On devouring books

Books
Book-shopping: an English major's guilty pleasure.

Does anyone remember these old B&N bags before they decided to shift emphasis to a more “let’s endorse our store colors” look?

My dad use to bribe me with money when I was still into the The Chronicles of Narnia hullabaloo (circa ‘97). He said that if I read all the books on the front of this bag he’d give me $50 and another $50 if I read all the books on the backside. Now, let me remind you —$100 at that age was like winning the lottery so I took this very seriously. I read To Kill a Mockingbird because for something reason or another, I thought that once I read that book, no doubt I would’ve won the respect of all my elders and I could just die in peace. I managed (by some miracle) to meander my way through Of Mice and Men and a part of Death of a Salesman (depicted on the other side) by the age of 11. I feel certain that at the time I was hopelessly oblivious to the notion of “classic, canonical literature”; I did, however, know that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was not categorized as such. Ultimately, I never finished all the novels on this Barnes and Noble bag and I never did get that $100. I’m still short two or three of these books at the age of 19.

But nowadays, I couldn’t be bribed with enough money to not read them all.

What we need are books that hit us like most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.

— Franz Kafka

Alas, books. I’ve monopolized the 200 square feet of dorm room space with a series of these fascinating specimens; an alphabetized avalanche leans against one of the walls. Come my fortieth birthday, I will be encased in a house constructed of books and accompanied with a select number of cats, plants, and telescopes. (The likelihood that I will become that proverbial cat lady has soared through the stratosphere. I have embraced my fate long ago.) Most likely, I will stumble upon these memories of my boisterous college years and laugh at how scant a pile of books this was and how meager and few the ideas I owned were and how naïve I was when I felt my life’s significance diminish under the weight of the unknown Universe and what terrible food I tolerated… and this stream of memories would be a nice token of remembrance to have. But these were the kernels of ideas that constitute me and encouraged me to think on my own accord and to try, standing on the shoulders of giants, to bring truths that I have discovered and have yet to discover, to light.

On another note, I’d love to be introduced to your favorite books. Let me know. I’d be eternally grateful.

Sue majors in Neuroscience & English and tends to lurk in bookstores.

Making Snowflakes

Yesterday, I ate my first snowflake of the season.

I figured it was about time.  What I like the least about Michigan winters (at least on this side of the state) is that we always have the cold necessary for snow and then we never get it.  I didn’t even get the chance to go sledding last year! And the first glorious snowfall I experienced this year did not even coat the ground.

Bound and determined to have some snow around here I gathered up my packet of printer paper and scissors and made my way downstairs into the living room and started folding and cutting.  Only to realize that my great snowflake making skills simply produced giggles from my roommate and a mess on the carpet that will take forever to clean with the vacuum-whose-motor-is-smaller-than-my-camera.

But that’s fixed now and I bring you a Snowflake How-To:

1) Start with a square piece of paper.  If you don’t have one, make one.  Fold the sheet into a triangle.  There should be some extra stuff hanging off the end.  Just cut it off.

2) Fold into smaller triangles. The only limit is how many times you can fold the paper.

3) Start cutting random shapes into the sides of the triangle.  If you want a hole in the middle of your snowflake, cut the tip off of the triangle where it doesn’t open.

4)Unfold the paper and congratulate yourself!

Variations:

If you want a more delicate snowflake, cut out a large chunk of the triangle’s center.
delicate closed delicate open

If you want a more rounded snowflake, cut off the end of the triangle so it’s curved.
round closedround open

Enjoy! Put them on your windows and doors, or even your roommate while they’re sleeping if you’re feeling a little too nice this holiday season. ^_~

And if you lack the paper, you can always make some online here.

Your snow loving blogger,

Jenny

Have you ever thought about Twilight?

(WARNING: Twilight fans beware… May contain offensive content)

Twilight is quickly becoming the new Harry Potter for female fans from the ages of 12 to 52.  What is it about this crazy wacky novel that has these ladies going so over the top to get their own sparkling Edward?

Not knowing anything but the simple basics of the story, I accidentally happened upon a link on my friend’s facebook site (“Why Breaking Dawn should be made into a movie”) and read a very sarcastic ending of the final book of this series.  I wasn’t expecting such a comedy, honestly.  I mean, the idea of sparkling vampires was amusing enough and could be somewhat endearing, but this series seems to have taken a scary turn.

Is this what our younger generations should be reading?  Initially, I played it off as a fantasy romance novel for teens, a little strange but innocent enough.  Yet the more I heard some of my Twilight-reading friends talk about it, the more I became aware that it wasn’t as innocent as I had thought.  Even they, too, were conscience of the sexuality and rooted physical tensions of the series.  The content itself is not what is being posed as a problem (after all, writers are free to express their creative energies as they wish); rather, it is the simple fact that in the beginning, Twilight was marketed to teenagers– even tweens.  This target audience was thereon exposed to a wide range of subjects that does not seem too appropriate for them.  Especially in the newest and last book when it speaks of Edward and Bella’s consummation and Jacob falls in love with a newborn child.  Is this something girls 12 years of age should be reading?

In this current day society, people cannot and should not be held back  from their own personal liberties in freedom of choice– the choice to express, the choice to decide what to read, what to consume all remain rights in a democratized and capitalized society.  Censorship is considered to be wrong.  Perhaps the fault lies not in the creators or consumers of this content or products, but in the intermediaries– the market, the marketers, the businesses who choose which content to place where and what products to sell to which customers.  While the Stephanie Meyer’s agent or publicist or marketers may not have known the direction that this series would take, was it their social responsibility to rework the promotion of Twilight to better fit its natural audience (ie older, more mature young adults)?  Particularly in this period where young mothers are increasing in statistics and children engage in sex from the ages of eleven or twelve?  Could the insistence on Twilight’s younger generation audience have social ramifications on its impressionable readers?

On the awe of the Universe

Calvin puts final exams into perspective.

Descending to human affairs:

An accurate report on the transforming shapes of my cognition as I leave the grace and levitation of celestial things and orient the axis of my mind back on societal matters. I’m that kid scuffing my dirty sneakers in Barnes and Noble and sifting through the books in the Science section, sampling Darwin, poring through Copernicus to Hawking, sympathizing for Tesla the underdog of electrical history… though I suppose immortalizing your name for the units of magnetic density flux somewhat compensates for the fact you have been commercially thwarted by Edison. An old man bespectacled with thick glasses once gave me a smile loaded with a sympathetic understanding when he saw what I held in my hands. These whorls of information contained in the seemingly innocuous text would undoubtedly form themselves into arrows of abstraction: the physics of a soap bubble to the physics of consciousness to theories on the shape and direction of Time. I always wonder how anyone can root their feet firmly back on the ground after such a perusal since I for one, have a difficult time completing this seemingly simple task of closing the book, returning it to its proper place on the shelf, and continuing on without feeling though my innards have transmogrified into some erratic fitful of lightning about to storm. I get stuck.

These endless hours, the paychecks I spend, this need to delegate someone with the duty of prying these books from me when I have fallen asleep with them – why? Is it for that Holy Grail men and women for centuries have aspired and died for — Truth? For sublime and magnificent thoughts? Frankly, I don’t know what it’s all for. For the past two weeks, I’ve had this sticky-note stuck to my wallet that blotchily reads “In awe of the universe, one develops a detachment to life” which was some muck of a thought that surfaced when I was on the brink of falling asleep one night, causing me to grope for a pen in the dark. It’s not at all as dramatic as it sounds, in fact, it’s the apathetic air about it that renders the gravity of the meaning. All life has evolved from the constraints of purely physical laws and given the right conditions, this phenomenon of life will proceed to occur — we, these entropy-facilitating mechanisms have no choice but stir to life.

And it’s fascinating. We’ve created such a wondrously crazy system here that has little to do, and even blatantly ignores the existence of the rest of the Universe — those sprawling fringes of infinity. Nobody told me when I was kid that I was just stardust or anything and that every carbon within me has suffered the cosmic violence of a supernova (picture an explosion in deep space; there’s something almost poetic about it). Instead, I obediently memorized the multiplication table.  We are decorous, and dutifully, we more or less pursue respectable jobs, marry, have kids and the whole shindig, which essentially boils down to a cycle of small rituals, predetermined by repetition, falling unspoken and uncontemplated into their places. Our manners are a history of civilization. It’s utterly irrelevant that the Andromeda galaxy is scheduled to collide with our own in 3 billion years. Down here in this enterprise on Earth, pragmatism triumphs and beautifully, it’s the source of our humanity. We are ballooning with desire and memory, are moved by the color of the pounding tides, a familiar scent…

So what exactly does this have anything to do with art?

Possibly — probably everything. The most compelling art forms allow us to come to terms with these fundamental spatial and temporal truths, looming overcast in the peripheries of thought. Shadow-like and operating at quiet plane of conscience, profound arts remind us of the fabric and texture of our humanity; it humbles us, as does the sheer, utterly magnificent magnitude of the universe.

Art allows us to begin to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Admittedly, there have been days when I just want to be an amoeba for the sake of simplicity.

Sue majors in Neuroscience & English and tends to lurk in bookstores.

How Art is Apart of You

Art, for me encompasses every creative aspect of human life.  Art defines and redefines the individual.  Often it is hard to put into dialect because it has the ability to reach your heart like no other.  It is the glue, which has held and continues to hold humanity together.  Without it, we would be wandering souls lost in the abyss.

Think about the ‘art’ in every aspect of your life.  Care for it, follow it, and live and breathe it each minute, for art is who you are.

Your art takes you places.  It has even taken you here, to college.  Your dialect, appearance, wisdom, skills, actions all speak about and from your art.  Interestingly enough, art and he[art] are intermingled and twin like.

Your art is in your heart.

Be intentional about the way you present your art to others.  Don’t put it all out there at once, but don’t hide either.  We all have individual artistic expressions that need to be shared with each other in order to grow as individuals.

So live every moment mixing your introverted and extroverted artistic self.  Learn who you are and what your heart is made of and express it through your art.

Have a great week.

Sara majors in Art History and enjoys long walks.

An Afternoon with the Lady

“Dad can you turn on the radio?”

 “Oh Neethi, why do you always have to listen to some kind of noise?”

 “Daaad, pleaaassseee.”

 “Okay, okay.”

 It is a constant struggle. My mom wants silence, my dad wants Rush, and I want Jay-Z. Most of the time we all (meaning my dad and I…remember- “two out of three ain’t bad”) agree to listen to a station dedicated to the oldies like LiteFm since my Dad can’t handle the auditory assault that is Hot 97. But today was a different day. I managed to guilt my parents into letting me fully control the radio dial (oh the joys of going to school halfway across the country!). Excitedly, I switched the radio on and turned the dial to 96.5. “Po, Po, Po, Poker Face,” blasts from the speakers. My mother looks at me, as if to further prove her point. My dad starts laughing at the absurdity of the song. I didn’t care. My afternoon with the Lady had begun.

 To be honest, when I first heard Lady Gaga’s stuff I didn’t like it. Both her music and persona seemed superficial and ridiculous. I mean anyone can spastically dance around in an outfit made up of stuffed animals of Kermit the Frog- what made Lady Gaga so famous? And what the hell does the name Lady Gaga mean- why can’t celebrities just be normal?! Don’t get me wrong, I liked Just Dance, but Poker Face was mildly annoying and Love Game was downright vulgar. However, a few days ago I discovered her song “Bad Romance,” and I became hooked. Maybe it was the fact that I was delirious with fatigue while writing my Women Studies paper (the night before…don’t judge) or I was in the middle of a sugar coma, but I just couldn’t stop listening to that song. Even though the verses were a little too boring, the chorus was glorious and catchy. Upon further investigation I stumbled upon another one of her new songs called “Telephone.” For any of you Beyonce fans out there, this is a sister song of sorts to Beyonce’s “Video Phone,” except it’s a million times better. Seriously, it’s nearly impossible to not get this song stuck in your head. What is truly fantastic about this track is the production of it. Darkchild (producer extraordinaire) manages to seamlessly infuse real telephone sounds and tones into the track, which make it musically interesting. Also, unlike in Beyonce’s “Video Phone” where Lady Gaga’s contribution seems to be forced and awkward, Beyonce adds to the track by keeping her hip hop influences within Lady Gaga’s song.           

After listening to these two musical gems I decided to check out the entire album. Though I had high hopes for Gaga’s latest creation, I was unfortunately under whelmed. Many of the tracks fell victim to the Gaga formula- synthesizer heavy with a strong 80s influence and similar vocal presentation of the lyrics (i.e the vocal repetition that made Poker Face such a hit). Also, on several of the tracks such as Dance in the Dark, the lyrical content and vocal strength of Lady Gaga is overshadowed by overproduction. You really see her musical and artistic abilities on tracks like “Speechless,” which is by far the best track on the album. This song gives listeners an all too brief glimpse of the person behind the persona with a track uncluttered by dance beats and engineered sounds. Gaga truly shines when presented naturally and stripped down to her essence. I would have loved to hear an album filled with raw and simply produced songs. I think that the world has heard enough of the Lady, and now needs to hear from the woman behind the sensation.  

 Check out Lady Gaga’s new record The Fame Monster and let me know what you think! Have a great week  🙂