Books Every Boy Should Read

I distinctly remember being in elementary school and only reading a select few books. There’s always the few books schools would assign, the ones that tested your reading comprehension, but none of those were as interesting as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles books my mom would buy me. I don’t remember much else from those years other than that I knew everything Tolkein like the back of my hand, and I don’t remember even understanding them, but definitely chugging through the Lord Of the Rings.

That point being that the time when a boy leaves elementary school and goes on to enter middle school is an odd transition period, in many ways more awkward than the transition to high school. Middle school is distinct in that the kids never even raised the question of finding themselves before, and suddenly they are thrust into the entire matter. It is their first taste of drama, their first glimpse into adulthood and freedom and all the misery that comes with it. By no means are they adults by this age, but simply they have the aspires to be adults by this age and that’s what counts the most. Some would argue that children seem to be growing up faster, and, whether true or not, presses this issue of adulthood even further.Read More »

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Aftermath of the Paris Attacks

After the night of fury and chaos in Paris, the world is still dazed. It’s being reported that 129 people were murdered, but with many more still injured and in critical condition. President Francois Hollande called the attacks an “Act of war“. And although the French government has only just begun to identify the attackers (You can read the passport nationalities further down in the Reuters article) ISIS has already claimed responsibility for the attack. It is too early yet to know anything for sure.

This attack comes just months after the ruthless slaughter of the Charlie Hebdo office in France. Using the recent past as a guide, it is possible to make assumptions on the aftermath of the attack.

What was unique about the Charlie Hebdo attack was that since it specifically targeted the magazine, the event sparked a wave of free speech sentiment. But what was typical about it was the jailing of 69 people that spoke differently by the French government, most notably the French comedian Dieudonne. This was mostly ignored. Alongside of this came the rise in right-wing fascist activity in Europe, calling for the removal of Muslim immigrants. Of course a surge of Nationalism took place in many other groups as well.Read More »

Reflections on NaNoWriMo

Starting tomorrow, on November 1st, the National Novel Writing Month officially begins. The goal is for a concentrated month in which participants aim for at least 50,000 words written during that month (even though novels are generally 80,000 words). However, they do admit that the length they choose makes most novels turn out to be short novels or even novellas. Their reason being:

We don’t use the word “novella” because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way “novel” does.

Water for Elephants was written as a result of NaNoWriMo and later went on to become a major motion picture.
Water for Elephants was written as a result of NaNoWriMo and later went on to become a major motion picture.

NaNoWriMo is nonprofit organization and runs largely off donations and sponsors. Their main focus of prizes is simply that winners get the satisfaction of completing their novel, the winners being people who meet the writing goals. There is also a list of other prizes that winners get, such as 50% of the Scrivener writing software and other discounts to writing related perks. Also to boost their credibility they have sections dealing with media coverage of the event and a list of books published as a result of NaNoWriMo. One of the most famous novels published being Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants”.Read More »

The Roles of Art

I find it interesting in the way art almost entirely reflects the artist. Of course this seems obvious, but there’s also unintentional ways it reflects the artist. This is noticeable when you take a writer who doesn’t make an outline for their writing. If they begin to just write and see what comes out, it almost always expresses subtle traits of the writer. The tone they use, the events they portray, the characters they establish, it all reveals their subconscious feelings. This is why when you’re done reading a good book you feel as if you personally know a writer because of how much of their personality you’ve picked up.

After consuming all forms of art, paintings, writing, music, ect, you begin to notice a trend in topics. The universal themes artists are usually to make a point or to get the audience to feel a certain way. Themes like war, conflict, relationships, money, and nature are used to guide the audience to the conclusion the artist intended. For instance in Remarque’s novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” the brutal imagery of WWI is used to establish a relatively anti-war message. The author saw an issue with the current state of things so he wrote the novel as not only a record of it but as an argument against it. But notice how if there were no wars there would be no point to write an anti-war novel. Another example would be Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, if there were no dust bowl, the book would not have to be written. This shows how many times art is used as an argument against a certain established event/tradition, and often shows a proposal for a different one. Because of this many forms of art carry a counter-culture message.Read More »

Female Body Image and Marketing

Many people might have noticed lately the #PlusIsEqual manufactured by Lane Bryant. The aim of the campaign is seemingly to get more coverage for these plus size women. The mission statement on their website reads as is:

67% of US women are size 14 to 34. But they’re underrepresented on billboards, magazines, TV…everywhere. We believe all women should be seen and celebrated equally. See what people are saying. Add your voice and join us in calling for equal representation.

So of course this is a noble cause. It just so happens that Lane Bryant specializes in selling plus size women’s clothing, and no doubt the campaign is to raise profits. If they are able to successfully make this the accepted body type, they’ll be able to raise their profits with the flood of women accepting the size and buying their clothes.Read More »

A Few Books Everyone Should Read

So summer is here and everyone is making their summer reading lists, so I thought I should make mine. The way I chose these books is based entirely on impact and relevance that they still hold today. It’s the fact that how much these books have influenced the way our society functions that people should educate themselves on these ideas, even if they don’t necessarily agree with them. But that’s the beautiful thing about education: you don’t have to agree with everything. Educating yourself on opposing views in no way makes you dumber. I also did not make this list numbering the books in importance, I just couldn’t bring myself to it.

  • The Bible: It’s hard to start with how much this book has impacted human history and even our contemporary world. Even if you don’t agree with religion or christian ideals, this book is crucial just in putting history into perspective.
  • The Quran: Again with impacting the religious world. Islam is the world’s second largest religion with approximately 1.6 billion followers. To begin to approach issues throughout history and those playing on the evening news, an understanding of the Quran is important in understanding those issues.
  • Origin of SpeciesCharles Darwin’s book published that proposed the evolution of species is still controversial today. And though, published as a piece of science, this book has historical relevance as well. Many policies during America’s Gilded Age were dubbed as “Social Darwinism” and continue to impact religion, politics, and science today and far into the future.
  • The Communist ManifestoYes communism, that dirty word that nobody is allowed to utter. Marx has a lot of important things to say in this declaration, even if you don’t believe in communism. There is so much misinformation and propaganda surrounding the cold war, the first step is understand what countries such as the Soviet Union actually believe.
  • The Wealth of Nations: Adam Smith’s seminal book exploring topics such as capitalism and free markets. Smith’s examination of economics is key to understanding schools of thought endorsing free markets, such as the majority of libertarianism.

I tried to create this list with a balance of opposing views, for instance putting both The Communist Manifesto and Wealth of Nations, two very different books. I’m considering writing a light reading list later on. I understand not everyone wants to sit around all day reading Origin of Species so I might make a list for more enjoyable books soon.

B.B. King Tribute Event

Today the city of Memphis put on a tribute concert in W.C. Handy Park just off Beale Street for the late B.B. King. There was a light rain up until 11 a.m. when the concert started, then picking up later in the show with a brief downpour. The rain didn’t seem to bother the lighthearted crowd, in fact a few of them were dancing in the rain in front of the stage. I was lucky enough to get a second row seat in front of the stage, seeing how the first row was reserved for family and friends of B.B.

LucilleBefore the show and whenever the rain lightened up, Lucille and one of B.B.’s amps were displayed on the front of the stage, and of course a crowd gathered in front all madly taking pictures. There was barely a hint of mourning in the crowd. Everyone was in good spirits, drinking beer and discussing old stories of B.B. and other blues artists. There was a slew of speakers including the mayor of Memphis, and my personal favorite being B.B. King’s drummer Tony Coleman. Mr. Coleman went on and told stories of when he first met King and what a great man he became of it, and even did a pretty good impression of King too. Afterwards he went back and played drums with the rest of the All-Star band and Coleman sang lead on “The Thrill is Gone”.

The very last performance was done by Bobby Rush, a long time friend of B.B. At the end of the tribute Rush came out and said a few words for King and read a verse from the bible. As the last tribute of the day Mr. Rush pulled out his harmonica and did a lone performance of “When the Saints go Marching in.” The crowd sang along and when it was over we all marched out to Beale Street and waited for the hearse to arrive.

Crowds gathering on Beale St. for the procession.
Crowds gathering on Beale St. for the procession.

It was emphasized throughout the concert that B.B. was a man of love and that’s how we should remember him, and that’s just how it was. In the crowd we were all friends. There was no fear or discrimination, no cruelty or selfishness, we were all there not to mourn his death but to celebrate his life. While waiting for the procession to come through someone pointed out to me that the it’s hard for a crowd to gather that large in Memphis without a riot starting. Even though I’ve been a lifelong fan of King, I’ve only lived in Memphis a few short months. It was easy to see the tragedy that struck the city and it was the only thing that could have unified the people in such a way.

Eventually the hearse came through carrying B.B.’s body following a brass band playing in the street. Once it passed, the crowds dispersed with most going home or a few sticking around for some shopping and grabbing a bite to eat. Many of the speakers and performers could be seen walking around Beale Street in the shops and restaurants, all of them happy to stop and talk about the blues. Within the hour it was clear when the event had died down, and it was time to go home.

Graffiti on the wall entering W.C. Handy Park.
Graffiti on the wall entering W.C. Handy Park.