9: The Arc de Triomphe

(picture copyright of http://www.travlang.com/blog/an-emblem-of-sacrifice-arc-de-triomphe-in-paris/)

The Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France. One of my favorite names to say, and one of the coolest monuments I’ve ever seen. It stands 162 feet tall (approximately 32 mes!) , 150 feet wide (not going to calculate that one XD), and 72 feet deep (um, probably 72 mes depth-wise). (It’s also known as the Arc de Triomphe de l’Γ‰toile; the Arc of Triumph of the Star [I believe that’s how it’s translated].)

It was designed in 1806 by Jean Chalgrin, but wasn’t inaugurated until 1836. The design commemorates and honours all those soldiers who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and is inscribed with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces, according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_de_Triomphe). Its engraved pictures are of “heroically nude French youths [pitted] against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail” (also according to Wikipedia). Beneath the arch lie the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, from World War I, and the eternal flame for unknown soldiers who died in both World Wars. The eternal flame was the first eternal flame lit since the fire of the ancient Roman Vestal Virgins was extinguished in the fourth century. The arcades of the Arc are engraved with figures representing characters from classical Roman mythology.

I chose the Arc de Triomphe mostly because it’s one of the few monuments I actually know about. I don’t remember when I learned about it, or what I knew about it before I just researched it, but it’s always been a lot of fun to say, and I’d like to visit it sometime. (Also, it’s on the Champs-Elysees, which is even more fun to say. XD) Somehow I always think of the Arc de Triomphe as a sort of Roman arch that is similar to all the triumphs and arches they had in ancient Rome, which is probably because it’s based on a Roman arch. But whatever subconscious reasons I had for choosing the Arc de Triomphe as my monument to blog about, it’s still one of my favorite monuments, and I really hope to visit it someday.

Remember onward!

7: Shame and Writing

Today we watched another of Brene Brown’s TED talks, this one specifically on shame, as opposed to shame and vulnerability. She referenced her previous TED talk on both subjects, which was quite nice, as I didn’t really remember what her first talk had been about. πŸ™‚

One of the parts of her presentation that I really found interesting was her perspective on shame versus guilt. She said that guilt is a focus on behavior: “I did bad”, whereas shame is a focus on self: “I am bad”. Dr. Woodworth then asked us (after we finished watching, of course) to relate this issue of shame vs. guilt to writing: Are you a bad writer, or did you just write badly?

I used to think I was a terrible writer. I would always come up with characters and vague ideas for plots and beautiful settings, but I would either never write them, or I would try to write them and they would come out terribly: no ending, no real plot… In fact, I’ve described my writing as “J.R.R. Tolkien with less plot and more description.” If you’ve ever read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or *gags* the Silmarillion, you can get a sense of what that might mean. And I believed that up until the middle of last semester, when I did the Murder project. I thought I was a horrendous writer.

But now I’m rethinking my outlook on myself and my writing. I don’t think I was a bad writer, I just think I wrote badly. Every time I had to do some sort of application essay, my mom would remind me “third draft” to encourage me when my first and second drafts were terrible. I was just bad at writing back then. But now I’ve had a lot more experience writing. I think I’ve written more this academic year then I had in all the years I’d been able to write before then. (Possibly a bit of an overstatement, but it doesn’t feel like it!) So now I know: I am not a bad writer: it is merely that for a very long time, when I was inexperienced, I simply wrote badly. And that makes me feel very happy. Write on!

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

This is a post about the six-book series “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” by Michael Scott. The first thing I must say is: read it. I’ll try my absolutely hardest not to spoil anything about the books, especially as some of my friends who read this haven’t read the last book yet, but I recommend it to everyone young and old who enjoys fantasy stories. Or stories in general.

The second thing I must say is that this series made me cry. Multiple tears, that actually ran down my face. I make a distinction because the last episode of the BBC show “Sherlock” made me cry one tear that sort of stuck, and Les Miserables (the movie that just came out) made me tear up. Messenger, by Lois Lowry, makes me cry about one or two tears also, but The Enchantress, which is the sixth book in the “Nicholas Flamel” series, made me cry at least five tears, which is pretty much a record for me for any book, movie, or TV series.

Michael Scott, the author, is apparently an authority in Ireland on mythologies and folk tales, and it comes through in his writing. All of his characters (except the two main characters and the island of Danu Talis) are directly from different mythologies, from ancient American tales to Celtic myths to the gods of Ancient Egypt. It takes place in modern times, so the characters have cell phones and fly in airplanes, but nearly all the characters are historical in some way, which pleased me no end when I first read them.

I could probably talk for hours about the series and everything that happened in the books, and particularly the things that made me cry in the last book, such as-no: spoilers. But I shan’t, as that would make for an incredibly long post, and probably an incredibly boring one for those of you who either haven’t read the books or have read them and didn’t find them interesting (which to me is unimaginable, but I’m sure there are people who don’t like them). And so I leave you for now the way I greeted you: read the “Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” series by Michael Scott. I truly hope that you will enjoy them and feel them as much and as immensely as I did.

And til next time dears: Read on!

As I Sat

This is a poem that I wrote one afternoon in the AUM Library, and something in the building was vibrating rhythmically and giving me a headache. I couldn’t really concentrate on my homework, and I was feeling lonely, and the vibration was really loud, so my brain came up with this to help it. πŸ™‚ I hope you like it!! (but please don’t comment anything negative, as this is the first poem I’ve shared with anyone, and I’m rather thin-skinned about it. Hey, at least I admit it to myself. XD)

As I sat in the library, my depression was seeping, the AC was beating, the blood in my brain echoed the song.

As I sat in the library, my friends were all leaving, my family was living, the blood in my brain yearned to join in the song.

 

As I thought and I mumbled, the brain there was troubled, the depression was leaking – consuming my soul.

And my thoughts they did stumble, as my heart longed for trouble, the depression consuming and leeching my soul.

 

As I sat in the library, my heartbeat was singing, my ears began ringing, the beat of the building continued the song.

As I sat in the library, I wished to stop beating, my friends all were living, I dreaded to continue to join in the song.

 

As I sat in the library, my depression increasing, my fingers still seeking, the rest of me yearning to sing in the song.

As I sat in the library, I wished to be happy, I wished to continue, my heartbeat drowning in the beat of the song.

 

As I sat in the library, my soul began singing, my friends joining with me, over distances chiming to join in the song.

As I sat in the library, my brain still lay weary, but the rest of me singing, my friends joining with me ere it were too long.

6: Information is Beautiful and Complex

This is partially a continuation of the post entitled “Complex, or Complicated?”, in that I’ll be talking about the same two TED videos I mentioned in that post, but it is also a completely separate post in that my purpose is different. That post had to do with words, this post has to do with questions and ideas.

How do the two videos – Eric Berlow’s and David McCandless’ TED talks – relate to me as a student?

Eric Berlow’s talk on complexity and complication is actually rather apparent, at least to me. When you’re faced with a problem or homework, especially science and/or math work, it looks incredibly complicated and frustrating. What are you supposed to do with all those numbers? Yikes!! But even though it looks complicated, that’s not necessarily so. It is definitely and always, however, quite complex. My mom has been trying for years to get me to look at a math problem and find the simple elements and not be scared, and Eric Berlow’s talk restated that idea. If you look for simple connections between simple objects, the most complex concept becomes easy to understand.

With David McCandless’ presentation on the beauty of data and data visualization, it’s a bit harder to make a connection. The beauty aspect is easier: beauty is everywhere, and personally I’ve found it’s quite easy and enjoyable to find beauty in everything. (Except the tops of really disgusting outdoor trashcans. And mold. Those, not so beautiful.) But data and data visualization is, at least for me, a bit harder to relate to. If you’re an information systems major, it would be rather obvious, as you would be dealing with data all the time. If you’re an art major, especially if you’re going into graphic design, it’s also quite apparent, as his job is all about creating graphics and art. But what if you’re going into military history, or neurobiology, or music like I am? Well there’s the obvious point of “you can make a graphic about data about all of those topics”, but there are also deeper connections. (Being a musician, it’s easiest for me to make references to music, so pardon as I make a bunch of music metaphors.) Albums need cover art, and that’s beauty. Lyrics to songs, titles of pieces, the little information booklet you find in CDs, those are all data, and lyrics and titles especially should contain some form of beauty. But I think what David McCandless focussed a lot on was the interconnectedness of the data in his visualizations, and music is about nothing if not connections. And broadening my interpretation to college students in general, classes often ask you to make connections to things you’ve learned before, both in that class and in other classes you’ve taken. English classes especially (or at least mine) want you to relate all your current assignments to assignments you’ve done in the past, things you’ve talked about in the past (tapestries!), and ideas you’ve had in the past. Life is all about connections and finding them, and I think that is mainly what David McCandless brings to light.

I’m sure there are many other connections one could find between being a student and these two TED talks, and this is merely the surface. I could probably and would love to go into more depth about the connections and complexities of being a student and being a human on Earth in the 21st century, but I’m afraid that these are all the bubbles that have been programmed into my graphic. I do hope that this provoked thoughts in your minds, though, and I would very highly recommend visiting ted.com and searching for these videos. They may well be the most interesting 21 minutes of your month (I hesitate to say year or life, but it could well be). And as always, read on.

5: Write, Writing, Writer

Writing. An integral part of life as we know it in most parts of the world. Know how to read, know how to write, you can do anything. (Okay, not entirely true, but it sounded cool.) So if we’re taught in elementary school, middle school, high school, homeschool, how to write, why do we need composition classes in college?

Because it’s a different type of writing.

Even though I was homeschooled and so never had a “typical” English class, I still know that my Honors Comp with the amazing Dr. Woodworth is far from a typical comp class. Blogging, for one thing. Writing about the murder of our teacher and being allowed to come with crazy conspiracy theories for another. And filling up a notebook with COLORS and stickers and anything our brains could throw at it as long as it had to do with Montgomery? Fairly sure that’s not usual. 8D But it’s still a freshman composition class, which means that there are certain things that we have to learn. In this global village of our world today, we have to write to communicate in any field, and freshman comp has to help us get to a point where we’re comfortable (enough) with it.

So what kinds of writing will I do, both in the next few years of my college career and in my life later on, that freshman comp needs to prepare me for? What tips, tricks, and skills that I learned in ENGL 1017 will help me succeed in life?

Well, being a younger-than-normal student in college, I don’t have the sheer number of years of writing that everyone else I know has, so this English class is giving me tons of things to write purely for experience. Also, it’s giving me a range of different rhetorical situations to write about, a bunch of different styles to write in, and things to write that aren’t solely “five-paragraph, follow these rules, analyze this story, blah blah blah” essays. Just the experience of having to write things will be invaluable to me, as I’m quite sure I’m going to have to write things in the next four years I’m in college. Literature classes and history classes are notorious for papers (or so I’ve heard), and I’ll be taking quite a few of both in music and Spanish. I.e., paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs… *crumples* (that’s not me right now; I love all my classes and I don’t have to write all that much. That’s me in four years. XD) And if I go into graduate school, I’m quite sure that will entail a lot and a lot of writing. Besides: emails, I’ll maintain this blog, musicians have websites, I’ve always wanted to write stories… Writing is everywhere.

So I think that, in my rambling off-kilter partially-stream-of-consciousness writing, I answered the question of “what writing will I do in my remaining college years and in my life that English comp is supposed to/will help me with”. To summarize, (for my sake as much as for yours), I’ll be writing essays on literature for the next few years in college, and afterwards, I’ll be writing emails, blogs, and maintaining a website. I may possibly write articles for classical guitar magazines, but I have no idea. I’ll figure it out when I get to that stage, and likely I’ll inflict my possible sufferings on this poor blog. Or maybe I’ll be deliriously happy about it and so my post will exude rainbows that will destroy whatever server upon which this blog resides. Either way, I am truly glad that I was able to take the English class that I’m taking, because even though we’re not writing ‘traditional’ research papers that I’ve been told I’ll need, it’s providing me with invaluable writing practice, and an experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Complex, or Complicated?

Eric Berlow: Simplifying Complexity.

TED talks!

What words do we find cool?

Baguette!! (I love baguettes)

A picture of a lake! Water’s pretty. ^_^

Nature can be tied in to anything.

Prediction and black boxes…

Embrace complexity.

Node… (always sounds better in a funny voice.)

Simplicity lies on the other side of complexity.

David McCandless: Data Visualization

Patterns and beauty.

Design information to tell a story.

Data visualization can look cool!!

Beauty out of frustration. XD

Colors represent motivation.

Doosh. Best sound effect ever.

Data visualization creates a landscape.

Landscape of the world’s fears.

Find hidden patterns.

Retrospects.

Data is the new oil?

Data is the new soil. (then proceeds to a brilliant metaphor of information as soil. <3)

Trawled through Facebook statuses for the phrases “break up” and “broken up”… (Depressing work, much?)

Sensitive to ideas.

Experience instills a dormant design literacy.

The language of the eye and the language of the mind.

Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble. XDXD

We need figures connected to other data.

Let the data set change your mind set.

Balloon race!![diagram]

Efficacy. <3

The data is alive…

Society&Culture and Beliefs.

Recognizing things in yourself is really really uncomfortable.

You’re capable of holding conflicting beliefs joyously.

Provide elegant solutions.

Information is too interesting.

And that is beautiful. <3

4: Into the Stories

This assignment from my brilliant English teacher? “What story would you put yourself in if you had the chance?” With barely a moment of hesitation:

Camp Half-Blood(taken from camphalfblood.org)

My favorite series of books that I have literally ever read (and I’ve read quite a few series). Rick Riordan isn’t someone like a Dickens, an Alcott, a Lewis, or a Rowling, who are easily considered “classic” authors, but his writing is very good, and highly addictive, and they’re heavily based on ancient mythologies which is something I’ve always had a passion for.

I have read the Percy Jackson books so many times (I think I’m averaging 10 times each?) that I’ve practically memorized them all. Although I still get annoyed at Percy’s stupidity occasionally, everything else in the books makes up for it for me.

If I were to insert myself into the Percy Jackson books, I would definitely be a leading player. Well, as much a leading player as Grover or Annabeth, as the books are written in first person, so I wouldn’t be able to be the narrator. I would definitely want to go on all his adventures and things, primarily because I would get to use a sword, but also because it would be actually interesting. I’d probably miss the food they had back at the camp, but I would love to go gallivanting around the country trying to save people and meet new ones.

If I were a leading(ish) character in Percy Jackson, it would totally change the books because traditionally only three demigods are allowed on quests, and if I went, either Annabeth or Grover wouldn’t be able to go, which would probably be detrimental in certain parts of the quests. Of course, I would like to think that if I went instead of one of the other two, they/we wouldn’t get into quite as many of the predicaments that they find themselves in in the books. Also, I hope that I wouldn’t have the dyslexia that nearly all demigods have, so there would be more exposure given to a demigod without dyslexia. (In the Heroes of Olympus series, the follow-up to Percy Jackson, there is a demigod without dyslexia but it’s not as relevant to the story as it is in the Percy Jackson books.)

One thing I wouldn’t like about being inside the Percy Jackson books (theoretically) is the amount of disgusting places they get in to. I mean, yes obviously if you’re fighting monsters and mythological beasties you’re likely to get covered in blood and saliva and other kinds of nasty junk, but one would think you would have the sense to attempt to wipe it off on something! That is one of the few things that bother me about fantasy books: the characters don’t always try to wipe off disgusting things from their clothing.

I would sincerely hope that I would get along with all the characters in the Percy Jackson books. It would be really awful to enter one of my favorite stories and have everyone think me an annoying incompetent prat. It would be cool if Annabeth and I got along like she and Rachel did, or the way that Rose and Donna did when they were talking about the Doctor.

If you haven’t read the Percy Jackson books, I highly recommend them. They are definitely aimed towards 12 or 14 year olds, but I think anyone could find them enjoyable if they at least appreciate Greek mythology. And as to entering the books, I highly doubt that it’s possible, but that’s why we dream, isn’t it?

Read on!

3: Storytelling

What kind of stories do you tell?

Come to think of it, what kind of stories do I tell?

Well I know that one story I’ve had to tell many (at least several) times is the story of how I started playing guitar. My maternal grandmother started guitar lessons when I was four years old, and I would always sit on on the lessons. When she had to go away for a month, she asked the guitar teacher if I could take her lessons for her. After some hesitancy on the part of the teacher, she agreed, and upon my grandma’s return she declared that I was already better than her. Thanks to the unfailing patience and love (and annoyingness upon occasion, but she’ll agree with me) of my mom over the years, I’ve never stopped playing. That’s one story that I tell people I don’t know very well. There are very few stories like that that I tell (or very few that I can think of at any rate), but this one I have told many times. Probably because practically the only times I ever meet people I don’t know are when I’m attending some sort of music event.

A funny story I tell about my family in general is one about my maternal grandfather, who I never met, but my mom has told me this story and it’s become one of my favorites. My grandparents had a business where they would help people on St. Thomas with computer difficulties. From what I’ve been told, my grandfather was sort of a genius with computers. One night they got a call from a customer very late at night, and the phone call woke up my grandma but not my grandfather. When she heard the question, she went to ask my grandfather, and he gave her the correct answer, which she then relayed to the customer on the phone. The next morning, my grandmother made some reference to the call they had had during the night, and my grandfather had no memory at all of the question.

So these are the two stories I think of when my teacher asked “what stories do you tell about your family?” Most stories I tell, I think, have to do with things I did in the recent past or things I read or saw, which I suppose is typical of stories people tell. These two, though, are two that I know I’ve told multiple times to people I meet, and now I’ve told them to you.

So with that, what kind of stories do you tell?

The Bookworm Re-Emerges

Although, bookworms eat books, so if a bookworm has re-appeared, is it really re-emerging or re-entering?

Anyway.

This is just a quick note to say that though in the fall I succumbed to schoolwork and the beautiful dangers of the BBC on Netflix, over Christmas my ever-hungry bookworm reemerged in full force. At my best guess, I acquired 16 books over the Christmas holidays. So, yeah… John LeCarre (accent on the “e”) is absolutely brilliant, Lois Lowry is such a powerful writer, and I’m seriously addicted to book series. XD So read on dearies, and I shall update you next either with the latest in my book addictions or with a post for Honors English. Most likely the latter, actually. Cheers! πŸ˜€