Sunday, December 9, 2012

Final Senior Seminar Blog and Reading is Teenage Gateway Drug to Knowledge (Week 14)

First off, this is my last blog for my Senior Seminar course on Children's Lit. I'd like to say this isn't my last literature blog post, but this series of posts has been helpful in pushing me to pursue more literary blog series in the future. I've got a list of topics and written pieces I'd like to torture you with... Er, I mean discuss with you. While I'll be sad to see this class come to an end, I'm also excited for inspiration it's given me to keep moving forward on writing up my literary journeys.

Secondly, this week's reading (The Book Thief by Mark Zusak), may in fact be a dangerous item for teens. It's engaging, bringing it's works to life by using eye catching bold words and singling them out by centering them as well or using symbols to mark them out. It may actually be enough to should teenagers that reading is "cool" and "hip". And what might this reading lead to? Wanting to learn more. In this case specifically, this historical fiction would be most likely make them want to learn more about WWII and the events surrounding it and would be excellent paired with a history class (as well as with some extra literature of the non-fictional variety of course.).

Besides historical knowledge as well, this piece brings worth many philosophical points as well. The narrator being Death itself and being a rather sympathetic, caring character brings up a quite a few interesting questions. Is our cultural image of death realistic? Is it fear based? Should we fear death like we do and is it really a good or bad entity? Looking past that one character, we see plenty points of moral philosophy as well. Liesel steals a book from a book burning. Is she really stealing? Or since it is being burned, does that action negate the stealing?

This book brings about not only the want of historical knowledge, but also philosophical knowledge. Imagine the horrible things that can come from that. Why in the world would we want independent thinking, intelligent young adults? It's not like that type of thing has ever been useful in life before.

Interesting Links
A Teaching Guide to The Boof Thief
Philosophy for Teens (A High school class website exploring philosophy)

(If I can find more interesting links, I'll add them. However, there are not many sites based off of teen philosophy that aren't pushing book sales.) 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Leap (Week 13)

This week's reading, M.T. Anderson's The Feed, is quite a leap forward from our other readings and thankfully so. We generally find ourselves seeing children's literature as only fairy tales, picture books, and sweet, simple novels. The Feed, which is more of a young adult sci fi book, breaks the traditional image.

Obviously, we wouldn't read it to our five year old, but young adult fiction needs to have it's place in literature as well. Possibly the best part of this book is the fact that it forces teenagers to look into difficult and even very plausible questions that we face in society every day. There is the constant bombardment of advertising, even though it is not as extreme as the world in the book, we all face it every day. Teenagers need to learn early on how to fight  the conformity that advertising tries to force on us and this book helps push that lesson. Teenagers are facing questions of their lifestyle choices and the culture around them.

And is that not what literature should be doing? While yes, we all enjoy our guilty pleasure readings that are just for fun and aren't cause for much thought. It's good to know that not all young adult books are fluff. It's important to start learning to question early on, especially during an impressionable time such as one's teenage years.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Kind People are my Kinda People

Interacting will people on a daily basis makes it easy for some to just assume that the people are in general just selfish and rude. At times, they really are, but the fact of the matter is, is that their attitudes should not matter. If you find some one who's in a horrible mood, you should not let it become your horrible mood. Instead step back, smile and do what you can to make their day better.

Working in customer service has really tested me on that. There have been times were I have been yelled at for events beyond my control, almost run over, threatened, and even spit at. Yet, if you ask the people I work with, 89% of the time, I can bounce back from that moment and still smile at the person with in seconds. There are just a few things that any one needs to remember to help be kind to others, despite whatever their attitude to you is: 

Remember you don't know them. That's right, you don't know them. You don't what their day has been like or what they are dealing with in their life. You don't know if a family member has passed or if the kids have been screaming all day or any type of high stress. This means you can't judge the attitude you get from them. They maybe wrong to give you that attitude, but that doesn't mean they aren't going through a hard time and it doesn't mean that they don't need some kindness. Assume that they just need a smile and a few kind words. Then give them those nice moments and hope that it makes their day better.We

Treat them how you want to be treated. It's over said, but under done. While no one can guarantee that you'll be treated the same way back, there's also no guarantee that you'll be treated kindly either way. However, how can you ever expect any one to treat you well if you don't treat them well as well? Sometimes all it takes is a compliment or even a simple conversation. You'll never know how much one kind word can change some one's mood until you do it.

Smiles are contiguous. So, maybe you can't reach every one you meet, but smiles are like the germs in a sneeze. You sneeze and no matter how well you try to cover to up, germs go flying everywhere. Which means every one around you can be affected by your good actions. If you treat some one well, especially when they need it, others notice and they tend to spread it around. For example, one day, I bought a homeless person a meal on campus and the workers at the restaurant ended up comping the whole bill just because they noticed my nice action and returned. Maybe you won't see the people affected like I did, but that doesn't mean that other people aren't taking your actions to heart and passing forward the good deeds.

In the end, you just need to remember that every one is human. There will be bad moods and stressful situations. No one is always going to be perfect, but every one will always need a kind word and a smile. And you can be the one to provide that.

Karen Salmansohn is on a mission to stop the trend of bullying and make kindness trendy. You can find out more about her mission on Karen’s Happy Kid’s page on her site Plus, you can join Karen’s Kindness mission by becoming a Kindness Rockstar Ambassador – just click here

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pfft, Who Cares About the Numbers (Or Why the NaNoWriMo Numbers Don't Always Matter)

With one day left in NaNoWriMo, I’ll admit that I made it barely over 15k words this year (well below my normal). Yes, it sucks and I could throw you all the excuses and let you juggle them. Between school responsibilities, craft shows, and family matters not one of you would blame me. That does not matter. I can even say that finishing doesn’t always matter. Though some women may beg to differ.

Here are five reasons why:

Habit Forming.
 If you learn nothing from NaNoWriMo, but one thing, this is the one thing you should learn: Writing must become habitual to become not only better, but hopefully even professional. The 50k in a month sets one goal for the month and then daily goals of approximately 1667 words per day. This is the perfect tool to make writing habitual since studies show that it takes 30 days to create a habit. If you’re serious about writing, obviously you need to write every day to help improve it and NaNoWriMo helps you form that habit.

Creating Contacts.
As writers, we may not be alone, but we definitely feel it some days. During November we get the chance to join weekly writing groups (which sometimes expand to year round), make friends over the message board, and find people we trust to either write with or proof read our work. Sometimes these friends even end up with jobs or their own contacts that could further our writing goals. These contacts could not only help end our writing solitude, but help expand our professional ties as well.

The Deals.
Sure, some deals are only for the 50k winners, but some deals are for every one. You can discounts on software, self publishing, and even some chances for professional publishing that only participants can get. Admittedly, 25-50% self publishing and software  is really worth the work of NaNoWriMo.

The Challenge.

Sometimes we just need a challenge, but creating our own challenges are not always easy. Especially if we are alone in this challenge. With the NaNoWriMo challenge, we work with thousands of others which gives us more drive to meet the challenge. We know that other people are suffering and working and pushing forward like we are. This camaraderie is hard to find and once a year (or twice if you do Script Frenzy), we get to have it and rejoice in it.

The Resources.
The whole month of NaNoWriMo, we find writing prompts, a twitter feed full of writing sprints and mini-challenges, and famous authors giving us pep talks. These don’t go away suddenly after November ends. They don’t just delete the twitter account or remove all bits of pep talks. No, instead the twitter remains available to go on and re-use the mini-challenges that we missed during the month (since the twitter runs 24/7). And best of all, the pep talks get put into an archive that we have access to all year round.

Let’s face it, there’s plenty of different reasons that NaNoWriMo is good for us writers. You own reason might be something silly or even something much more serious, but in the long run, any reason is a good one to help better yourself and your writing.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Formatting, Formatting, Formatting (Or the Curious Case of "The Golden Compass" Style) [Week 12]

This week, we got to read another interesting book: Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass (Also known as Northern Lights). I suppose most people would look at the story being told and argue about the religious implications, but personally, it might be better to look at the format. After a quick excerpt from John Milton's Paradise Lost (an adult poem, but we'll get to that in a moment), Pullman writes:

"The Golden Compass forms the first part of a story in three volumes. The first volume is set in a universe like ours, but different in many ways. The second volume is set in the universe we know. The third volume will move between universes."

This admittedly makes me wonder if this is a children's novel. I suppose higher age children (middle schoolers) would be able to follow this format after being warned of it ahead of time, but would they really gather the nuances? I know adults who have issues following this type of format. While I admit that I don't have any trouble, especially with this easy read, I am trained to read. Literally. It's what I've been learning the past few years and I always step back after reading something and go, "Could I read this without my years of schooling?" (Though occasionally it's, "Why can't I read this after all my years of schooling?!"). This is a critical question to ask ourselves, especially those who want to teach eventually.

Do we really think middle schoolers will understand this book? It even starts with an very adult people by Milton. Granted it is only a short excerpt, but those who have read Paradise Lost know that this poem can be challenging language wise as well as in nuance and themes. This excerpt could be a foreshadowing of the difficult read ahead (as well as for the book's actually contextual importance, of course). Can we really expect younger adults to get the experience of a book with complex formats? Or appreciate them?

I really want to say "yes", since I know I used to be able too. However, I always wonder if that is par for the course. Especially after interacting with some of the younger generations lately. It seems almost half and half.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ridiculousness of Black Friday (Commentary on the Stupidity of American Consumerism))

Black Friday is a waste of time and generally, a wast of money too.

Do any of us really need to wait in line for several hours to save $100 or even just $50 dollars off a TV or a game system? If we find ourselves that desperate for discounts, then maybe we should not be buying such extravagant, luxury items. Almost every one I know claims to not have money to pay the bills, so why are they getting so excited for a deal that doesn’t even save them that much? Besides, we can find those deals year round IF, and this is a big IF, we look for them. Most retail employees will even tell you that the deals that they have on Black Friday, generally are the deals they have the whole month and even on and off throughout the next year.

More importantly, do any of us need to risk our lives for the sake of luxury? The string of shootings, tramplings, and serious injuries that we see every year should be a warning to us that we don’t need to do ridiculous spree sales. Yet every year we line up like sheep to get some not so good deals. “Sheep” is not the proper word, though, to describe the mentality of the people at Black Friday sales. People form a mob mentality and rush the doors and fight for deals with no regard for any one, including children and the elderly. The links below detail specific incidents which include, but are not limited to deaths and miscarriages.

This all says a lot about the American mentality: We would rather potentially risk our lives for deals that are widely publicized instead of taking the to time to look for them the rest of the year. It’s idiotic consumerism at it’s finest.

13 Most Brutal Black Friday Injuries/Deaths
Black Friday Violence: Why the National Retail Federation is to Blame
Crazy Black Friday Stats, Stories, and Videos
7 Most Insane Black Friday Moments
Black Friday turns violent at 9 U.S. Walmart stores; at least 24 people injured
Lies, damned lies and Black Friday sales statistics

Sunday, November 18, 2012

So You're Mad About Christianity... (Week 11?)

In my youth, my parents read us the full Narnia series, and being the smart children we are, we liked them. Growing older I became more and more aware of the Christian symbolism through out (especially in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe), but I became even more aware of the anger at the symbolism that people seemed to have developed over time.

The general source of this anger seems to be the fact that the Christian symbolism is so blatant. I actually know people who refuse to read the series, because of the symbolism. Imagine choosing not to read something because of the Christian symbolism. Sure, the character Aslan screams "I'm an image relating to Jesus Christ", but it does not stop the story from being interesting. Nor does it stop Lewis from using pagan symbols as well, as an online article from  that Columbia University seemed to find interesting enough to re-post: 

"If it is meant as Christian propaganda, one has to wonder if it is subverting its own goals through the inclusion of witches, fauns, centaurs and other creatures drawn from the ranks of mythology. Furthermore, the return of Christmas in this tale seems closer to the pagan roots of this holiday than to celebrating Jesus' birth. After all, putting up a pine tree as a symbol of the oncoming spring would owe more to Nordic ritual than the sort of austere Anglican theology favored by Lewis."

The author, who I had issues locating the name of, has a valid point: Lewis does use pagan imagery along side of Christian imagery. This mimics most of the religious growth we see. Christianity and Paganism basically have grown up together,  essentially teaching other and each taking bits and pieces of the other. Does knowing this help calm the outrage of the over board Christian themes? 

Besides that, if we stop reading pieces just because of blatant Christian themes, think of how many authors that cuts from our reading pool: Tolkien, Chesterton, Koontz... Heck, even Rowling admits to Christian themes in the Harry Potter series. The fact of the matter is that Christianity is a large part of our culture and had been for quite some time. Even those who are not Christian know the themes and references, making them universal. While it seems like the references are slowing down in our culture, it still makes sense to use them and to try and avoid them? Well, that's just impossible. 

Links on the Symbolism

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Damn that Cat and his Stupid Hat (Week 10)

If there's ever an article on English literature that I would suggest to any audience, it's Louis Menand's Cat People and really, even if you just read the first three paragraphs and the very last, you've caught at least part of why I absolutely love this article.

We ask ourselves a few questions about Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat and Menand asks these questions as well: Where is the Mother? Why should we care about this cat? Who is this cat causing chaos and being a menace (not unlike Denis)? Admittedly, we ask ourselves these questions as adults about a variety of children's books and we do not necessarily get that answer. It makes me wonder, do the children reading this book ask themselves these questions?

This brings another line of questioning to mind: Is a child's curiosity innate or learned? Do the questions that they ask come from the adults around them or from themselves? I suppose this could be a question of nature versus nurture. Most people can agree that we are born curious: we try to touch and eat everything (our natural oral fixation stage), when we learn to crawl we want to get into every nook and cranny we can find, etc. It can be assumed that after that we learn whether it is okay to be curious and whether we should continue to be it.

We've seen in other pieces how curiosity can be treated. In Little House, Laura is just brushed off when she shows curiosity while in Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, Cassie's questions are answered in usually vivid detail. Renea Arnold and Nell Colburn quote Bruce Perry (a neuroscientist) in their article on Children Curiosity (posted below):

" 'If children are restricted too much or told not to ask so many questions, their curiosity will diminish," notes developmental neuroscientist Bruce Perry in Early Childhood Today. 'The less-curious child is harder to teach because he is harder to inspire, enthuse, and motivate. A less-curious child will make fewer friends, join fewer social groups, and read fewer books.' "

If this is the only moment in their article we pay attention too, that is enough. We know Laura will eventually because less curious and Cassie will become more curious. So when we read books like Cat in the Hat to our children and they don't ask the same questions we do, maybe we should not only be encouraging their questions, but teaching them about the questions we have as well. 

And when one isn't equipped to be curious or doesn't have enough information, well the internet has the answer for that. The Teaching Children Philosophy website  is just one of the great websites where parents can learn what to ask their children about books. This may seem just about teaching philosophy, but the questions that are given, can help a child learn to ask these questions themselves. Even if they aren't asking the philosophical questions on their own, maybe they'll at least be asking the one question that's on my mind at least:

Who's more annoy that Damn Cat in his Stupid Hat 
that Nosey Fish who's confined to his Dish?

More Links On Dr. Seuss:
The Cat in The Hat know A Lot
Dr. Seuss National Memorial
The Art of Dr. Seuss 
Teaching Children Philosophy- Cat in the Hat

More on Children's Curiosity:
Natural-Born Scientists: Children's curiosity about the world begins at birth 
Children's Need to Know
Children's Curiosity and Parental Attitudes (JSTOR)
How can we encourage creativity in today's children?

P.S. There are obviously a multitude of articles on how to teach or encourage curiosity to a child, I did not really post any, but if you're in need of some, just use Google and you'll find plenty to your liking.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Spy vs. Spy (Week 9)

This week we find ourselves reading Harriet the Spy, which is quite the change from our historical readings. It, of course, tells a some sort of real life knowledge about keeping a filter on our inner selves, but I'm more interested on the take of her being a spy.

Harriet while becoming a spy is really learning something our lives now prize: being aware of everything. If she was an adult, would she have been reprimanded for her spying? In the corporate world people are constantly spying on one another like Harriet does and using people's weaknesses against them. They are rewarded and given raises and promotions. Harriet does not use any information on people (until later on for revenge purposes) and instead just keeps them as a private set of thoughts. When her private thoughts are found and read, she essentially gets in trouble. So what does this mean in a society like ours?

Harriet is just being honest and does not want to be the cutthroat like those in the  business world would be. We as a society value honestly, or at least say we do, but ask that we also keep it to ourselves if others may not like it. This book seems to being a harsh lesson in that regard. First off, we find out the world is not understanding of our true nature (in this case Harriet's blatant honesty in her notebook). Second, we find out that the world is prone to revenge (the students form a club to act against Harriet and Harriet acts against them, as well). Thirdly, we find out that if we do something not necessarily deemed socially acceptable, but apologize publicly, we can be rewarded (Harriet becomes editor of the school newspaper), which seems an unrealistic ending.

As much as I like this book, I'm not sure if it really is saying anything of value for a youth or even if I'm finding the right meanings behind the actions of the book. We're not only teaching Harriet to keep her honesty to herself, but teaching her how the world reacts badly to honestly. Would we prefer an overly honest world or a sugar coated world?

Monday, October 29, 2012

End of October Updates

Well, it’s almost the end of October, and to be honest, I’m grateful. I’m about to have a lot more time to devote to not only the blogs (Which means I could finally respond to your comments! So sorry it’s taking so long), but the Facebook page, Etsy, booking shows, writing, submitting works, etc.

Here’s what’s currently going on:

- Continuance of the Senior Seminar posts with the addition of plotting my final paper
- Figuring out my school plan (so close to done!)
- Show prep for the 4th Annual Romeo’s Lion’s Club Craft and Vendor show (Please feel free to come!)
- Been doing NaNoWriMo prep! Come back November 1st when I discuss my prep work and keep an eye out for updates in throughout the month.
    - Feel free to add me as a Writing Buddy  on the site so we can compare,  contrast, and commiserate .   
- I’ll soon be posting more actual fiction pieces from poetry to short plays to stories, all of which may be read via Youtube if you’re unlucky enough.
- The Facebook page will be more friendly for commission options (showing more item options and customization options) as well as just showing more projects and images of finished products.
- Tentative Cooker will be getting more updates, despite the current neglect. Apple Chili any one?

I’m sure there’s more, there always is, but these  are the definite things to look forward to as we go into November. October was a long month with very little updates to here or the Facebook page. That just happens sometimes when life competes for attention. See you more soon!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Adult Writers: Teaching our Youth (Week 8)

First off, let me apologize for my rambling, maybe a bit off-kilter blog last week. After two 10-11 hour works days in a row and balancing the rest of the week, occasionally add up to really late night and spaced out blogging. Tonight might not be too much better: I've been fighting a migraine since last night and can't seem to shake this throbbing in my head. However, at least it won't be 3 AM, and baby, I'm not lonely.

Alright, enough with the 90s song references.

Like most of the literature we've read so far in my Senior Seminar course, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor is not the stereotypical children's book. When we think children's literature, we think Dr. Seuss and See Spot Run and The Bernstein Bears collections, but in reality, those aren't
really what children read and if we think about it, we know that. We all read books like Little House on the Prairie and  The American Girl book Collections. So why do these come to mind and not books like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry which is focused on the racism in a small town?

Maybe it's because we see childhood as a world of innocence that we would rather not tarnish. All we want to see is Spot chasing after his ball, but children are looking for more in their literature. People writing for children understand this. Kelly McDowell states early on in her article ("Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: A Culturally Specific, Subversive Concept of Child Agency"), that an "adult writer" instructs "the child how the adult world desires her to be" (Pg. 214) through their works. We discussed the same thing when it came to faery tales and it still rings true in modern works. We've seen it in Little House when Laura questions the world and is considered the bad one and Mary, who is subservient and quiet, is considered the good one.

I could point out in everything we've read that could children learn (including disembowelment and thievery), but in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry I think children learn a much harsher lesson than in the other books. They learn the terror of racism in a descriptive and powerful manner. Men get burned to death and lynchings are barely avoided let alone the fact that children on the end of ugly teasing (harassment?) dig a ditch to trap a bus full of children in it. Through out this book violence and vulgarity seem to breed the same. The characters on either side of the race argument are tearing at one another in any way the kind in a small town civil war of sorts. These are hard things for children to handle and a part of me wonders what they take out of this book. Is it violence as an answer? Or do they see the destruction in the hate and seek out ways to handle society in a productive manner? I like to think the author is pointing out how the world shouldn't be, but will children take it that way?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rewriting Our Past [Or maybe just a rabbling notion about historical children's literature] (Week 7)

As much as I've enjoyed our last two weeks of class reading, which included Laura Ingalls's Little House on the Prairie and Louise Erdrich's The Birchbark House, I can't help, but wonder about how rewriting history (in this case, their families' past in a fictional format) does to our understanding of the events. Do they actually help children learn about the times and question them? Or rather, do they mask the issues children need to learn? More importantly: Are they really a child's story? Or just grown-ups playing make believe?

Roni Natov seems to cover this as she can in her article Child Power in Louise Erdrich's Fiction for Children. She very fittingly points out that children can understand more than we give them credit for, saying, "Children are aware of much that goes on outside their ability to articulate and evaluate complex problems".  Natov also points out that in Little House, Laura does ask the hard questions about the territory they live in (if it's Native American land, if the government will make the Native Americans move, etc). However, Ingalls was an infant at the time this actually happen, meaning when she "rewrote" her past, she added these adult questions. Erdrich's situation in writing isn't much different, but she makes a much different decision in how she portrays a childhood knowledge of the world, the "child's power" as Roni points it out to be.

Erdrich shows how children do comprehend: not through the same words adults would, but by instinct and feeling. Omakayas, our main character, doesn't necessarily know what adults are talking about or what really is happening, but she does know when it's important or not. Once she notes it's importance, she holds onto it and finds herself referring back to it. While both are children's actions, this one seems much more childlike than Ingalls's version of herself in her series of books.

It is difficult, understandably so, to write from a child's perspective. It seems especially hard to do so while telling a historical tale that gives all the information of the time. It's much easier when one is writing from a child's perspective for adults, like John Connelly seems to do on a regular basis, or when one writes purely for children, like most children's books.

For those interested in writing from a child's perspective, here are a few links to help: 
Best Line: 
"Furthermore even if the writer does a very, very fine job of imitating a child, there will almost inevitably come a point where something rings false; a word or a phrase or a thought will be wrong or very difficult to attribute to a child. "

 Child Narrator's in Adult Fiction
Take note of the suggestions of where to pull the ideas and look at the long list of recommended reading (which even includes the child narrator's age). The format is a bit messy, but worth the long read.

How to View the World from your Child's Perspective
  Not necessarily a traditional writing tips article, but think about it: if you can learn how to see through a child's eye than that's about as helpful as any writing tip when it comes to writing from a child's perspective.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Romeo and Juliet: Glorifying Suicide?

Recently in my Advanced Shakespeare class, we briefly mentioned Romeo and Juliet while in the process of our current project (Editing and modernizing The Merry Wives of Windsor). It was said that Romeo and Juliet "glorified" suicide and that since it was because of/for love, suicide is okay. I personally think that if we have to put a message on the suicides, that it is downplaying suicides. Romeo kills himself thinking that Juliet killed herself, which shows that Romeo was acting impulsively and rashly. That says that suicide should not be done without thought or by instinct. Then Juliet kills herself when she finds out Romeo has killed himself (because he thought Juliet killed herself when she didn't), this ultimately brings the families together. While the suicides do have a meaning in the long run, the only reason they do have a meaning is because it is so shocking and heartbreaking to the families. Which I don't necessarily think is "glorifying" suicide or making it a romantic notion. A shocking act leads to a large revelation normally and these suicides give Shakespeare the shocking act he was looking for. Much like getting a well deserved (and needed) slap to the face or kick in the rear.

Plus, would Shakespeare have been able to bring the families together other wise? If the two ran away together, each family would blame the other family's child for kidnapping, witchery, etc. It wouldn't be a tragedy if the two had a big marriage to bring the family together. With that ending, it would be done better as a comedy, but as currently written, it obviously does not fall into that Shakespearean category which means there must be death in the end.

Thoughts? Glorifying, not glorifying, doesn't matter? Could this end differently and still plausibly bring the families together?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Similarities in 20th Century Literature (Week 4)

Admittedly, Kim by Rudyard Kipling was much different from our earlier readings (fairy tales, script-like pieces, etc.), but not very surprising in general for the time period. This was the time of Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz and Anne of Green Gables. In fact, I spent the whole time reading it comparing it to other pieces of the time.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of the books. While this book was written a few years after Kim, they still have a quite a few similarities/parallels. While Kim is about an orphaned boy who is forced into a world of English lifestyle that he does not want (he would rather stay with the Tibetan Lama), A Little Princess is about a little English girl who goes to a bordering school while her father is a soldier, but when he dies the little girl is forced into being a house servant. Both are brought back to their original worlds by the end of the books, each having learned something different. The format is very much the similar. I’m sure I would find more similarities if I read them side by side.

There’s another similarity between books of the time that I pointed out at a very young age after my mother had read me a series of books (A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, and A Secret Garden):

“Does every book have mommies dying?”

And really they do: Kim, A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, A Secret Garden, Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, etc. In each of these books, one or both parents have died leaving the children to deal with the deaths and the circumstances that follow in different  fashions. It is an interesting notion that might a variety of reasons behind them. It gives the main characters something that needs to be worked through emotionally, it gives reason to a change in circumstances, etc. 

Has any one else noticed this with reading from that era?

(While normally I add links, this time I was running a little short on time and did not. I'll place a book list later this week for those interested in these pieces. )

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Artwork in Literature (Week 3)

Reading through Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience  was a much different read than Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimation of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”, but not because the writing style was so different. Rather it was because of the artwork. While both had artwork, Blake’s had much more intense pictures on each page of his work. The whole time I was reading Blake I felt much more engaged and intrigued. In Wordsworth’s, though I did enjoy it, I found myself drifting off from the work itself and thinking about other things (like my German homework and if pizza Lunchables are considered a decent lunch for a college senior).

From this alone I could deduce some very simple theories about art’s interaction with learning and the brain. First, that it stimulates us much more then just a blank page with words. If I hadn’t said that to you before, that just means you haven’t been listening to me. I’ve believed this for a while now (which is the reason behind my obnoxiously bright coloured pens I love so much) and preach it when I can: colour keeps you stimulated and that stimulation helps not only one engage/connect with the text, but helps them remember what one reads. Second, it sets the mood. This may be a more subconscious doing, but let’s face it, if you see a skull surrounded by flames you get a much different feeling than if you see a unicorn sprouting rainbows out it’s rear.  Third, it helps with understanding. Much like comics, it can help some one know what’s happening or at the very least, the themes of a poem. For example, in Blake’s London  we see in the pictures the person we can assume is the “I”, but also the old man who shows the “Marks of weakness, marks of woe” (Line 5). This adds a depth to the work and shows what the reader may not necessarily be able to envision on their own.

While this was just me taking our my rear, much like unicorns have rainbows coming out their rears apparently, there are actually studies that say similar things. Take a look at the links below and see what they say about specifically children and art. 

Art and Children
The Effects of Art on Children,
Fact Sheet About the Benefits of Arts Education for Children
How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition
Free Arts for Abused Children
Training in the Arts, Reading, and Brain Imaging

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Meditation: Labyrinths

We’ve got a society full of stereotypes and labyrinths are part of them. We continuously use maze and labyrinth are interchangeable words which while may have been true at one period of time, now is not so true. Who better to describe the main difference, but Wikipedia:

    “In colloquial English, labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze, but many     contemporary scholars observe a distinction between the two: maze refers to a     complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path and direction; while     a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which     leads to the     center.” (Labryrinth- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
This is the basic difference: the different designs. But why the different designs? John and I found out when visiting the Grand Hotel back in August.

What the sign basically says is that a labyrinth is a meditative/spiritual tool (sometimes therapeutic which is why there are so many at hospitals and healthcare facilities) and really, it is. When we walked it quietly, I could see how following the simple path was calming and easy which left plenty of space for deep thought and mindless peace… Or I could, if it wasn’t so small (sadly, the photo will not download or I would share it with you). 

If standard meditation is not your thing or walking/hiking is your thing (or you enjoy exploring spiritual rituals), then I would definitely recommend finding a decent sized labyrinth and give it a try!

World-Wide Labyrinth Locator
Labyrinths- A
Labyrinth Coalition
The Labyrinth Society
The Labyrinth Society: Events Calendar

Maze- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Debuck’s Corn Maze (Loved it when I went there for my birthday last year. Spent all day going through their 3 mazes)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Retrograding Childhoods (Week 2)

“Historians of childhood have debated whether a concept of the child, as an individual with unique needs as opposed to a miniature adult, actually existed.”

This quote from Patricia Demers’s From Instruction to Delight: An Anthology of Children’s Literature to 1850 really struck me the first time I read it. So much so that I read it out loud to my boyfriend (then had him read it to himself when he didn’t hear me the first time). It makes sense, however, that there may not have originally been any idea of what we would consider childhood. Children for the longest time were “miniature adults”, as we talked about last week. They started out working right away and the stories began as a way to learn about the world around them.

Stories moved into a more education based eventually teaching what we would see as things of importance: the alphabet, math, sciences, etc to children and nowadays books are usually entertainment based for children. However, since children are becoming more adult-like ever maybe our stories should be returned to our original fairytale format: teaching children how to survival in the way of the world.

More and more of our youth are returning to how society used to be or acting as adult as they feel possible: sex and pregnancies at pre-teen years, becoming violent, doing drugs, drinking alcohol etc. We can see this through multiple examples from the internet, like Millie. Are we returning to our past where children had no childhood? Is childhood becoming unneeded or even perhaps, unwanted?

If this is the case, will our youth’s stories and readings return to their original fairy tale state?

We already know that several countries never had childhood for their youths, because the children still work immediately or must fight to survive in a harsh world. Does this mean their stories and literature are still much different from ours? Admittedly, I would love to learn more about it myself. Below are some articles are today’s childhood or the lack of it.

Childhood in Britain ‘ruined by lack of outdoor play and aggressive advertising’
Children with no childhood
Theories of Childhood
Children Without Childhood

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Are English Majors All Hippies and Cliches?

 In short, no. We're not all hippies and cliches. In fact, I flinch when people call me a hippie. Though, I do accept bohemian or gypsy or free-spirited.

Here's the longer, rambling answer:

Myself and other English Majors get a lot of flack for being in what is considered a useless major. I could give you dozens, maybe hundreds of websites that tell you all English majors will be working in McDonald’s after graduation. I could, but I won’t. I could also give you websites telling  you what jobs are available (See Links Below). However, we can possibly at least agree that college should NOT always be about finding a well paying job, but about gaining something that gives us self fulfillment, whether it’s the gaining of knowledge, the start of a career, the challenge, or any number of other viable reasons. If we can agree on that, then I can we can get down to real brass tax: What English majors actually do!

We know that mathematics majors study harder and harder math, language majors become fully immersed with the language and the culture, and that any science major learns not only how to conduct an experiment, but while conducting them learn the laws of the physical world. Almost any liberal arts major has a bad rap compared the the “harder” majors like these. What’s the use? What do you study? Are all English majors hippies and cliches?

Really, an  English major could be compared to Sociology major, which is basically the psychological study of a culture or group of people or  Anthropology major, which is like the Sociology of the past, because as an English major we study the development of  human culture. Reading Beowulf  teaches us about how Anglo-Saxon culture: how they communicate, what’s important to them, the roles throughout society, etc. Sometimes books and folklore are the only looks into our former culture that we can find. Clothes rarely survive and bones, as well as other artifacts, can only tell us so much. In reading the literature we can find out the roles of men and women, the type of speech used, the morals of time, and the attitudes of different classes of people, all of these which cannot be found with just bones and dust.

We also get to learn how to communicate effectively on a variety of levels as well as gain the skill of quick thinking/understanding. Reading Shakespeare is much different from reading Slyvia Plath or George R.R. Martin, but reading any of them teaches us about the importance of nuance and quick wit. While learning the important of nuance can lead us to question everything and nitpick on words, it also allows us to gain compassion and even the chance to manipulate the world around us. Take “the right to bare arms”  for example, is it the right to have naked arms or the right to have guns? Or even the right to own a pair of bear arms? We play with words to make them our own, to take them for ourselves, and to find to the perfect set to match our meanings just right.

It’s not just nuance of course, we also tend to have to play hide and seek with our pieces. Ubu Roi by Jarry references Hamlet. Heck, almost everything references Shakespeare, especially Hamlet.  Even modern media, like The Simpsons, makes literally references, everything from Hamlet (of course!) to Neil Gaiman to Harry Potter to almost anything you could have read (See the link below!). Since literature, really stories, have been such a large part of our culture for thousands of years, it’s impossible to escape even on TV.

While yes, some of our classes are a bit unusual (I’ve met in bars, I’ve performed pieces we’ve read, I’ve debated the meaning behind fish in a poem, I’ve picnicked on the grass discussing whether a character is a man, a woman, or gender neutral as well as the difference between sanity and insanity, I’ve come to class in an assortment of costumes and props, etc), but really, most class days are like any other: we read something, we generally blog on it, we discuss it  and then write a big paper discussing it. Not much different from any other class I’ve taken, besides the fact that we really have tests after the 3000 level courses. Being an English major may have some bad stereotypes attached to it, but in actuality, there is much more than the stereotype. I won’t be a jobless burden on society and I’m not too “dumb” to study something more “useful”. In reality, I can do a variety of jobs that society needs while still having studied something that is enjoyable for me.

Job Links for English Majors:

10 Careers to Consider with an English Major

Jobs for English Majors,

Jobs for English Majors,

What Ten Jobs Can You Do With Your English Degree

Career Opportunities for Majors in English (Best Site of the 5)

Fun Links:

11 Literary References People Make Without Realizing It

A Visual History of Literary References on “The Simpsons”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Life is a Parody

Today in one of my classes my classmates brought up a good point: We know our cultural through parodies. Jokingly they brought up, Weird Al’s Amish Paradise  and who actually might know what song it was originally. However, this isn’t the first time this has come up in the past couple of days. Yesterday on the way to MIRF I mentioned to my passenger that whenever I heard the latest Goyte  song, Somebody That I Used to Know, I hear several parodies as a mash-up in my head (See List Below).

We see parodies constantly of things we love from songs to movies to books. Our culture has various shows dedicated to it even: Robot Chicken, Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, and even shows wholly dedicated to making fun of a whole genre, like one of Cartoon Networks latest addition to Adult Swim , Children's Hospital. We even make mockumentaries, like The Office. Everything in our culture is up for grabs when it comes to teasing and poking fun. Is it because we’re looking for more versions of something we love so we don’t get bored with them?

If that was the reason, then we would just do what Japan does: make alternate reality versions of their popular cultural icons. Series like Sailor Moon or Case Closed have not only manga series with alternate realities, but anime versions and live action ones as well. We do this to an extent with our more nerdy culture. Star Trek, which has different TV series, but also have novel versions and comics that don’t necessarily concede with each other. The comic book industry (DC and Marvel being the most well known) is also notorious about for it and tend to have multiple alternate versions going on at once: one with the heroes as teenagers, one with them fighting a civil war, one with them as zombies and even unofficial versions with them as pre-schoolers. This obviously isn’t the reason for making of parodies. Those of us who can’t get enough of blue aliens getting seduced by ship captains or laser eyes that burn foes, makes sure that we have so much that we couldn’t possibly get bored any time soon.

So is the need/want for parodies go deeper? As children don’t we mock the different children and make grotesque their features? Is this just an extension of our childhood cruelty that comes out now in normally a more socially acceptable, less hurtful way? I suppose we could think of it like that, but that’s a bit cruel for my taste. We could also see it as people trying to jump on the fame band wagon (just look at all the youtube hits the parodies have). Or is that the best way genre of comedy? Is it the only way to connect over boundaries?

Or is it just darn amusing?

Feel free to let me know your theories or share your favorite parodies!

Goyte Parodies:
Some Song That I Used to Love
The Star Wars That I Used to Know
Some Study That I Used to Know

Other Parodies Worth Watching:
We’re Trekkies and We Know it (My Personal Favorite)
Avengers Assemble  
REBECCA BLACK + STAR WARS Friday Parody 'Primeday'

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Twisted Tales with a Modern Twist (Week One)

Little Red Riding Hood, the symbol of naivety growing into maturity (even if a little prematurely), is played with often these days. Just look up “Red Riding Hood” on Netflix: you get a several horror movies, Into the Woods (a musical), and a children’s cartoon version featuring the creepy Bratz dolls. She’s even a popular Halloween costume.  Because every one is looking for their Big Bad Wolf to blow down their innocence.

But really, she isn’t the only character getting a make over. We’ve probably all seen the make over of Beauty and the Beast  in New York with sewers and a district attorney or the new popular Once Upon a Time or the other legions of remakes. However, the best remakes seem to be in comic style.

A current webcomic called Erstwhile is three young female artists who take turns revising fairy tales in their own words and pictures. They don’t necessarily take the most famous tales either, All Fur  and The Little Shroud  being two of my favorite remakes thus far. The Little Shroud is done with almost complete silence even, only Gina Biggs’s art telling the tale, until the last few pages. Part of why fairy tales done in comic style are so intriguing and genuinely heartwarming (or breaking depending on the tale), is because a soulfully rendered picture can give a thousand more words and much more nuance than a million English majors crammed into one room together.

They can also help create a much different, much more horrifying and still comical fairytale world, like in the Vertigo comic Fables . Here we find our fairy tales heroes and heroines in the throes of an epic civil world which crosses dimensional lines when the fairy tales flee into our world, specifically New York City. The Beast changes into a monster when Beauty is mad at him (which is all the time), Prince Charming is no good cheating rat, and you don’t even want to know what Geppetto is up too. This comic which raises good humor and still puts on a very emotional war, is well delving deep into, even if these aren’t the fairy tales we know and love.

Sure, we find other modern plays on the fairy tales, such as John Connelly’s The Book of Lost Things  (a good read about a little boy who must fight a world of twisted fairy tales to save his mother), but these comic renditions really give us a good view of the other world. Besides that, they help us suspend disbelief: we see the giants, the witches, and the monsters. We have some proof, showing us that what goes bump in the night really can creep up on us.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Newest Blog Project

As many of you already know, I'm an English Major at Wayne State. This means I'm constantly reading and analyzing literary works. Coming close to the end of my English degree (hoping to graduate at the end of Winter 13 semester), I was thinking of starting a literary aspect to my blog.

Well, my Senior Seminar professor ended my debate: At least once a week I need to create a public blog post about our weekly readings. This should create an interesting series considering the seminar is on Children's literature. Here is the timeline we will be following:

Fairy Tales (Week 1)---> Beginnings: "Edutainment" in Print Culture (Weeks 2-4)---> American Children: Historical Figures (Weeks 5-7)---> Writers and Other Wild Things (Weeks 8-9)---> Sci-fi and Fantasy: Escapes and Dystopias (Weeks 10-13)

This is basic outline from my syllabus using the titles of each reading section. I hope you enjoy these next segments of the blog, because I will definitely enjoy writing them.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Feminism and the Hairy Legs

I have never considered myself a feminist. Even occasionally anti-feminist, but never feminist. True, feminism isn’t the same as it’s original connotation: the hairy legged women who hate men as a whole and would happy take out the male population. It still, however, gives me a cringe when I’m called one.

The latest accusal comes from a woman on campus:

Woman: You know, if you shaved your legs you’d get a job and boyfriend.
Me: ...I have a job and a boyfriend.
Woman: Don’t you mean girlfriend, sweetie?
Me: Um... What does my legs have to do with this?
Woman: Only feminists don’t shave their legs.
Me: Being feminist means I’m a lesbian?
Woman: No, but hairy legs mean you can only get a dyke.

If you’re like me, you are just as confused as I am. Being too lazy/busy to shave my legs means I’m not allowed to work or date? If I do date, it must be a woman? Hairy legs immediately means feminist? More importantly, how did this conservative get onto this extremely liberal campus without their spirits being beaten down?

While feminism has evolved into a much different version than it’s stereotype, it’s stereotype is still alive and well. Admittedly even myself and others in my generation for the most part still think of feminism as hairy-legged, man haters. This is why I don’t consider myself a feminist, the nuance is just too severe for my liking.

Instead, I see myself as an equalist or humanist. I believe in equality for men, women, transgender, asexual… Essentially, I’m for the equality of all humans. I’m not specifically tied to just one area of equality, but every area. While I understand that it must each be fought for in separate battles, the fight for equality is still one ongoing war.

Other thoughts on Equalist or Humanist titles:

Why I Don’t Call Myself an Equalist
If I’m To Be Given One Label, Call Me An Egalitarian
FAQ: Why “feminism” and not just “humanism”? Or “equalism”? Isn’t saying you’re a feminist exclusionary?
Feminist or Equalist: The Absence of Equality in Feminism
Should Feminism be renamed Equalism?

More info on Equalist Movement:
Summary of the Equalist Philosophy
About Equalist

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Transitioning without a Rite of Passage

 If you’re like most people I know, there has been no noticeable break between adult hood and child hood. Sure, we make the mile markers occasionally (finishing differing levels of school, working/fending for ourselves, moving out of our parents places, etc), but how often do we really find ourselves being told that we’re adults now? And how are we even suppose to really know or feel like adults? Their are various cultures that have coming of age traditions (Bar Mitzvah and Rumspringa being two well known examples) that are still widely done and still seen as an important part of one’s development into adulthood. Which brings me to question: Do people with a rite of passage into adulthood, adjust better to being “adults”?
This requires a certain definition of what being an adult entails. While it can be questioned (and I do question)  whether or not some one who does not have a rite of passage (which implies a general cultural knowledge of what being an adult in that culture is expected to be) can define an adult, it can still be assumed that North American cultures, as well as various others throughout the world, see adulthood as stepping forward and taking responsibility for our own life and actions. Since we generally have no solid coming of age rituals, when do we really start to be an adult? Arguably, it could be said that anything from our first job to when we finish school to the start of female menstruation or when we take on fuller responsibilities is the point of transition into adulthood, our own subtle coming of age rite. Any of these could apply to differently to all of us. If one person finished high school and another did not, does that mean the later is not an adult? No, it doesn’t, but this doesn’t discount this for being a mile marker into adulthood for any one else. 
While there’s not much readily, easily available information on the internet on the psychological effects on one who has any traditional rite of passage, so really, I’m talking out of my ass for the most part, it can be assumed that these rites of passage help one come to terms with being an adult and their responsibilities. It’s almost like the death of childhood and the birth of adulthood, as any basic information on these rites will tell us. It’s a solid changing of function, duties and even the persona we have in our lives. If we had these solid markers where the community around us solidified our becoming adults, would there still be such a sea of confused 20 and 30 year olds? How often do we see people spend multiple years in college or a constant change of jobs all because we don’t feel like we can make these adult decisions? Because we never have become adults (sometimes in outward treatment and other times just inward emotionally).
Even with these transitions, like the ritual of Confirmation for Catholics, sometimes we aren’t treated any differently. After my own Confirmation nothing changed: same rules, same child/parent distance, even same religious responsibilities. If this was to truly act like a rite of passage, than something would have changed for me. Since nothing did, it still is a rite, but not one of passage. Nothing was really marked for me and no one really paid much mind to it. I was still just a child.

These coming of age rituals help one to transition from one stage of their life to the next, not just from childhood to adulthood, sometimes just from one new stage to the next. Sometimes it seems we are a generation trying to build transitions on nothing, but our own psychological foundations, which as a whole tend to be shaky. I think it’s time to do our own rite of passage rituals. Something that’s more than just a first beer or a paper diploma. Something that’s big enough to mean something, yet spiritual enough to have a lasting impact. In the end, it’s a ritual that helps us move forward to become the person we’ve always wanted to be.

That being said: What will your rite of passage be?

Links For More Information:
Wikipedia’s “Rite of Passage” Page (Includes list of rites by coming of age, religion, military, academic, vocational/professional and other)

Site discussing rites of passage and their formats

Article on how rituals are help with transitional periods

Books for More Information:
The Human Encounter with Death by Stanislov Grof and Joan Halifax

(More links, articles and books will be posted when I do more research. Which will happen, because I am truly interested in the psychology behind rites of passage.)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Let’s Not have Another “millie” on Our Hands

One of the latest memes floating around the internet, is the “hi im millie, im 10 and I love everything” meme. Below is an example of the meme from (a site that people can anonymously post memes and other internet works):

If you’re a parent, you should be horrified. If you’re not a parent, you should be terrified for the future since these children will one day be running your country on top of running your McDonalds. Millie here is just one example of the horrors that young children get into on the internet. On top of obvious flaws in this post, this will also haunt Millie for the rest of her life. She will forever be the girl who loves everything and is “not afreid” just like the young lady who's father shot her computer will always be that young lady.

These are just some of the latest examples and they aren’t the worse thing that can happen to a child. Any child using a public instant message account can get messages asking indecent questions and most websites with adult content only ask if some one is 18 or not. They don’t use anything but a person’s word. In this world full of indecency on television (even children’s television it seems) and in public (children’s fashions are even becoming sexualized), the internet is the worst of it. So what can parents do to help their children avoid these mistakes and be children for a little bit longer? Here are just a few small possibilities.

- Keep Tabs on Time Spent Online: The less time spent online, the less shenanigans can happen. Now, students need time for school work and honestly, time for some relaxation like the rest of us, but how many 10 year olds need more than an hour of that? Especially when they have video games, books, toys, homework, cellphones, etc.

- Put the Web Browser in Safety Mode: Most browsers let you put up a child safety browser, like Metasurf, which is specifically built to help protect children from porn and the like. If a site that should be safe cannot be access by your child, like the Girl Scout website (this often gets accidentally blocked because it talks about puberty), let the child go on it from your account and keep an eye on them while they do.

- Create a Separate Computer Account for Them: It takes a bit of computer space up, but it also helps you set up administrative controls over their computer account. The benefits range from keeping your own things private (and from being accidentally deleted by tiny hands) to controlling what they download to limiting what they have access to, from internet to applications. A person can set it up so that only the administrative account, which should be yours, can make changes. This can be helpful in keeping tabs on the time spent online and in putting in places parental controls.

- Avoid social media if possible: Yes, your child will get on these eventually, but avoid them until they’re 14 or 15 (ie mature enough to watch their own content). If you decide to let your child go on earlier, moderator them. Insist on being their friend on the site and insist that the child hide nothing from you. That way you can keep track of them. Also make sure their page is private and they are only friends with family or children from school.
- Try to Avoid Giving them a Smart Phone: Honestly, most children only need a cellphone for emergencies. If a child has a smart phone then they can access the internet with out being under tabs. This goes for iPads or iPods attached to WiFi as well. Besides what child needs a expensive gadgets? They should be playing outside for heaven’s sake.

All that being said, once a child hits 14 they should be mature enough to ensure some measure of decency, but that doesn’t mean parents still shouldn’t ask the child to share their Facebook page every once in a while or remind their child of the dangers of the web. Though I did say “should be”, it really is up to each individual parent to decide how mature their child is. Also, in this day and age if a child does not having any computer access, they do run the risk of falling behind in school and their eventual career path. Completely eliminating their computer time is just as bad as giving them unwatched computer time.

Children need more guidance than ever these days to keep them from dangers (whether that danger is themselves or some one else), so please take what steps you can to keep your child safe and not another “millie”.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

His Hands (A Micro-Fiction Piece)

His hands.

That’s what she thought of most often.

She’s not sure why she remembered them most. Maybe it was the way he always reached for hers no matter where they were. In the halls of the university when he walked her to class, or stretching his hand out across the table as they ate. At home when they watched movies, even when she was cooking for him and she had to playfully bat his hand away so she wouldn’t burn their dinner. She even remembered their hands entwined during lovemaking more than she remembered the lovemaking itself. He was always reaching for her hand. She didn’t even have to look to know that his hand was longing for hers, that his warmth was waiting to meet hers again. Rarely could she deny that longing, for her hand belonged in his as much as his hand in hers.

The strength of his hands, the warmth penetrating her own skin, their powers merging right there together. He owned her in those moments that he held her hand and she would give up anything to just feel one of his hands in hers again.

As it was, they were no longer warm and there was no more strength in them, no more power to ground her. No, they were cold and lifeless, rotting away in a pine box, but she would never forget them and their original warmth. His hands would always be there, too far away to hold, longing for hers in his.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Our Generation will NOT be Known for Their Fashion Sense

5) We Steal Our Fashion

Sure, Retro has been done in other generations, but our generation has turned it into whole genres. Steampunk, Renaissance, Goth… Just to name a few. We’ve definitely put our spin on the styles, especially with Steampunk, but at the same time we’re taking something original and only tweaking it. Admittedly, I partake in all of these genres of dress very happily and do see them as a legitimate styles that have taken root. However, whenever historians talk about it, it will always be:

“Steampunk is a style of clothing brought into vast popularity during the late 20th century where a person takes a time period, usually Victorian, and designs a costume of that age, but with accessories of what futuristic pieces would look to people of that age (e.i. A computer or gun made with brass components). ”

In all, it will never be solely our generations making since we must always contribute major parts of design to other time periods.

4) The Turn Over and the Internet

Styles change too quickly for any one to keep track of what’s truly “hip to the jive”. With the interest and the vast amount of information, as well as several fashion shows a year by our “leaders” in trends and just the fast over turn of clothing in modern stores, we rarely see the same clothes or style for that long. For example, I’ve gone into Hot Topic, seen a Marvel Vs. Capcom hoodie I loved and when I went in a month later, it was on the clearance rack in the wrong size never to be sold at Hot Topic again. Sure, we have specialty stores online that hold onto such items (such as Marvel’s online store), but for many people shopping online for clothes is too much of a hassle. With the turn over and dilution we have in clothing, how is any of it memorial-able?

3) We own too much!

How many of us really own just one pair of jeans or just a couple of shirts? Our fashions lose value by the sheer amount of clothes most of society owns. In fact, most people would rather spend their pay check on the newest shoes instead of food. Hell, they’ll forget about their own safety for a pair of Nike Foam Sneakers if they’re on sale.

2) Tights as Pants.

Tights should rarely, if ever, be worn as pants unless you’re doing theatre or uber thin. As in wafer thin. Even then, be wary. It’s basically like walking around naked. Don't know what I'm talking about? Look at this image from

At least the people at Tights are not Pants agree with me.

1) Our babies dress like sluts.

Yes, I am being blunt about it. We dress our children in make up, short skirts, and tube tops. We dress them as adults and portray them as sex symbols. See Toddlers and Tiaras. Do I really need to say anything more about this?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dust off those Cookie Cutters

Let’s face it, we all have large tins of various cookie cutters that we can’t bare to part with, but at the same time may use every other Christmas, if that. Or maybe I’m the only one guilty of that. Even so, there are plenty of other uses for cookie cutters that span not only food uses, but also some fun non-cooking uses.

Cooking Uses:

Shaping Eggs- You can buy an egg shaper made out of the same metal as your trusty cookie cutters, but why not have fun shaped eggs? A lot of cookie cutters even have little handles to make this an even easier project. Just make sure you only use metal cookie cutters and use every precaution to keep yourself safe.

Sandwich Shapers- Stores are making money off of basically selling cooke cutters for sandwiches. While they may be specifically shaped for sandwiches, why spend the extra money if you already have cutters at home?

Bento Boxes: There’s limited room in every lunch box, whether you have a special bento box or just plain tupperware, but cookie cutters help make the most of that space and keeps the foods separate. Not only that, but it helps bring a little bit of colour and flare to any lunch.

Non-Cooking Uses:

Ornaments- Whether you just tie a ribbon on them or actually drill a hole for a ribbon, cookie cutters make awesome ornaments for any holiday, party or day that just needs a little bit of decoration. Best thing is being able to still use them for cookies after.

Soap Molds- Making soap is fun in general, but making shaped soap just takes a little bit more effort and makes the soap more interesting. I wouldn’t recommend using the cookie cutters on food again unless you’ve done a heavy duty cleaning on them, but if the cookie cutters are rarely used for food anyways and you’ll use them on soap making more often, then go for it.

Cross-Posted on my other Blog

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Paper, Paper, Paper

If you’re like me, you write on every piece of paper you find and generally lose gumption to type it up after the initial spurt of activity. Or you just write every down so you don’t forget anything or you have to do lists that just sit there. So this bring up the questions: Does creation stop after the story is over? Or does that piece of paper still have potential to be more? Can that potential to be more the push to actually type up your pieces in a timely manner?

No, yes, yes. At least, that’s the answers I’ve been finding lately. So here’s a fun list of things you can do, including some links on instructions:

1) Paper chain folding: This type of paper chain folding is usually called “Starburst paper folding”, because of the publicity it got when a mom made her daughter a prom dress from Starburst wrappers. In actuality it’s been around forever, originally done with gum wrappers. People mainly use it to make bracelets and other jewelry, however I’m in the process of using my writings to make a picture frame and hope to make a box soon after. It’s fun, simple, quick, and if you have small paper, it works wonders. Be forewarned that it does not make quite as sturdy/neat looking chains as starburst wrappers do, but it just takes a bit of practice to find the best way of cleaning it up.

How to make a chain from Starburst Wrappers

2) Origami: This is pretty much a given, let’s face it. Cut the paper to the appropriate size and make that story into the best object that represents it. I am horrible at origami, but I guess this means I can get some practice.

Origami Fun

3) Paper strips: This is what I’m doing with my to do lists (if I finish them); I make paper strips and turn them into something, currently a bowl. Take a piece of paper, cut it into approximately 1 inch strips, fold into a third, and fold one last time, matching the side edges together. This should make a strip. An easier way to do this is by folding the paper in half and in half again. Either way, make sure to glue the edges together so that the strip is easy and firm to work with. Now comes the fun part: make something. Coasters, bowls, art pieces, etc. Anything you desire, just remember to seal the pieces afterwards and that unless you find yourself a really special sealer, don’t use any items for unwrapped foods that could damage the piece (i.e. These bowls are not soup bowls). If my directions are hard to follow, just google it and you’ll find plenty of directions. This is just how I learned it.

4) Envelopes: Don’t you dare ask me what an envelope is, you’re old enough to know. I’ve been doing this to old magazines that I haven’t gotten rid of for one reason or another.The easiest way to do this is to find an envelope the size you want, then carefully pull the pieces apart. Once the envelope is completely unglued, trance it onto the paper that you want to make an envelope (personally I glue two pieces of paper together so that I get an extra thick and sturdy envelope). Once trances out, cut it out and glue the proper pieces together. I also use blank envelope stickers to have a clear cut spot for addresses and since these come in various colours it can look really cool. If my directions are hard to follow, just google it and you’ll find plenty of directions. This is just how I learned it. As with the paper strips, if my directions are hard to follow, just google it and you’ll find plenty of directions. This is just how I learned it.

There are plenty of other things that can be done with the papers (like home made recycled paper, decoupage, etc), but these are some of the easiest and least messy things that can be done.

P.S. Glue sticks work best for most of the paper crafts listed.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Creating for Self-Fulfillment

My Dear Fellow Travellers,

Admittedly, there are a million reasons to create. Some reasons good, some bad, but more than anything, there’s one reason that rises above the rest:

Create for yourself.

Creating shouldn’t be a chore, it shouldn’t be a hardship or something that just gets done. There should be a self-fulfillment of some sort attached to it.

Sure, there may be bigger reasons, like political stances or statements for equality., but the reasons for making such statements should be for you. It should be because you believe it, because it means something to you.

If it doesn’t, that makes your creations hollow. Sure you could be writing or painting because some one inspired you, but if that person is standing behind you, forcing you to work, then your work isn’t for you, isn’t fulfilling of some innate need inside yourself.

The examples of people creating for their own fulfillment is vast, from the silly to the serious. Lady Gaga wants to be unique and create astonishing pieces that shock and amuse people, she, from all assumptions, enjoys this. Martin Luther King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, because he believed in his cause and he could not fulfill himself if he didn’t push for it. But how many people go that extra step, push for something so hard, if they don’t find some type of self-fulfillment from it? If creating does not help them towards their own goals and dreams?

Sara Barielles has a song, called “Love Song”, that says, “I’m not gonna write you to stay/All you have is leaving/I’m gon’ need a better reason/To write you a love song today.” That quote sums up how we should feel about our creativity: that we should not feel forced to create, but rather that creation should be part of our own self-fulfillment.

This does, however, bring up questions about self-fulfillment, that I may or may not address at another time.


Love Song by Sara Barielles

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Make the World Suck Less with out Getting off Your Ass

Fellow Travellers,

We’re all busy people. So when we get home at the end of the day, who wants to do anything but sit in their pajamas and fuzzy bunny slippers? Trust me, I get that, but there are some things we could all be doing from our couches to help the world suck less.

This website has you play a quiz game that for ever correct answer, 10 grains of rice is donated to the World Food Program. I’ve been using this one off and on for years and just recently discovered that if you create an account, you can friend users and compare scores. Groups can even be created and even teachers have classes doing in groups for class projects. With the variety of subjects (from vocab to science to other languages), it’s hard to get bored and can even get rather addicting. Think of it this way, you’re not only promoting your own brain health by exercising it, but you’re also helping feed people in need. There are other sites out there like this, however, few are as trustworthy. So if you find other sites like this, make sure to check them and even contact the charities they say they’re supporting, just to make sure they really are doing what they say.

I would be a lousy blogger if I didn’t mention Kiva. The site’s premise is simple: loan an amount of money to some one in the world struggling to make ends meet with their business. The person you lend to could be opening a clothe shop in a nearby town or trying to start selling dairy products and are in need of a cow. Best part is, you get to choose who you lend it to. Each borrower puts up why they need the loan, how much they need and when they expect to pay it back. You choose where your money goes. Now, once the money is repaid, you can either loan it out again or take it off of your account. In essence, you can keep giving and giving and with a 98.9% repayment rate, the chance of your giving actually costing you anything is slim. Think of it as banking with out the annoying fees.

You may not believe in what the government has the military doing, but that doesn’t mean that any person should go without mail. Or to better put it, that doesn’t mean any person should go without friends. We don’t know their reasons for joining the military, there are so many, but a situation like many military members are put in daily would be hard on any one, for any reason. Write a soldier, if only once, to show that we’re not just living our lives and forgetting what they’re doing. Every one deserves some friendship, some comfort. is a wonderful website dedicated to the online mentoring of teenagers and students. That’s right, you could mentor some one from your couch. Through the website, you can either mentor some one for a year or answer questions on a random or “spontaneous”, as they put it, basis. They even take into account the safety of every one involved, monitoring, filtering the conversations and limiting what person information can be shared. Schools can sign up for these programs and a mentor signed on for a year will be that school mentor. There’s a series of mentor’s classes to take, but it can all be done online fro your couch. You could help shape a teenager’s future.

Last, but not least, is Good Search. This is simple: you search, the organization of your choosing gets a donation. I’m not a fan of yahoo search engine, but I am a fan of helping out charities. There are literally thousands of charities to choose from, everything from cancers to schools to youth programs. You have your free rein of who to donate to. Personally, I donate to a different charity every month, though, I always stick to Michigan charities (Charity begins at home and all that). The one issue I’ve found is that they monitor your searches, so if you search “too much” they cancel all the proceeds your charity. I search a lot due to research for my writing and classes, so I actually split my search time between Good search and Google, just to make sure my donations don’t up and disappear.

These are some of the easiest/best ways to donate from the couch that I found. always has new opportunities coming up, online and offline, so search there often!