Wednesday, April 30, 2008

[Insert heroic theme song here]

1. Barbie: My mom had a Barbie when she was younger, and she tried really hard to get me to play with them. I wasn't much of a pretender, so I mostly just set them up in elaborate beach scenes or whatever and left them until I was forced to clean them up. Most people that grew up playing with Barbie don't have a problem with the way she looks, they can only remember the good memories. Many other people blame Barbie for creating the image of a "perfect" body, (in reality would be physically impossible to be those proportions). Compared to other new dolls such as the Bratz series, Barbie looks very innocent. She has had over 60 occupations, inspiring young girls to be whoever they want to be.

2. Cookie Monster: Lately, there has been some controversy over Cookie Monster's eating habits. When I was younger, I envied him, and wished I could eat as many cookies as he does. The fact that he eats many other things, including a typewriter in the Sesame Street Christmas movie, reminded me that if I ate that much that fast, I was bound to accidentally consume something inedible. Cookie Monster demonstrates very well our country's need for instant gratification. I think that he played too big of a role in the earlier days of Sesame Street to be removed now, and he allows for discussion about consumption habits in the United States.

3. I've always been impressed by Indiana Jones. I know that those action movies are supposed to be more of a "guy thing," but I would much rather be the one going on adventures than left behind for safety's sake. Indiana Jones has incredible luck, and somehow always seems to know where the spears are going to pop out of next. Combine that with his incredible fighting skills and ingenuity, and you've got the perfect crime fighter. I'd rather watch his movies instead of movies like The Notebook (I'm probably going to get a fair amount of angry comments for saying this, but it's my blog. Deal.) where the plot moves much more slowly, and the story ends tragically. I'd so much rather think that Indiana Jones is going to die six times, and then watch him live. While I see a pattern of male dominance in his movies, I find his personality very intriguing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's a long story, don't ask.

Part 1:

Stories are an important part of childhood because they are the children's first exposure to the power of the imagination. Stories allow things to happen that normally wouldn't in real life, such as animals speaking, fairies turning pumpkins into horse-drawn carriages, and the Stinky Cheese Man "run run run(ing) as fast as he can." There are also stories that seem unrealistic, but can teach valuable lessons about life. Fables by Aesop and Jean de la Fontaine always end with a moral, and fairy tales talk of bravery, creativity in problem solving, and love. Reading stories to kids is a simple way to teach them to imagine and to think.

Part II:

Later in life, it is still important to read stories. The stories that adults read are often more intellectually stimulating than children's stories, and involve more complicated plots, themes, and messages. Those stories require thinking on a higher level, and often different readers can find different meanings in the same text. This allows for dicussions about the different topics that authors raise, and allow readers to gain insight about various aspects of life.

Part III:

As a nation, reading does a lot of the same things I mentioned above. When a book such as Fast Food Nation that criticizes our country is published, it opens up the floodgates for dicussions on how to make our country a better place, and gives information that an average American would not be able to obtain. However, I feel that a great part of the population is too busy to read or considers reading a waste of time, and are excluded from these discussions. The Internet is making this easier, both the passing of information and the discussion of issues, but also making it harder to determine what is fact and what is fiction.

Part IV:

When I was younger, I learned to read at a very young age. At first my parents thought that I had just memorized all the books I read to them, but they realized I was actually reading when I read to them a book from the library. I remember reading a book about Pokey the Puppy. My grandma had read it to me once and made a remark about how the puppy stopped to look at the butterfly, even though it wasn't in the author's text. Whenever someone read it out loud to me after that, I had to stop and correct them, and say that Pokey stopped to look at the butterfly. I read a lot of Dr. Seuss books, Golden Books (especially Little Duck's Moving Day right before we moved into our new house), and books about topics my parents found interesting. I didn't read much about history, but I learned a lot about math from reading Math Curse and other books about mathematicians. We also found a series of picture books about inventors. These helped shape who I am today, what my interests and strengths are.

Part V:
Characteristics of a well-told story (in no particular order):
1. Timelessness: A story should have a message that will always be useful, even after a hundred or more years.
2. Great illustrations: A children's book is all about the illustrations. A story can have a great message, but no one wants to look at the ugly pictures.
3. Message: A story won't last if it has no point, because people will have no reason to tell it.
4. Relateable characters: Even if the character is an animal, they should have a personality that is recognizable, so people have an easier time connecting the story to their own life.
5. Humor: Every story should have a lighthearted moment, even if ultimately the message is depressing. It makes the story much more interesting and feels better to read. (unless you're Maitland.)
6. Complexity: A story should have a level of complexity that makes reading interesting and not boring, but should not be so high that the target audience gets frustrated.
7. Climax: There has to be some point in the story where the suspense is built up the most, whether it's when the clock strikes midnight or when Professor Quirrel asks Harry to give him the stone.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


That's a combination of yawning and crocheting, because I'm tired and I love the craft. Mrs. B. was talking about other blogs and how they have themes, and I've actually been reading knitting and crocheting blogs for a few years now. I don't follow any particular ones obsessively, because that's creepy when you don't know the people, but a lot of people post patterns that they have created, and don't charge for them! People also post updates on how their projects are going, and then people leave comments when they need help. A particularly cool design of a knitting blog had the names of the projects on the side and a status bar, much like when a webpage is loading, that said what percentage of the afghan or sweater or whatever was completed. Pretty innovative, huh?

Right now I'm crocheting a pair of hobo (fingerless) gloves. Someone in my calc class asked me to make them for him. My standard answer for when people ask me that is 'only if you bring the yarn,' because I'm pretty busy and probably wouldn't have time, but at the same time I don't want to say no. He's the first person to ever actually bring the yarn, and gloves are pretty quick, so I might as well make them. The pattern I'm using is I've changed it a little bit, so the fingers aren't convertible. I also didn't turn the first four rows of the main part of the glove, so it makes a little stripe. The yarn I'm using is a standard four-ply worsted in a charcoal gray. It was given to me with no label, but it looks like Caron or something basic. I've finished all of the first glove except the thumb, and have done three or four rows of the cuff of the second glove. This pattern is very straightforward and easy to understand, which is nice.

Also lately I have been experimenting with amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting small, cartoonlike animals. I discovered this art in a book I found at work, and thought the author had made it up. ( My mom told me that she knitted a panda when she was in high school, and apparently it really didn't turn out very recognizable. She warned me that I might get frustrated, but so far I'm very happy with the results! I've made a turquoise robin and a gray mouse, and have yet to sew together my lime green and yellow dodo bird. The fun part about the amigurumi animals is that they are really quick and use up scrap yarn. I have three huge Rubbermaid containers full of yarn, but most of it is in too small of a quantity to be useable. Next I'm going to make a cake from this website ( but I can't decide which one... thoughts? They all look so appetizing, it makes me almost want to cook instead of crochet.

I've also been meaning for some time to make a binary scarf. I found the pattern on It's black and has green 1's and 0's in random patterns like a computer screen. The only issue is the fact that it's make on pretty small double pointed needles. The rounds are huge and it looks like it would take forever! I also don't have any sets of five dpns, just sets of four, and only in sizes 1-5 (yikes!) leftover from when my mom knitted socks and a baptismal gown out of some really shimmery white baby yarn. This is going on my list of things to make this summer, when I no longer have homework or other things that need to be done. People keep telling me that the summer is going to feel really nice because I won't have a ton of demanding activities anymore.

Also on my list for this summer is to stop making green things and to start making maroon and gold things, starting with a simple striped scarf, and probably a hat and mittens too. If I'm really patient, and yarn goes very on sale, I might crochet a granny square afghan too. The granny square ones that are made all in one piece, instead of a bunch of little squares sewed together, go really fast and are really easy to get even.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I actually found where the sidewalk ended once, it was in front of my grandparents' house

Touched By an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
Maya Angelou

2. I chose this poem because I think it gets its point across without being excessively flowery or forcefully artistic. I memorized it last year for the APAL love poem assignment. Maya Angelou tells it like it is, instead of tries to make it sound like she's an accomplished poet (even though she is).

3. The title of this poem refers to the fact that love is like an angel. In the Bible, angels have always been the bringers of good news, the ones who party with the souls in Heaven, etc. This poem contains many biblical references, such as love's "high holy temple." The title also suggests that the speaker has already fallen in love and is describing it.

4. I've already pointed out the allusions to the Bible, but Angelou's poem contains other poetic devices, not because she "used" them, but because they came naturally. Love is personified a few times, when the speaker says "love...sets us free" and "love... comes into sight to liberate us into life". Also the metaphors "shells of loneliness" and "chains of fear" help paint a better picture of what the speaker is feeling. A shell of loneliness reminds the reader of an animal that recoils into its lonely shell to avoid pain, and a chain of fear depicts how fear can actually hold someone back. The poetic devices create a stronger and more realistic message for the reader.

5. The tone of this piece changes throughout the poem. In the beginning, the tone is a bit hopeless and depressed, as if nothing can fix the horrible problems except love, but love is unattainable. Beginning with the line "Yet if we are bold," the tone changes to be more optimistic. As it turns out, love actually can change the course of one's life.

Friday, March 7, 2008

It's snowing!!!

2. Describe myself as a writer... When I write, I'm not really that artistic. I just write what needs to be said, and I don't go out of my way to make it super fancy. Sure, occasionally you'll find similes and things in stuff I've written, but that's because I feel like it belongs there, not because someone told me to write something good. My writing sounds like me. It's usually more polished than when I speak, but it still sounds like I'm talking. I don't know if that's supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing. I love reading books, but lately I've been having trouble finding good things to read. Right now I'm reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the second time. Her writing is interesting to me because of the level of detail it contains. I am a very detail-oriented person, and love to notice the little things in people's writing. As far of writing outside of school is concerned, I used to try to write more than I do now. In middle school, I attended the Young Author's Conference held at Bethel, at it was really inspiring, but lately my writing has been mostly limited to email. I am also one of the official bloggers for the robotics team ( The topics that intrigue me the most are the ones that are important to the writer, because often those become the most well-written pieces. I also think it's really fun to rewrite classic stories, like fairy tales, from a different point of view.

3. It always seems to start like this: I'm all wrapped up in myself, tongue-tied, and twisted. Someone runs their fingers through my lush mohair, and takes me for a wild ride. I weave in and out, over and under, and around the same blue metal countless times. I watch myself grow, longer and longer. A part of me falls, and tries to escape, but an outside force brings me back, pulls me into shape, and all is right again. The part of me that is tangled shrinks, but the new me continues to burst forth, and I feel like I can stretch for miles. It's a wonderful, liberating feeling. The rhythmic swish-click, swish-click keeps time to my evolution. Time to relax, unwind. Traveling from place to place, sneaking in some rows whenever possible, I soon discover that my transformation is complete. A quick snip and part of me is stowed away, still tangled, confused, with problems that could be worked out another day. The rest of me, however, feels light and free. I get to keep someone warm, will all of my knots now gone.

(This is the yarn's view when crocheting a scarf. Some of the things it feels are connected to how I feel while I'm crocheting.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

T'as de beaux yeux, tu sais.

1. Congratulations! You wrote your first play. Reflect on your experiences here in paragraph form. Be sure to including explanation for your ideas. Write at least 75 words.

Whenever I have a writing assignment, everything from essays to poetry to this play, I always talk to my friends about every step of the process. I was talking to a friend about historical events to adapt into a play, and she came up with the idea to write about the Defenestration of Prague. I did some research, and began to craft the play. Something that my friends and I have been doing for a couple years now, as strange as it may seem, is to copy and paste troublesome sentences into a Google Chat window to have them help with phrasing and such. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes to work out the issues. I actually had a lot of fun writing the play, and it was also a lot of fun to read what other people wrote. The topics of the different plays were all so different, and said a lot about each of the authors.

2. If you could give advice to a kid who was 5 years old or 10 years old (pick one), what advice would you give him or her on growing up in today's world? Would you give advice based upon your own experiences? Would you give advice based upon what you see in others? Would your advice be based on their thoughts, their choices, peer issues, school? Explain your advice and why you give it. Write at least 100 words.

If I could give advice to a kid who was 10 years old, in about fourth or fifth grade, I would probably be cliché and tell them not to worry about what other people think about them. Kids around that age start to become extremely self-conscious, and the media sends them all sorts of messages about the type of person they are "supposed" to be, how they are supposed to look, act, think, etc, and in reality it doesn't matter. I remember being that age, and how people that were my friends had suddenly changed, and were now into shopping instead of the craft projects we used to do together. Looking back, if no one cared about what others thought, everyone would just be themselves.

3. Great works of literature can last a long time. Jane Austen's novels (including Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility) are still popular almost 200 years after they were first published. Anne Bradstreet's poems have survived about 400 years. The works of Greek playwright Euripides (who wrote Medea) have survived for over 2000 years. What do you think causes great literary works to live forever? Could you ever foresee yourself writing something that lasts that long? (Write at least 75 words.)

I think that part of what makes great literature great is the universal themes that they discuss. As much as it pains me to say this, I think that part of the reason they live forever is because people can continually relate to the characters and ideas presented in the books, even if they are set in different time periods. However, I also think that there are some works of literature that live on just because people refuse to let them die, continually beating out new meaning. Conoisseurs of literature have invented countless ways of analyzing writing, everything from applying different lenses to pretending to find "implied" meaning in places that don't make sense, and as long as people keep finding ways to squeeze messages out of works of literature, they will never die.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I didn't get much sleep last night, so if this is incomprehensible, please forgive me...

1. How important is theme in what you write? Does a great piece of literature need to express an idea? Explain your thoughts on the matter using examples from things you've read. In your response, address the opposing viewpoint. (Write at least 100 words.)

I think that it is important for writing to express an idea or message, otherwise there was no point in the writing in the first place. However, I don't exactly agree that theme is as important as most English teachers seem to think. It reminds me of the Billy Collins poem about analyzing poetry, how it need not be beaten with a pipe in order to get meaning to fall out. I feel like most of the time finding a theme is a major task when it shouldn't have to be. One of the cool things I think about themes is that everyone can get something different out of the same novel/play/whatever. I can see why teachers believe that finding a universal theme in everything that we read is the most important thing we will ever do (besides learn how to write a 5-paragraph essay, get into college, and read every book in existence), but I honestly cannot figure out why they think we have to analyze every word to suck out as much meaning as possible.

2. What might be a theme that you'd consider communicating through your play. It could be a theme about something that concerns you (think back to what you wrote in your first blog), a theme about something you see socially or politically. It could be a theme about anything else. Write about that theme and why it is important to you? (Write at least 100 words).

I know that it seems cliché, that every girl that debates for Edina becomes very very feminist, but the direction the women's rights movement is taking in the US is bothering me. I know that guys wouldn't be so defensive about it if they knew it wasn't true. I am very interested in the math and science fields, and the lack of girls in the field can be very intimidating to some girls. I think that the school system does a terrible job of exposing everyone equally to every subject. Traditionally, girls are supposed to be interested in "proper" things like literature, fashion, cooking and sewing, etc., while the men are interested in less "proper" things (which I think are the most fun), like sports, video games, science experiments that explode, and trig proofs that take eight sheets of paper. Everyone is required to take electives in middle school, but most people by high school don't have any room for electives anymore. I bet that if students were required to take more technology and science related electives, instead of just a discouraging science course that includes more note-taking and theory than the amazing labs and demos, more women would pursue the field. In a play, I think the theme of a woman looking for rights/a place in the world has much potential.

3. What is one conflict you write about in your play. Generate some ideas for conflicts you could write about. This may or may not be connected to potential themes. (Write at least 75 words)

In keeping with the theme, I think one conflict I could include would be a person vs. society conflict. Having a strong woman who is looking to break free from society's traditions would fit the mold exactly. She could also be involved in a person vs. self conflict, because she has to decide to either do what she feels is right or conform to previously established standards. A feminist character lends herself easily to many types of conflicts.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Well.... here it goes.

1. Reading is breathing in; writing is breathing out.

I've heard that you need to both breathe in and out in order to live, so I guess both reading and writing are crucial to keeping the art of the written word alive. A writer who only writes and never reads is going to just keep expelling, but will never take anything in. However, since breathing is a cycle, first out then in or the other way around, a writer who reads will then have more to write about. It's like playing the flute. If you don't take in enough air before you play, you may not get to the end of your run. If a writer doesn't read before attempting to write (or continue writing), then the result will not be as good as they would like.

2. Something in the world that concerns me...

Something that has been concerning me lately is the direction that women's rights movements are taking. Women's suffrage movements have been traced back to as early as the 1750s, and we weren't allowed to vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920. That's almost two hundred years of fighting! Women still have to fight for rights in the workplace, and on average are paid less than men in the same position. Debates about abortion seem to be taking place between men, and it's easy for them to talk about since they won't be the ones potentially going through it! So, what's been bothering me is the direction that the music industry has been going. Take for example the singer Fergie. I was totally mortified when I first heard her song "My Humps" at my dance studio. We were just innocently warming up to a mix that someone made, and I cannot believe that music like this is socially acceptable! For those of you that haven't heard it, her song basically talks about her "lady humps," her boobs and her butt, and how whenever she sees men they go crazy for it. Think about this, ladies... We have been fighting for hundreds of years to be treated fairly, and now big-shots like her as well as many other artists that I have heard make it OK to treat women as sex objects???? There is so much more to girls than how their bodies look, and I have yet to hear any hip-hop artist respect that.

3. What is one piece of art that has greatly inspired you?

Working at JoAnn fabrics, I constantly see art during my shifts, and am totally reinspired every single time someone asks me to cut fabric for them and tells me about what they are making. I know that usually people are inspired by really famous art, but the other day I asked my colleague why she quilts. This particular colleague has always kinda scared me, having worked in fabric retail for longer than I have been alive and knowing all the ins and outs of everything, but after having seen some of her quilts, in particular a huge paper-pieced masterpiece made of the brightest batiks you've ever seen, I was really inspired by her. When she was younger, her family didn't have very much money, so she had to sew her own clothes, starting at about age 7! As she grew up, she continued to sew, and quilted as a great stess relief. When her mother passed away, she made copies of her mother's quilts so that she and her siblings could all have one. I find it really inspiring that quilting helped her overcome the hardships of her past.