Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Weekly (well, sorta) Book Review #4

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson Mccullers is a literary masterpiece, no matter how many people in my North American Literature class loathed it.

The novel begins in a small town in the thirties with a character by the name of Singer. Eventually, the reader comes to realize that everything about this character is ironic, including his name, as he cannot hear or say a word. Singer's specialty is allowing people to talk to him. Four characters in particular poor out their souls to his unspeaking body. Because he reads lips, each character gets the impression that Singer understands them better than anyone ever before. However, Singer sometimes reveals that his true understanding is very minimal. Some 400 pages later, the conclusion is that everyone is lonely and needs someone to talk to.

For me, such a book was very important for my understanding of how people work. Each character, including Singer brings something to the table that feels completely normal and real. For me, this novel taught me more than any textbook ever can. Listening is an art that involves putting your own thoughts second. For a few minutes, a true listener has to become like Singer is, silent.

My review for such a book has to be a good one, however, be warned. This book is definitely not for everyone. I think I was one of the only people in my NAL class to enjoy it. It is slow to begin with, and feels extremely long. Although, I assure you that the characters that are explained the most are the ones that should be. Each of them is very interesting and well-developed.

I give this novel 10/10, however, for most it would be closer to 6. You see, this book hit me hard in a respect that I've been thinking about for months. For many people, this book is full of explanations that are completely worthless to the "main story". But I implore you to read the book and tell me what you think. I enjoyed it...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sickness Sucks

Have you ever awoken from deep slumber and decided that you simply did not want to go to work/school? You aren't really feeling that sick, but school or work just doesn't seem to work in your mind. So you miss school/work for one day. The innocence of such an act is obvious.

Have you ever awoken from a troubled, horrible slumber with a restless mind that doesn't seem quite up to reality? A few moments later, you realize what day it is, and that the idea of getting up and going to work/school is one that seems pleasant. Therefore, you get up, excited for the new day, repeating the fact in your mind that you will make it there without completely falling flat on your face. However, as soon as your feet hold you in the upright position, you're bombarded with the realization that you feel completely disgusting and although school/work brings you much excitement, there is a slight chance that you may faint before you even get close to the building.

Destiny Quebec is a student-run conference held once a year at my school. I attended most meetings (we met every thursday at 7:30AM.) and participated in the overall planning of the event. On April 22, I awoke with the latter problem. I was so excited for the conference, but the moment I got up from my terrible sleep, I realized that making it to school would be a miracle. My cough was undeniable, I shivered while my body was hot to the touch, I was dizzy and my headache was so intense that I was convinced that my head would explode before I could put on my uniform.

Destiny Quebec happens ONCE A YEAR, so I couldn't miss it. Despite the fact that I was close to death, I did my very best to shrug it off and took the early train to school. Samantha Nutt spoke at the opening assembly, and I'm not sure if I can tell you much about what was spoken. The entire assembly, I was shivering, holding my head in agony and trying very hard not to fall asleep. I went straight to the nurse when the speech finished.

My temperature: 40 degrees Celsius. (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit), and the nurse sent me home.

I stayed home the rest of that Tuesday, as well as Wednesday and Thursday. I promised my dad that I would force myself back to class on Friday so that I wouldn't miss too much of the important expensive education that he was paying for.

On the 25th of April, I awoke from a horribly troubled slumber with an undeniable cough and a nose that did not stop running. I was still slightly dizzy as well, but I had promised my father that Friday would involve class, so I reluctantly put on my uniform and trudged my way into the classroom.

I entered the library (my first period class was English, and we were researching for our orals) on that dreary spring morning and my teacher asked me -twice- how I was feeling. I coughed and wiped my nose on another kleenex before answering the question the second time. I felt as though I was dying...

Math class was a joke. Although we were supposed to be doing an assignment of about three pages, I stared at my desk for one hour and blew my nose until there was a pile of kleenex about the size of Mount Royal on my desk. Later I would realize that the only Math I had done the entire class was the first question: the example.

My complaints were replied with the same phrase repeated in several different accents and expressions: "Meg, if you're feeling so bad, go home."

But I wanted to be at school. I wanted to learn. I didn't like wasting the thousands of dollars spent on my education.

Therefore, I decided that a visit to the nurse would be my only destination. Home was kilometers away, and I wished to keep it that way. My science teacher warned me that I had missed three classes when I asked to go to the nurse the next period. So I stayed.

Let's just say that I did not learn one thing in that class. I should have gone straight to the nurse the moment that I found myself asking the same question for the third time. However, I made it through the entire hour and found my feet walking swiftly to the nurse's.

My fever was apparently 38.5 degrees Celsius this time. (101.3 degrees Fahrenheit) and I was sent home for the second time in 4 days.

I hate being sick. Taking a day off as explained in the first paragraph is nice and everyone should have that opportunity. However, being actually physically sick is something that I would wish on no one. I had more sleep in the six days that I was sick that I have had in the past three weeks.

I'm not complaining about the sleep, but of the things I missed. I apologize to Samantha Nutt and to all the speakers that I missed at the DQ Conference. I apologize to my science teacher and the many (stupid) questions I asked in my diseased state. I apologize to my dad who had to come get me not once but twice in the middle of the day. Most of all, I apologize to the friends whose presence I missed in the week that I felt under the weather. I know it is hard to live without me.

By the way, I am still coughing from time to time, even now. Prayers are appreciated for my complete recovery.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Stressful Relaxation (What an oxymoron!)

Stress has always been a strange concept for me to grasp. I am (usually) a very relaxed person. However, there have been times when I was completely stressed even if my surroundings were amazingly relaxed.

For example, when I am stressed over a project or the large amount of homework awaiting me as I venture forth into the land of home, I try to calm myself. This calming process never ceases to amaze me because of its ability to backfire.

Over the years, I've collected a bunch of ways to stress over something that is usually mundane. This Stressful Relaxation is a real nuisance.

Making a cup of tea is usually tedious work, right? When you are in a stressful mood, making a cup of tea can end in glaring at the kettle and willing it to boil. As the kettle refuses to scream because you have forgotten to plug it in, your stress level has a tendency to rise.

This evening, I would like to apologize to a few of my friends (they know who they are) because of my involvement in creating Stressful Relaxation in their afternoon.

Hugs are typically very positive actions. I find that a hug can cheer up any gloomy face, and makes the hugger feel happy as well. Even so, hugging someone who obviously has fifteen things on their mind can leave both the hugger and refuser-to-hug feeling empty and perhaps even more annoyed.

Talking to a person who has refused a hug from Meg is generally a good thing to do. They must have lost their marbles for such a thing to happen. Yet, talking to a stressed person while they are trying to unlock their locker lock is a particularly stupid thing to do, even for me.

Therefore, I apologize. I know how it is when things pile on top of themselves. Things can get out of hand. Stress is a horrible, terrible thing. Unfortunately, trying to dismantle a stressful day can be a stressful job. I think that is why Stressful Relaxation exists.

The truth is, when your mind is stuck with stress, there is not many things you can do to counteract it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Weekly Book Review (3)

This week's book is none other than Coram Boy by Jamila Gaven. A book that has won multiple awards and praise from authors around the world. I say: HAVE THEY NO TASTE?

I apologize for being completely juvenile as I review this piece of literature, but I cannot comprehend why it was given such praise. To me, it was a book that has its high points but many more low points than high.

The first 100 pages are riddled with reasons to put down the novel and read something more substantial. It was very disappointing to me that the one positive character that I had began to like was never revealed in depth, and dies in the end. (Poor Thomas should have been more focused on.)

In fact, all the most boring characters are the main ones. Alexander, the quiet one who has to struggle against his father for his dream of becoming a musician. Melissa, the other quiet one who falls in puppy love with Alex as a child. Meshak, who is a schizophrenic and completely in love with Melissa. Yes, the same old story in a different town. (or rather, same old city with a different name) Meshak is horribly perdictable, Melissa stays in one place her entire life and Alexander does exactly what you expect him to do.

What about Thomas? What happens to his family, one that is struggling, though happy? Oh, that is apparently unimportant.

Once again, I apologize to anyone that enjoyed reading this book. For me, it just didn't fly. The language used made every page seem as though it was useless. There was no point in reading something that made every characters actions seem normal.

I personally know that a novel is missing something when my favourite character is the villain. Unfortunately in this story, there wasn't a truly defined villain, however Otis, the slave peddler who has almost no part in the plot was surely the character with the most substance. He somehow escaped the gallows and lived to become a successful man that held parties periodically. It seems to me, that if his character was explained more in depth, he would surely be my favourite character.

I just wish that the story would end in tragedy. Alas, Aaron, Melissa, and Alexander are reunited in the end. What a horrible ending.

My advice: no matter what the critics say, don't read the book. 3/10.

PS. My version would have had Otis as one of the main characters, instead of his pathetic son. My version would also have Aaron dying in the end and coming back as Meshak's angel. Talk about irony?

Feel free to comment if you disagree with my thoughts. Oh, and please answer to the poll I've put up. All opinions are welcome :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tea Vs. Coffee

I'm a big fan of staying at a coffee shop for hours while curled up with a book, sipping a pot of perfectly brewed coffee. My only complaint is that coffee is sometimes too strong and I end up with bags under my eyes the next morning.

Tea, on the other hand, happens to be a fact of my life. I have at least two cups of it everyday. My only complaint is that tea sometimes isn't strong enough for those accidental items of procrastination.

Oh, the conflict.

I think that I must debate each of the pro's and con's of each drink to fully understand which is superior. This might take a while...

Coffee (Pro's):
  • In 2004, coffee was the top agricultural export for 12 countries (tons of business:))
  • Reduces the risk of various diseases such as: Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, cirrhonsis of the liver and gout (check wikipedia for more info on that)
  • Coffee has tons of anti-oxidants
  • Low calorie unless additions are made to the liquid.
  • High in Caffeine leading to the best sleepovers and 2am assignments possible.
  • Making it is a matter of pouring water and coffee into a machine and pressing a button. It is impossible to overcook it. And improbable to make it wrong.
  • There's something comforting in drinking a nice cup of coffee while chatting with friends.
Tea (Pro's)
  • There are more than a hundred different kinds of teas. (If you count each kind of herbal tea)
  • Tea has been around since around 2737 BC (crazy long ago)
  • Tea leaves contain around 200 chemicals and healthy things like flavanoides, amino acids, vitamins (C, E and K), caffeine and polysaccharides. (check wikipedia)
  • Tea has been proven as a great digestive aid. (drink a cup of tea after dinner!)
  • The role of tea is well established in normalizing blood pressure, lipid depressing activity, prevention of coronary heart diseases and diabetes by reducing the blood-glucose activity. (taken straight from wikipedia)
  • Tea has virtually no calories and tastes great without sugar/milk.
  • Green tea has only 10-20% of the caffeine in coffee. This allows you to drink it after dinner and still be able to sleep.
  • There's something comforting about drinking a flavourful cup of tea and reading.
  • I'm drinking a cup of green tea as I write this.
Coffee (Con's)
  • Because of its high caffeine content, coffee has lead some researchers to the realization that it may cause the temporary clogging of arterial walls.
  • Excess coffee consumption may lead to a magnesium deficiency or hypomagnesaemia, and may be a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
  • Coffee is addictive because of caffeine and "coffee junkies" have the same symptoms of drug abusers.
  • One scientist theorizes that the smell of coffee beans/coffee restores appetite.
  • Coffee usually tastes better when flavoured with sugary and fatty ingredients.
  • Coffee is usually much more expense than tea is.
  • Coffee leaves stains, tea removes them.
  • Coffee should not be consumed after 8pm because of its excess caffeine. Believe me, it will be very hard for you to fall asleep.
Tea (Con's)
  • Tea has a tendency of becoming predictable. Coffee is different every time.
  • Because it does not contain as much caffeine, tea won't allow you to stay up for as long or with the same sense of being awake.
  • Because of its lack of calories, tea won't fill you up.
  • Sometimes, when time is of the essence, the tea bag is forgotten and hot bitter water is created. (Yuck.)
  • Likewise to the previous point, the kettle is sometimes neglected, leaving screaming boiling water in the kitchen.
  • Throwing the tea bag into the trash (or compost) is sometimes a nuisance.
  • You must wait for at least 2-3 minutes before the tea bag has soaked through the water and creates the true mixture. Weak tea is never happy tea.

Please, correct me if I'm wrong... but based on these points, tea has clearly won. What do you think, should tea have won? Are there more pro points for coffee that I have neglected? Please comment your thoughts and/or feelings.

The Beverage War must continue. Tea has won this battle... but will it win the war?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekly (or not so much) Book Review numero dos

I wish to apologize for telling the world that I would write a weekly book review and then writing one once a month. You see, the past month has been especially busy with things like vacation on the brain.

Therefore, I wish to make it up to my "readers"- which is apparently my parents and their friends (not that I'm complaining). The most recent book I have read will probably be extremely familiar to my mother's friends. It involves a blog and a paper clip...

You guessed it, One Red Paperclip by Kyle Macdonald. The inspirational story of a man who decided to play Bigger or Better until he is offered a house. He made it after only 14 trades and one year.

It sounds pretty insane, and it is. In fact, I'm sorry to admit that the insanity of the story is just about all this book has going for it. It's a very easy read because the language isn't very extraordinary. However, the language aside, you will not be able to put it down. Shock value can do that to a reader, can't it?

If you are looking for a happy-go-lucky story that may keep your interest for a few days (or in my case, a few hours), this book may be the one for you. That in mind, you may just want to go to his blog and read it from there instead of making the effort of visiting your local library.

My rating for this non-fiction story: 7 out of 10 for effort. It's certainly worth looking him up on Google. Just don't waste the $17.95 (Canadian) it costs to buy his book.

By the way, WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF TRADING A PAPERCLIP FOR A HOUSE? I could be living in my own place by now. Besides that, now that the story is told and published, I can't even steal the idea for a fiction story. Perhaps I could trade it for something bigger...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Quest Begins

"Life is for living, so get on with it"

I read this headline off a newspaper encrusted with ice , a few minutes ago (Yes, I am back in Montreal) as I walked back from Becky's house. Of course, it was too dark to read the article. It always is.

I can't help thinking that this headline was meant for me. I've been spending way too much time engrossed in unimportant things lately. I need to "get on with it", at least that's the way it seems.

Disappointment has been the name of the game in the past month. Disappointing events have been happening time and time again. Obviously, the only person worthy of such disappointment is myself. I've spent too much time being disappointed, and not enough time acting on these feelings.

I've been scared to admit my disappoint me to my friends. Because of this fear, I've also felt more alone than ever. I've been afraid of living and I need a second chance.

That reminds me of Easter. Today is the day that Jesus rose again. He promised a new life for anyone willing to follow him. He has promised me a new life.

Spring is in the air, isn't it? I mean, there is still ten-foot piles of snow and icicles hanging from every roof, but Spring has still sprung. The quiet whispers of forgotten warmth and new life lingers in the freezing wind. (Why is the wind so frigid?)

My birthday is only months away. My sixteenth will be so sweet, I can smell it. The only thing I must change before then is my life. I must begin a quest to change my life. To Live My Life.

It seems possible, perhaps even plausible. After all, I've been changing my life since the day I was born. All I have to do think, believe and act.

Get Ready, World. The rest of my life begins today.

Why don't you live too? We can change our lives together. We can change the world together.