozen dessert, I would recommend mango sorbet or frozen yogurt.
9. Rainbow Sorbet
Okay, so sorbet isn’t technically ice cream, but I firmly believe that if food can be made rainbow colored, it should be done. Except meat. Please do not do that with meat.
8. Cherry Garcia
So I have no memory of every eating Cherry Garcia, but it sounds really classy and refined and also Ben and Jerry’s makes it, so there has to be something good about it.
The perfect ice cream for those who are indecisive. Or maybe even the best of three worlds.
Chocolate is the obvious choice for those with an unsatisfied sweet tooth. Chocolate will never disappoint you. Probably.
4. Cookie Dough
Those funny little chunks aren’t real cookie dough, but they still taste so good mixed with that vanilla ice cream. Come on, it’s like toppings built right in!
Everyone loves vanilla. It’s really good soft-served or slow-churned. And it’s the basic staple for any ice cream creation.
2. Cookies and Cream
This just tastes so good. Cookies and ice cream? Yes, please. In the perfect ice cream to cookie ration no less. And much easier that smashing your own Oreos and having to sprinkle them on top. Although that sounds pretty good too.
1. Mint Chocolate Chip
This one is my completely biased, absolute favorite. There’s something about the minty taste blended with the taste of semi-dark chocolate chips that I could eat forever. And the color is so pretty. Green ice cream, who knew? Oh yeah, I forgot this one, but shout out to pistachio ice cream. What even are you?
Another weird thing about lists is that they can be super general or painstakingly specific. The one category that really gets me is “The Best ____ of All Time” because not only is it impossible to consider all the movies, books, whatever from the beginning of recorded history; saying “all time” kind of implies that you’re talking about the entire expanse of time – past, present, and future. As in, you’re judging these things to be superior to everything that has previously existed and everything that will ever exist. That’s a bit of a tall order. On the other hand, making your list specific narrows your sample size and therefore makes ranking easier and with less deviation. If you’re judging music from one year or even one month, it’s likely the songs will generally be in similar genres or produced by current musicians. It’s a lot harder to compare the Beatles to One Direction because you’re not only dealing with two different styles of music, but two completely different intended audiences.
My Personal Favorite Movies of 2014
The Book of Life, Divergent, The Lego Movie, Captain America, The Fault in Our Stars, Maleficent, The Amazing Spider Man 2, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Hero 6
10. The Fault in Our Stars
This is more of an honorable mention because John Green is one of my favorite authors and I have read all of his books except The Fault in Our Stars (you know, because of saving it, and also because I have no time in my life right now to shut out the world and cry for days). Disclaimer: I haven’t seen Mockingjay and The Theory of Everything, though they both look really good and I probably will see these eventually. They probably would have made the list otherwise.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
Okay, people are gonna hate me for this, but I didn’t really like Guardians of the Galaxy as much as I thought I would. There were definitely funny moments, actually, there were constantly funny movements, but I felt I was too distracted by the humor to actually focus on the plot.
8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I saw this earlier in the year and I don’t fully remember it all too clearly. But Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson. Enough said.
7. The Amazing Spider Man 2
I really liked the villain in this movie, and obviously, I really liked the hero in this movie. And I also liked all the side characters. I liked everyone, okay?
6. The Book of Life
Maria is an absolutely perfect Latina, feminist, freakishly accomplished female protagonist. The movie takes you from the Land of the Living, the Land of the Remembered, and the Land of the Forgotten, but I don’t think I’ll be forgetting it anytime soon.
I always love when movies do the role-reversal from a different perspective thing. And who could pull it off any better than Angelina Jolie?
As the first installment in the Divergent trilogy movie adaptation, I have to say I’m excited. The characters weren’t exactly how I pictured them and there were parts of the movie that deviated from the book, but I think the movie stayed true to the Divergent spirit.
3. The Lego Movie
The character development and world-building (pun intended) in The Lego Movie was amazing. And I have to say that Unicorn Kitty is my favorite.
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2
I’d have to say this is actually tied with Big Hero 6; it’s just that I saw Big Hero 6 more recently, so it’s fresher in my memory. But I clearly remember how good How to Train Your Dragon 2 was. It taught me the meaning of compassion and determination, and the animation was absolutely breathtaking.
1. Big Hero 6
How can you not love Big Hero 6? How can you not cry during Big Hero 6? It just takes all your emotions and puts them on a spin cycle, not the one meant for your delicates. Oh well, you can pick up your feels at the end of the movie.
After making just two of these lists, I feel like I’ve really learned more about myself and also the role that lists play in our culture that is so determined to have everything fall into neat little categories. Lists define our likes and interests. They help us organize all the little parts of us swirling around in our heads. And in the end, I think we all just need a place to store the madness so it makes a little bit more sense.