Wednesday, 20 November 2013

GINS/Consumerism Mash-up

Consumerism spreads like a virus. Even the most secluded place now have caught it. The Tarahumara are in one of the most remote places on earth, the Copper Canyons, and still have a tribal society. However, their home has become a tourist trap. Many of the men wear jeans, they have instant noodles for food, and drink soda on a regular basis. The diet that once supported their running is gone now. A hotel development has been planned, featuring a fake Tarahumara village. We have perhaps lost the fine art of running to consumerism. The part-irony in that… consumerism consumes everything. I gather that because they can now buy modern goods and products, they pay sales tax. Now, some of the sales taxes should go towards schools houses being built for the Tarahumara… But it would appear not. I couldn’t find anything as to where taxes go in Mexico, except that they are trying to cut spending.

How are economic systems directly related to consumer choices?

I’m guessing the whole tourist trap started when people got interested in the Tarahumara, likely after Born to Run was published.  People wanted to see the Tarahumara and how they lived. Eventually, the state realized enough people went there for a hotel to be a good profit. A company is now planning a hotel, with that fake Tarahumara village and all that. Tarahumara women and children now sell little trinkets for money, or flat out ask for money, as sharing is an ancient Tarahumara value. Those tourists decided to go to the Copper Canyons, and that resulted in the loss of the Tarahumara identity and culture, already diluted by the Jesuit Missionaries in earlier centuries.

How would your consumer identity be different if you lived in a different nation?

This makes me wonder what it would be like to be a Tarahumaran. What would I buy other than jeans, instant noodles, and soda? The luxuries I live with right now would be unavailable. I wouldn’t have my hiking gear, a computer, video games, an ipod, headphones, a camera, probably not even an epi-pen or inhaler. That would certainly be a big difference for me. Only a basic education, no books either! I love books, and not having them seems an impossibility for me. I think I would be more focused on the necessities, not as much on the wants. It would certainly be a strange mix of modern and ancient, and even a refrigerator would mean I’d be lucky.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Roundtable #1

This is the first roundtable for the Global Issues Novel Study.

I don't know how to embed this...

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Global Issues Novel Study Post #1


What is the main issue being addressed in your novel?

 Running's relationship with enlightenment. The author writes that he doesn't think the worlds best runners also being the most enlightened peoples is a coincidence. McDougall writes that we all love running, but is causes a lot of injuries, with an injury rate of 60-66 percent (80% according to author). He embarks on a quest (kinda) to more about the Tarahumara (Tara-oo-mara) and their relationship with running (as well as how he can safely run with a build such as his).

Why did you choose this piece for your project?

I’m interested in running, and this caught my eye. I'd never heard of the Tarahumara before, nor of ultradistance running. I wanted to learn about something not quite as saddening as the other novels, but it to still be an issue I could kind of relate to (I needed to take a break from Tae Kwon Do due to a foot injury).

What background knowledge do you already possess on this issue?

Nothing, except my own personal experience with running.

What questions do you have as you begin to read?

Is the setting being near drug farms going to play a major role in the novel?
Are the dangerous trails in the canyons going to be important, in terms of moving around?
Is McDougall going to learn what he wants to about running?

What players/characters have been introduced so far?

Christopher McDougall: The author and main character. He’s looking for the Tarahumarans on his quest for knowledge on running
Caballo Blanco: The White Horse, a man who adopted Tarahumaran values and has a similar worldview to Tarahumarans
Salvador Holguín: McDougall’s guide in the canyons
Ángel: Tarahumaran man, introduced by Salvador to McDougall
Marcelino: Tarahumaran boy, very athletic, even by their standards
Rick Fisher: A highly esteemed canyon explorer

Thanks for reading,


Monday, 21 October 2013

Litspiration Challenge #4


Background info:

For this litspiration challenge, I'll be comparing and contrasting a few literary aspects of Watership Down(which I just finished reading) with the Warriors series (which I read for a grade 8 litspiration challenge).Please note: I have deliberately used generalities in my comparisons, to avoid spoiling of the books for those who wish to read them. For some background info:

Warriors is by Erin Hunter (pseudonym for 4 authors!), and is a series of books focused on four/five clans of cats. It is an ongoing series with 5 sub-series. The first books were published in 2003 and 2004.The initial series is about Rusty, a house cat who has left his owner to join ThunderClan.

Watership Down is by Richard Adams, published the the 60s. It's a book about the adventures of a group of bucks (male rabbits) as they journey away from their home, because Fiver, one of the group, has had a premonition of danger.

Part 1: Personification


     In this series, almost all actions are personified. This indicates, to me, that the book is aimed at a Middle School audience, as it is easy to relate to the goings on of the novel. It has a far higher level of personified thoughts than Watership Down. Even the cats’ strategies and how they worry about what their enemy might do are quite humanized. Also, when the cats misbehave, they do things that humans might do when misbehaving. One example is going to the enemy and trying to find a peaceful resolution rather than a fight without your leaders permission. I know I would do that.

Watership Down:

     The rabbits in Watership Down aren't as personified as the cats of Warriors. They're more rabbit-like - how you'd expect a rabbit to think. However, the rabbits are very tricky and clever. I would venture to say that, in the book, they're far more full of tricks than humans. They make elaborate plans and they're good plans, too. I definitely would say that I couldn't think of plans like that if I suddenly found myself in their place. An example of this is their plan to get domestic rabbits out of a hutch. They execute it, although at a cost and even though they are surprised with a very unexpected event.

Part 2: Character development


     The character development in Warriors is more straightforward than in Watership Down. The cats usually have their personality from birth. When events are perceived through their eyes (the narrator inside their head), you can sometimes guess some of the upcoming occurrences. If the cats are developed, they're pretty much always developed outside of battle, and they tend not to get involved with non-cats. They usually have to think and act quite quickly, though. There are times when they are very careful in their descision making; for example, when they are choosing the warriors that are going to find a new place for them to live in the second sub-series.

Watership Down:

     The rabbits have a wide variation of personalities and are trickier than the cats. You can't guess upcoming events as easily through their eyes. The character development for the rabbits is almost always happening. The exceptions are story-telling, in which you get a glimpse at their culture, and setting description. However, they are most prominently developed when they're being tricksters; you get a look at what their thought process was. It can sometimes take a while to fully develop these tricks, but they get the ideas for them almost right off the bat. 

Part 3: Organization of Societies


     The warriors organize themselves in clans, which are headed by a leader, whom have star as a suffix to their name. For instance, they would be born as 'Sprucekit'; then when apprenticed, they'd be 'Sprucepaw'. Then something like 'Sprucefur', or 'Spruceclaw', as a warrior. If they became leader, they'd be 'Sprucestar'. The leader relies on the senior warriors, who lead hunting patrols, border patrols, etc. that the leader demands. The warriors teach apprentices, and they become warriors in their own right. The kits are usually named after appearance. Stories are not told as often to older cats, although they are told to younger cats by the elders. Clans are more organized than the rabbit counterpart, warrens. The female cats are treated differently in warriors than watership down. They can get any position in the clan if they strive for it.

Watership Down:

     In a warren, you can eat when you like, and you don't usually ever go on patrols. They do, however, have leaders and a group of rabbits who the leader appreciates enough to get them help him make decisions (I think males are usually the leaders). The leader has '-rah' suffixed to their name. Rabbits culture is best shown through the stories of El-ahriarah. Coincidence? Nope. Clearly this shows that each regards their '-rah' as representing/being chosen by El-ahriarah. El-ahriarah actually means something in the ancient language 'Basque', the language of the Basque peoples of Spain and France. However, 'rah' and 'Owsla' do not. The Owsla is the group of rabbits the Chief Rabbit consults and regards as his inner circle. Owsla are the equivalent of the senior warriors in Warriors. The rabbits don't have apprentices, tell more stories than the cats, and are usually named after plants. Rabbits value their females for their digging skills and their giving new kits to the warren. In the book, a female leader/Owsla member isn't mentioned.

Part 4: Domestic Members of Their Species


     The warriors despise 'kittypets'. The warriors themselves are feral, and, unlike the rabbits in Watership Down, would never consider releasing domestic cats for increasing their own populations via breeding.

Watership Down:

     The rabbits don't have nearly as low an opinion of domesticated rabbits as the cats do (of domestic cats). The rabbits are, again, feral. In Watership Down, the rabbits conducted a raid on some hutch rabbits, and escaped with three. Two were does, the gender they wanted, having their entire warren made up of bucks until that point.

Thank you for reading!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Analysis for "Sea Devil"


     I have to say I was quite relieved at the end. I approved of his choice to never go fishing alone at night again. However, at the start, I was subconsciously thinking 'No! fishing by yourself at night is a horrible idea!' I see now that in the start, there was some foreshadowing, the protagonist noting where the sparks from the cigarette go, just like him noting where the twin points from the sea devil are. Cigarettes are bad for you, as is netting a sea devil. As for the theme, I think that "Never get too cocky and think that nothing can go wrong," is pretty close.

Analysis for excerpt from "Whale Story"

     Right into it,

     I feel that the protagonist is meant to be the average 11-year-old girl that has moved to a new place. There is something magical about the place, (it happens to be... Bamfield!) not real. The developing theme I see in the excerpt is either about how moving to a new place is OK,and fun, or anything along the lines of anything is possible if you believe. I can connect it to the story in that I am/was where it takes place, so the visualizations are easier, not just nature, but the architectural style. It might have been easier to visualize, had I been lucky enough to see a whale, but what I saw was way more than I imagined.

Bamfield Last Week

Hello to someone who is reading my blog,

     For the past 5 nights two days ago, I was at Bamfield, a town of approximately 150 people on the West Coast. My entire grade was there for marine sciences/biodiversity, but that didn't mean a break from humanities. In the evenings we read short stories and wrote Haikus, and did TttT (Talking to the Text) on those short stories. That means that my next couples posts are going to be analysis paragraphs for an except from the novel Whale Story and the short story Sea Devil.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Back from Summer


     I'm back at school now, and will again be publishing content on this blog. I'm starting off with telling you about what I've read over the summer.

     I read The Two Towers Over the summer, and, as with The Fellowship of the Ring, I really enjoyed it. As I have now started three other books, How to Win Every Argument, Watership Down, and The Return of the King, I'm getting a bit confused as to the events of The Two Towers. The second part of TTT was all about the arduous adventures of Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins. How their guide, the sneaky Smeagol betrayed them... I'm really loving this series and would recommend it anyone who hasn't read it already.

     LoTR is somewhat hard to get into, as the first few chapters of book one are all in the shire, but they establish a strong backbone to the adventure.


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Individual Post 6: Film Study

     Matt and Vincent are the protagonists of The House of the Scorpion, and Gattaca. Right off the bat, an obvious similarity is the relationships between Vincent and Irene, and Matt and María. Both Matt and Vincent face troubles when María and Irene find out what they could look like. I find this interesting, but there are some differences. Matt, in the end, seems to keep his relationship with María, while Vincent decides he probably won't go back to earth. In both Gattaca and The House of the Scorpion, there are genetically inferior humans. Clones are made stupid, and Invalids are not allowed to do anything but menial tasks. They both want to be recognized as what their societies view as normal people. There are also some more major differences. One is that Matt was made just for his organs, whereas Vincent was still a "functioning part of society." Some other things are that Vincent can become a borrowed ladder, and Matt is stuck under the terrible title "Clone" until El Patrón dies.

I made some choice selections from the book, usually one for each point I made above:

     He was ignored. Not mistreated, just ignored. Only María had to be dragged off, complaining loudly. (Farmer 64)

He would read and color and count until he became the best student in the whole world, and then the children would like him and they wouldn't run away. (Farmer 74)

"... You're not a dog. You're so much much more."
     Ordinarily, Matt would have been thrilled by María's words, but the situation was too dire for happiness. (Farmer 217)

Why had the fierce man called him a “little beast”? And why had Emilia told Maria he was a “bad animal”?
            It had something to do with being a clone and also, perhaps, the writing on his foot. (Farmer 34)

     "I'm here to inform you we no longer need your services," Mr. Alacrán said.
     Matt gasped. That meant El Patrón was dead. (Farmer 238)
     "Oh, you were a clone. There's no mistake about that. But we're talking international law now." (Farmer 366)

      "It means you really are El Patrón. You have his body and his identity. You own everything he owned and rule everything he ruled..." (Farmer 367)

Individual Post 5: Narrative Structure

     On it's way to the climax, this book will often go from rising action to falling action and back again. I know this is quite common among longer books. It wouldn't be exciting if it were the same rising action for 200 or even 300 pages. However, one very unique thing I found was I couldn’t really choose 1 specific chapter for the climax. The action continues to rise after what one may think of as the point for falling action to begin. Also, there are really only one to two chapters of introduction, or exposition. You learn more as the book progresses. Now, I think this can repel readers by giving them too little information and them thinking, “uh, ok, but no thanks. I don’t know enough to actually understand what is happening.” But, there is a flipside. Readers can be drawn in by the lack of information and the knowledge that there must be more inside.

     So, to go a little more in depth about the exposition, the strategy Farmer used was interesting. She gave the only chapter in the book not from Matt’s perspective to the man who was given the task of getting at least one Matt to be born. This, I found, only served as a way to gain info on the backstory, and could mislead readers to think that the chapters would be from different perspectives.

     Next are the series of rising and falling actions leading to the end of the book. There seemed to be one of these for each of the times when a major change occurred in Matt. Either he found out something, or interacted with someone to result in a plot twist (usually although, sometimes there were opinion changes). Towards the end of the book, it became apparent that no falling action was happening. It was a dissatisfying cliffhanger end that left you trying to piece together what would happen to Matt. The author to my knowledge also wasn’t going to write a sequel – but apparently one is coming out around September of this year.

     I personally think there was no falling action really because Farmer wanted the readers to make up their own individual versions of what happened to Matt, María, Celia, Esperanza, the lost boys, and the US and Aztlán. But I don’t feel we can do that, because Farmer knows Matt better than any of us.

(I chose not to include specific evidence because I wanted to focus specifically on the structure, not the story)

Individual Post 4: Theme

     Identity is defined by choices, but you can change the amount that they change your identity.

     I chose this as my theme statement because this book is all about choices. El Patrón having clones for his brothers and sisters lives. Choice. Tam Lin deciding to confide and look out for Matt. Choice. Celia treating Matt like a son. Choice. SO many aspects of the book revolve around choices. In the end though, Matt could almost choose how he reacted and how his identity changed through those choices. For instance, he decided not, in the end to let Steven and Emilia's neutral-hostility to him change him. He let María's feelings for him and his for her change him. He let Tam Lin become a fatherly figure to him, and reached a point where he loved him.

     Identity is another part of my theme statement, and I really can say that it's a large part of the novel. You build this picture of the feelings and try to guess at the reason for certain choices each character made. The best spot to look at that kind of thing is in roundtables. But identity remains a large part of most stories, and in many, the identity of the characters changes. Sometimes it is fast, as the novel takes place over long periods of time, but sometimes it is over a short period, and the change is slower paced. Defining is also a fairly large part of the novel, from actually defining the law to looking at major aspects of the characters and saying, "oh, he is a very rude boy who cares only for his selfish wants (Tom)."

"The aristocrat is only a snot-faced boy who thinks he's too good for the rest of us..." (Farmer 287)

     "Oh, you were a clone. There's no mistake about that. But we're talking international law now." (Farmer 366)

      "It means you really are El Patrón. You have his his body and his identity. You own everything he owned and rule everything he ruled..." (Farmer 367)

     Matt suddenly felt light-headed. She was right. He was El Patrón's clone. His fingerprints would be the same, his DNA identical. "If you're wrong," he told María, we'll die." (Farmer 222) (Here is where Matt chooses to try his luck with the El Patrón-only fingerprint/DNA scanner)

Individual Post 3: Connections to Real World Issues

     In 2002, the year The House of the Scorpion was first published, there was over 5,000 tons of Opium produced for both illegal and legal purposes. That is 2.5 TIMES the amount produced in 1980. Still, estimates show that to meet medical demand, opium production should be around 25,000 tons/year (Wikipedia 1). Opium is a big issue in The House of the Scorpion, as the country of Opium has based its whole economy on what we think of as illegal drugs. In Opium, from what I can gather, all drugs are legal. Opium made and agreement with the USA. That was that they would not ship drugs to them (the USA), however, this just meant that drugs were shipped to Africa, Europe, and Asia instead. In our world today, illegal drugs (narcotics) are a problem on the streets. Drugs such as heroine or morphine can be derived from poppies, which, in turn, opium is derived from. These are some select moments where Matt is given hints or understands the problem with drugs.

“… The cleanup crews at the end of the day will find him.” (Farmer 78) (In reference to the dead eejit in the field)

He understood the full extent of it now. It wasn’t only the drug addicts throughout the world or the Illegals doomed to slavery. It was their orphaned children as well. You could say the old man was responsible for the Keepers. (Farmer 368)

            Another issue I noticed was cloning. National Geographic recently published a magazine with cloning as a topic on the front cover. Intrigued, I read it. What I found inside stunned me. Cloning is possible! But humans, as a race, are considering whether it is moral and ethical. Would adapted ecosystems be harmed from the reintroduction of extinct species? Do we, as a race owe it to the species to revive them because we made them go extinct?

Why had the fierce man called him a “little beast”? And why had Emilia told Maria he was a “bad animal”?
            It had something to do with being a clone and also, perhaps, the writing on his foot. (Farmer 34)

Drug production, except medicinal purposes is bad for our world, as this book shows. And again, from what I gather, cloning of humans for organs is legal in many countries in The House of the Scorpion. And what I have to say to that is: Would you kill yourself for your own organs in another version of you?

“Opium” Wikipedia n.p. n.d. May 10, 2013  

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Individual Post: Characterization

      Today, I'm looking at Tom in the literary element characterization. He is a really interesting character, with 2 sides. An "Innocent" side, and a Evil side. Whenever he does something mean he "apologizes." I use quotations because Tom doesn't really apologize. It's like making all the motions, but not being into it. He continues to be an antagonistic character throughout the novel. Trying to drown Maria's dog and laughing when he learns how it dies. However, he has an innocent face that can trick almost anyone! Tom has used this for some very cruel purposes. For example, Maria already forgives very easily, and Tom uses his face to make her forgive him many a time (according to Farmer). Tom is mentioned as being ten times worse than his half brother, Benito, who according to Celia, has no soul. Steven is Tom's other brother, and unlike Benito and Tom, Celia thinks that he has a soul... Sometimes. The comparison between the brothers is very interesting, and provides the reader with a good backbone to judge them by. Celia is quite a motherly person, and so seeing her say something like this really surprising. You know it will likely be the truth, but think that she'd be open to them.
     I'd also like to look at Maria, who is a very interesting character. She seems to go through multiple moods each day, and forgets most things after about a half hour-forty five minutes. Farmer writes a half hour in the novel, but it's sometimes more I find, for example when Maria looks at a clone, she won't talk to Matt for a few days, which would bring that number up. Maria also seems to have a relationship with Matt for the first bit when Matt is released from prison. Tom is constantly trying to break that up because he is jealous. Maria is also a very religious person, reading stories about Saints and comparing Matt to Brother Wolf, who has no soul. No animals have souls (in the Christian religion), but they can still be kind. Maria treats Matt like  a Saint would, but she doesn't view herself as one. She is not selfish and knows that she has faults, just like everyone else. Maria also seems to be forced into a relationship with Tom when Matt holds her dog for ransom.

Thanks For Reading,

Edit: Now knowing I should have provided quotes to back up my points, I will, but I don't have time tonight. 12/05/2013 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Individual Post: Setting

     The descriptions the Farmer provided were absolutely clear. They don't require you to do too much imagining. This can be a good or bad thing, but it really depends whether or not you enjoy making your own places or having them provided. I'm going to take a look at one place that we have started to know more about. That is The Big House. In the later chapters, we have been learning lots more about it from Matt's perspective. For example, the secret passages, multitudinous of rooms, and the people who are closely tied to it. We see what El Patr`on does to the people there. The Big House is not a friendly place. It is a huge estate and we really see that with each room that is there. The piano room, Celia's rooms, El Patr`on's apartments, Tom's room, Steven's room, and so on. There's even a computer room for running the parts of the estate that humans don't need to do.
     The Big House has turned into a major place where the story takes place with it's white marble and expensive different parts. But setting isn't just the big house. Matt goes on expeditions to the Oasis to picnic and often reads there. I think it calms him and motivates him. The oasis is always well described. Scenes of great importance take place there, and I think it's because the oasis will play a large role later on. Either Matt's escape, or something threatens it and Matt will have to stand up to that force to save what has become dear to him. An excellent example of the authors description is the palo verde trees. Rather than just generalizing, Farmer chose a specific species. This might have arisen from personal experience or research, but even so, it shows great consideration of the setting Farmer was looking for. Farmer went above and beyond what you would normally find in a book in terms of description of setting, and even lead me to start guessing at about what time Mexico changed into Aztl`an. That is drawing a reader in if I do say so myself.

-I'll add more if I think I need to!

Edit: Now knowing I should have provided quotes to back up my points, I will, but I don't have time tonight. 12/05/2013

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A couple books to read.


     I figured I should probably write a post about some of the books that I've been reading. Just because the Litspiration - Free Reading Challenge is a bit different this trimester. The two books that I've read recently are: I found this as a draft so I figured I'd share it with you!

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless - By: Jack Campbell
Ungifted - By: Gordan Korman

     One quick and notable thing is that Jack Campbell is an alias for John Hemry.

     Ungifted - I chose to read this book because I've really enjoyed Korman's other books, like the Swindle series. Ungifted took me about 2 or 3 days to read, and I thought it was an excellent novel. Here's a little summary:

     Donovan Curtis just does. He doesn't think first, he just does. This causes a bolt to break, and a letter to be sent. A sleepless night, and a very, very angry superintendent. Donovan ends up in a special program that he knows he won't last ten minutes in. He joins a robotics club (by default), and shows YouTube to someone. He saves his fellow club members from summer school, and their robot starts a brawl (also a attack on another robot, so kind of 2). This, in other words, means Donovan's life is not normal. Normally, he gets lots of "attention" from the highest level of school. This is usually because he does. He doesn't think, he just does.

     The Lost Fleet: Dauntless - It's very interesting how I ended up reading this. I started listening to the audiobook of the second book - The Lost Fleet: Fearless - and I was really hooked. I could visualize my own version of the bridge, with the fleet commander ordering his ships to do things. Again, a little summary:

     I didn't ask to be fleet commander, but it was my duty, being both senior by about one-hundred years to everyone, and because Admiral Bloch put me in charge after his doomed "negotiation" group left. The Syndics were sly, clever, and (not against bureaucrats here) bureaucratic. I had to get this fleet - correction, what was left of this fleet - back into Alliance space. Everyone thinks I can because I'm the legendary Captain John "Blackjack" Geary. I had the look of admiration in their eyes because of something I did almost a century ago. Actually, the story was exaggerated. A lot. I really do hate the hero-worship in this fleet. So I am kind of glad that there are people who doubt me.

     I would really suggest that you read both of these books, but to those fellow people doing the Litspiration Challenge, these are NOT book reviews.

I hope you Enjoyed,

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Individual Blog Post 2 - Thoughts So Far (compressed)

Matt was isolated and uneducated his whole life.  I really think this influenced his perspective of what was happening. He didn’t know what pain was. I guarantee this emphasizes that El Patrón wanted to keep Matt very safe and “intact” until he needed him. He doesn’t really know what to say when he meets other kids. Only the television has given him any exposure, but even that is limited and 99% fictional. He can tell certain things, like Rosa’s resentment of him because the other servants were looking down on her. He viewed everyone but Celia, El Patrón, Tam Lin, and possibly Maria as his tormentors. His lack of education showed up many times in the first segment of the book, but it really seemed to tail off after that, which confused me. He starts receiving education from a teacher who does the same lessons over and over, and seems to be able to do them perfectly. The book didn’t specify the subject matter all too much, except that he was learning about reading and writing, as well as counting. Now, what little education he did have (before “Teacher”) was very Christian, which methinks shows that Celia intended to hang on to what she could bring with her from Aztlán. The fact that a cast of characters provided for Aztlán leads me to believe that either Matt will go there, or there will be a chapter or two regarding Celia’s history. This might uncover a reason that Celia never used some of her time off to educate Matt. It could also be that she was ALWAYS either working or sleeping. I also found that Celia’s mother-son relationship with Matt to be a strong indication of the author being a mother. Perhaps she views herself as a Celia–esque character? Celia might literally mean, when she says mi vida, my life. El Patrón may have threatened or created a punishment for her if Matt got hurt. This further strengthens El Patrón’s role as a Prantagonist. He is nice to some, but utterly ruthless with others. His former desire to survive (I think) fermented into a desire to be powerful, and his instincts morphed The Big House into a Darwin like hall of survival.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


     So I have just learned that we are switching projects, from book review to the study of a single book. The House of the Scorpion. I added a tab linked to my group's blog (Julia, Maanasa, Liam, Lauren, and myself).

     I think the change of focus will be an interesting opportunity to go really in depth with one novel, and in later reviews, it might help me go deeper. I'm excited for the "round table" discussions, where group members will share what they think of the chapter of section we have just read. It will be interesting to get 4 different opinions on the same novel.
     I still need to give people the blog award that I got from Maanasa with 11 people. If anyone has some suggestions for blogs with 200 or less followers that deserve more attention, post in the comments.

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Fellowship of The Ring - Part 2

For part 2, I will be adding more of my own thought not discussed in part 1. So, first I would like to discuss the uncommon relationship between Gimli and Legolas. Gimli and Legolas start off as the enemies because the elves dislike the dwarves almost unnatural love of stone. The theme of evolving loyalties can be uncovered here. At first Legolas and Gimli would no doubt have left one another to an evil if one of them were taken by it. As the novel progresses, particularly in Lothlorién, they become close friends and are always together. This goes to show the difference between races, being most prominent of the “good” races in the differences of dwarves and elves. The elves love trees and despise the dwarves love of stone that led them to unleashing Durin’s Bane. The dwarves dislike the elves despising their love and the two races essentially became enemies. It was a surprise to me after my vague memories of the movies that they were not friends to begin with. I provided my evidence in my thoughts.
Now I will speak about the continued importance of lineage from The Hobbit. I saw, just as in The Hobbit the importance of lineage. This can be found in Aragorn the Ranger’s title, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir of Isildur. Even Frodo’s title, Frodo, son of Drogo, show the importance of lineage. Most characters titles include their fathers. A couple of exceptions would be Legolas and Gandalf the Grey. Again, I provided evidence in my thoughts.
Once more, I noticed the importance of named items. Glamdring and Ocrist are mentioned again, although the most important named weapon is Andúril, the Flame of the West. Andúril is Aragorn’s sword and is re-forged in the book, as it was Isildur’s father’s sword, broken in the fight with Sauron.
Something new that I noticed was the importance of council. In the novel, The Company seeks council after The Council of Elrond is finished. They often hold council among themselves to decide on courses of action. This, to me, demonstrates the importance of council. The Company asks for council quite a bit in the story, and the results are always of interest to the reader. It isn’t superficial, there is always a reason, but it often helps the reader understand aspects of the story or have their guesses proven correct.
I noticed the importance of loyalty in this novel. The Company is originally a group of assorted adventurers, for the most part complete strangers. As the book progresses, as with The Hobbit, the theme of “evolving loyalties” can be found. The Company can be seen transforming from a group of strangers to close friends that rely on one another, trust, and help one another.

The Fellowship of The Ring - Part 1

So, just as with my last review, I will be sharing my own thoughts, and either agreeing or disagreeing with my peer. So! On to discussing The Fellowship of The Ring. Azhar, my peer stated that, “A general theme in The Fellowship of the Ring is good triumphs over evil; the good guys are destroying the bad guys a lot of the time.” Now, I agree with the statement that a recurring theme throughout the novel is “Good triumphs over evil,” however; the bad guys aren’t exactly bowling pins with a strike headed their way. I found that this occurred most visibly in Moria, where The Company takes a rough blow. I’d say that good triumphs over evil most prominently in Moria too, for while The Company takes that rough blow, they dispel a terrible evil. A good example of a contradictory theme is when the mountain Caradhras turns them away from the pass near its peak. As Azhar provided no evidence, I will: To sum up chapter 5 of “Book 2” in The Fellowship of The Ring, A party of Orcs and an evil presence attack The Company in Balin’s Tomb, Near the exit of Khazad-Dúm (Moria) Gandalf puts up a fight, but is soon knocked down that the stairs the rest of The Company used to escape. They flee down into the earth, but soon run into a large chamber with a very narrow bridge. As they enter, The Company notices the Orcs have caught up with them. Not yet knowing what the evil presence is, under the command of Gandalf, they flee across the bridge. Upon reaching the end, Gandalf turns around and recognizes the evil presence as a Balrog. He steps onto the bridge shouting, “You cannot pass!” He is exhausted from his use of magic at Balin’s Tomb, but breaks the bridge underneath the Balrog. Just as it falls, the Balrog uses its whip to drag Gandalf into the depths of Khazad-Dúm. The Company flees, heeding Gandalf’s last words, “Fly you fools!” with Aragorn leading them to Lothlorién.
I noticed that next, Azhar wrote, “The world described by this book is very immersive, and well detailed; there are even some maps of Middle-Earth at the back!” I have to agree. Although I struggled to find the Shire on the maps, I found that I felt like I was one of The Company, ever present on important occasions. The story is very detailed and the archaic writing style made me feel transported to the past, to the land of Middle-Earth, where events of momentous importance were happening. However, he did not provide any evidence, so I will: “The Company now went down the road from the Gates. It was rough and broken, fading into a winding track between heather and whin that thrust amid the cracking stones. But still it could be seen that once long ago a great paved way had wound upwards from the lowlands of the Dwarf-kingdom. In places there were ruined works of stone beside the path, and mounds of green topped with slender birches, or fir-trees sighing in the wind. An eastward bend led them hard by the sward of Mirrormere, and there not far from the roadside stood a single column broken at the top.” Did you have trouble visualizing that?
Azhar said that, “One small “nit-pick” I have with the book is that I think “said” is a little over-used, but it is only a little issue and it should not get in the way of anything (unless you read to people).” I personally agree with your “nit-pick,” but I found that I could usually filter such things as these out and ignore it. My evidence that “said” is overused:
““Say not unscathed, but if you say unchanged, then maybe you will speak the truth,” said Aragorn, “But lore wanes in Gondor, Boromir, if in the city of those who once were wise they now speak evil of Lothloién. Believe what you will, there is no other way for us – unless you would go back to Moria-gate, or scale the pathless mountains, or swim in the Great River all alone.”
“Then lead on!” said Boromir. “But it is perilous.”
“Perilous indeed,” said Aragorn, “fair and perilous; but only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them. Follow me!””
Azhar wrote, “I think there were some unnecessary details (especially in the beginning), I like to “get to the chase”, but I do appreciate how it really gives a good backbone to the story.” Once more, I am forced to agree. Although the beginning is slow, I found that momentum was picked up on every page and that made me read faster each time. I can understand how the slow 2-3-chapter start could even make someone stop reading, but yes, it does give a good backbone to the story, unlike stories that jump in to the action without any explanation. Your point about unnecessary details I do disagree with. I found every sentence important and strengthening to the story. Here’s my evidence: To sum up the 27 pages of chapter one, Bilbo is holding a party for his 111th birthday. It also happens to be Frodo’s birthday, and much of the chapter is leading up to it. There are lots of bits about gossip about the party and that can get annoying, but it builds characters that can make the story more interesting. At the party, Bilbo gives his speech and as a finale, he puts The Ring on his finger and quietly exits. Being invisible, he flees back to his house, for he intends to leave Bag-End that day. Gandalf convinces him to leave The Ring behind, so that Bilbo doesn’t turn evil. Bilbo leaves the ring to Frodo, and the adventure begins.
“The story is easy to visualize, even if you haven’t seen the movie.” Wrote Azhar. My response is: Oh, yes! The story has the detail of a painting when viewed in your minds eye and you may picture anything with Tolkien’s descriptive language. I don’t remember the movie, so there is no way for me to compare what I saw in my mind and the movie. I will forever have an image in my mind of Gandalf the Grey standing on a small bridge challenging Durin’s Bane, and of Aragorn standing upon Weathertop, examining a stone, and of Gimli and Legolas in an elven boat smiling with a twinkle in their eyes. Read my evidence: “They had gone little more than a mile into the forest when they came upon another stream, flowing down swiftly from the tree-clad slopes that climbed back westward towards the mountains. They heard it splashing over a fall away among the shadows on their right. Its dark hurrying waters ran across the path before them, and joined the Silverlode in a swirl of dim pools among the roots of the trees.”
 Azhar stated, “The story is very engaging because it is a huge “myth-like” kind of story; you can forget about real-life here.” Indeed you can. When reading any of the 520-some-odd-pages, you feel as if you were there, seeing the story of The Fellowship of The Ring unfold before you. I agree it is like an Epic, a huge story about great deeds and many details of story. Just read the book, you’ll see what we mean.
            At the end of his review, Azhar said, “I recommend this book to people who want to escape this world and enter another, and who have plenty of time to read a long story like this. I would not recommend this book to people who want a quick book to read, this book will take a while, and once you finish it, you’ll probably want to read the other books.” I must second this. If you want a quick read, perhaps an abridged version is better, however, if you want to occupy your mind with the compelling tale of The Lord of The Rings I would definitely recommend the full length editions.

The Hobbit Litspiration Challenge

Book Review Part 2 (SPOILERS):

            I will now share my own thoughts on a few elements not discussed in the first half of this review. In the novel, I noticed that the individuals in certain races are, on the most part, very typical of their races. I found that The elves, dwarves, humans, hobbits, and goblins are portrayed very differently in the novel. This sounds like a stereotype, however, in the hobbit, all of the goblins are evil, up-to-no-good characters. Only one of them seems to have any importance, and that is the Great Goblin, whom is very quickly brought out of the story. The humans can be good, like Bard, can be evil, like the Master, but are usually in-between. Dwarves are portrayed as treasure-lovers, and that can be good or can be bad. If dwarves care about their gold too much, it can be unhealthy and have dire consequences (like war). Elves are all good – in the book. They sing songs and are very merry, but remain fierce fighters. They all love nature, too. Hobbits are, like humans, in-between, but on a different scale. Hobbits are “respectable” if they don’t go on adventures or quests, and Bilbo had parents from two very different families. I can back it up with evidence, too. For elves,
““Well, Well!” said a voice, “Just look! Bilbo the hobbit on a pony, my dear! Isn’t it delicious!”” (pg. 57) For dwarves,
““But nothing we will give, not even a loaf’s worth, under the threat of force. While an armed host lies before our doors, we look on you as foes and thieves.”” (Need page) For humans and hobbits they can be either good or bad. For good humans, in chapter 15, which I will let you read, Bard, although grim as he is, is a very important hero in The Hobbit. For bad humans, I use an example to explain. The Master’s greed for gold made him run to the wastes, where he later perished. And for good hobbits, I noticed Bilbo is a “not respectable hobbit” but is the main character and is, nonetheless, a good hobbit. He is also respectable when the story starts. Bad hobbits, like Bilbo’s relations do things like try to take over his hobbit-hole and get his stuff while he is gone. Finally, I will provide a quote to support my observations of goblins,
“The goblins were very rough, and pinched unmercifully, and chuckled and laughed in their horrible stony voices; and Bilbo was more unhappy even than when the troll had picked him up by his toes.”
            While reading, I noticed the importance of lineage. For example, Bilbo frequently referred to his Took “side” and Bagging “side.” The Tookish and Baggins’ are very different. In the book, Bilbo’s “Took side” is calling him onwards on his quest whilst his “Baggins side” often makes him think warmly of his Hobbit-Hole in the Shire. That shows the importance of lineage in the book. For example, Bard accomplishes (a) great deed(s) and he is a direct descendant of the ruling family of Dale (a rather important town in The Hobbit). Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, is the title of the dwarf Thorin. That shows the importance of lineage that Tolkien included. I picked tis quote out of the book to support my thoughts. “The Tookish part was getting very tired, and the Baggins was getting daily stronger. “I wish now only to be in my own arm-chair!” he said.”
            I decided to do a bit of research as to why Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and what inspired him. I found that Tolkien stated that Bilbo is meant to be the average person living in a rural area from the 1930’s. He also said that Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon epics, like Beowulf, inspired him. Tolkien was a scholar of ancient languages and I can use that to guess he was inspired by an ancient language to make runes a large part of The Hobbit. Two such examples are Elvish runes and Moon-Runes.
            The last thing I will share my thoughts on is the symbolism of items. I noticed swords and their names have large symbolism in The Hobbit, and there are some examples, “Orcrist” and “Glamdring,” to the goblins “Biter” and “Beater.” The black arrow that Bard uses for a great deed is like Orcrist or Glamdring, but for Bard, and Bard alone. He briefly thinks/talks to himself about its importance to his family, but no more is said of it.

The Hobbit Review Part 1

Book review: The Hobbit Part 1

            For this first part of the review, I will be sharing and contemplating a peers thoughts. I would like to start by comparing our views on theme. Julia said (in her review), “[T]hemes such as self-discovery and evolving loyalties can be uncovered.” She provided evidence in the form of a quote and an explanation. They are: “This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure.” As well as: Just like his descendants, Bilbo Baggins preferred a quiet, average life, but along his journey, we can see his personal evolution into a proactive and adventurous hobbit. I totally agree. In the beginning, Bilbo even shows a bit of hostility towards his soon to be travelling companions. Self-Discovery occurs most prominently, in my opinion, in Mirkwood, a wild forest of the north. I have two more quotes to support this.  In the beginning, he says when he is alone, “Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!” (pg. 22) Here is the other one, from later in the book. 
““Go on! Go on! I will do the stinging!” And he did. He darted backwards and forwards, slashing at spider-threads, hacking at their legs, and stabbing at their fat bodies if they came too near.” (pgs. 159-160). Next I would like to share my view on setting. Some might think it is the same as theme, but is most certainly is not. In her review, Julia said, “One of my favourite things in fictional books is having settings and details strong enough to truly take your mind to a different place. I found this more than present throughout this tale, and that is what truly tied me in.” However she did not provide any evidence.  I must say before I do that I agree wholeheartedly. I had no difficulty envisioning anything written on any of the 285 pages. It was beautifully descriptive. Now listen to this quote and see if you can tell me you had trouble envisioning it. “The next morning was a midsummer’s morning as fair and fresh as could be dreamed: blue sky and never a cloud, and the sun dancing on the water.” (Need to find pgs.) That ties nicely to the next thing, the literary style that Tolkien uses. Julia stated, “Though some may find it too archaic, I really appreciated the strong literary style that Tolkien used. For the most part, it was easy to follow, and yet contained sentence and paragraph structures that most of us wouldn’t normally consider using.” The evidence I found was, “This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure.” I confidently can say that no-one I know would have started a book like that. I agree with this, yet again. I LOVED the literary style in The Hobbit, it made me want to learn how things used to be written and write a story of an adventure like this one. I don’t know a book other than this that had things in brackets explain things, and those sometimes made me smile, laugh, or both. Here is some evidence in the book that I found.
““I believe he is trying to tell us something,” said Balin; ”but I cannot follow
the speech of such birds, it is very quick and difficult. Can you make it out, Baggins?”
      “Not very well,” said Bilbo (as a matter of fact, he could make nothing of it at all); but the old fellow seems very excited.”” (pg. 242)
That was an example of the brackets used in the book, and a rather funny one in my opinion. There is one other thing that I could easily find in Julia’s review. That was the connections in the novel. She said, “Overall there was an intriguing sense of connection between various parts to form the book as a whole, my favourite connection being through Bilbo’s frequent wishes to be back at home.” Her only evidence to support this was, “Bilbo’s frequent wishes to be back home.” I do agree that there was a sense of connection in the novel. There would often be (*cough* *cough*) bracketed connections back to other bits to explain the answer to a question that you might have or might’ve had. My evidence is, once more, a quote from the book,
““I have absolutely no use for dragon-guarded treasures, and the whole lot could stay here for ever, if only I could wake up and find this beastly tunnel was my own front-hall at home!”” (pg. 205)
That was just one of many times he wished to be back home, be it because he was approaching a dragon, starving, or lost.