Assigned Reading

 

I’m reading the abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Everyone keeps on saying what a good book it was and how it was their favorite assigned reading book in high school.

So far, my worst books were Oedipus Rex and The Odyssey because I found them boring. Greek and Roman mythology is interesting, but nothing changes. It’s like how I’m bored with the Bible. I’m a good Catholic, private school Pre-K through eight, public high school but in Confirmation class and Sunday Bible and Catechism readings with my family. I’ve read the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelations twice but other passages multiple times. I don’t think that’s a good thing. I can go through the motions of Mass and tune out everything and listen to a sentence or two of the Gospel and I know the story. Second readings are more confusing but no one focuses on those as much. If God inspired some new evangelists to write a Bible II, I’d read that enthusiastically.

I liked All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque because big font and spacing and it related to what I was learning in history. I watch videos in that class and it made war sound more interesting and less textbook-y. My brother’s name is Paul so I liked the main character immediately. I liked his closeness with his war buddies, Kat, Kropp, Tjaden, Muller, Haie, and Leer. I loved how chapter five started with “Killing each separate louse is a tedious business when a man has hundreds. The little beasts are hard and the everlasting cracking with one’s fingernails very soon becomes wearisome.” because it was where I started reading after my initial is-this-book-boring skim through. I saw Paul’s change from someone who enlisted because his classmates all were to a soldier afraid of family to a dead man so insignificant in the whole grand scheme that he was nameless, third-person. “He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.” I love that I memorized lines from that book after writing and highlighting them in my notes.

I loved To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read that book three times in my own time before freshman year. I was never behind because I knew that book and all I had to do was the analysis. I liked how Scout was a tomboy and I loved how she was ham for that play. I love how chicken wire and Boo Radley saved her life. I loved her and her friends, Jem and Dill.

I read Fahrenheit 451 in eighth grade and it confused me. In ninth, it was no better. I just had to do more work – vocabulary flash cards, symbolism, and analysis.

I don’t like A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens because I don’t like Lucie Manette or her father. I think I was cheering for the wrong side because I found Madame Defarge fascinating. I didn’t like all the symbolism and descriptions because they were tiring to read. Why does wine symbolize death?

I hate Romeo and Juliet. So much needless death. And the tights in the movie. I need more reasons for really not liking it. I Sparknoted, Schmooped, Cliffnoted, and Gradesavered it and didn’t really attempt to read it. I got Bs on reading checks and a D on the overall test.

I think that was all my assigned reading and if not, whatever I missed didn’t impact me at all and I formed no opinions about it. Also, there was this book with ice and plane cast-off and canned food. The main character was male and the actor for the movie had a pasty pale behind that was seen briefly on-screen because my teacher was outside talking to someone and didn’t skip through. My class was very immature about this. Rats were eaten. There were wolves and a creepy guy with missing teeth. There was a grandma and a catfish in toilet. There was a cream of rat soup recipe in that book. I don’t remember the title or the plot.

I don’t know if I like The Count of Monte Cristo. The most memorable thing so far was that guy who was executed and that “graphic” description of blood spurting from his neck. To be honest, I was expecting a more gruesome death. There was a crowd and big important people watching. The other guy (innocent maybe) got out alive with the Count’s help. Dantes’ vengeance is supposed to be the most interesting part and I’m not there yet. I hate how everyone’s go-to is suicide and it’s seen as more honorable to die than to lie. Honorable suicide is like Red Badge of Courage. I don’t deserve to talk about that book because I didn’t even plough through a single chapter. The main character was a coward. He hid. He ran. He lied. War sucks. People were dying around him.

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BRAWL

In the middle of the year, my English teacher mentioned BRAWLing (Battle Royale All Will Learn discussion-type thing). My teacher also recently assigned a quote picture from All Quiet on the Western Front. We spent an entire discussing that. First the directions were simple: drop your favorite quote from the book over a picture that matched. By the end of the period, it was a movie with each period competing for extra credit points. It never happened, by the way.

I hoped the BRAWL would go something like that. We received a handout explaining the basics on the next time he mentioned it. Nothing else for about two months. On the 20th, we formed groups and I was prepared to fail.

Last year, I never spoke during Socratic Seminars. I had a scary teacher who was moody and sometimes would rant at my class just because it was sixth period. There were two people who actually knew what they were doing and came prepared with notes. A handful of others said “I agree” a lot and got some participation points. It was very quiet. I received a zero on every one.

Four days later, we got our questions. They were a combination of the best written by us, all the periods put together. If yours was selected, extra credit. If not, oh well.

There were amazing questions like these:

- In two of the previous novels we read, A Tale of Two Cities and All Quiet on the Western Front, as well as The Count of Monte Cristo, the theme of not trusting others and being on your own is prominent. However, this theme is also contradicted with the relationship of Lucie and her Father, Faria and Dantes, and Paul and his comrades. Why do you think that there is this contradiction? What is the real underlying theme? Why would the author contradict their own major theme?

- In numerous works of literature, the central dilemma is often presented at the beginning of the story, and a happily ever after is reserved for the final chapters. However, in ‘The Count of Monte Cristo,’ Dumas twists this around by placing a fairytale-like ending at the beginning, then shatters this illusion as the plot thickens and betrayal and false promises come to surface. What could be the purpose of this arrangement in regards to the structure of a theme?

And there were other ones like these:

- Why do you think Dumas decided to choose the island, Monte Cristo, as the place that held the fortune? Does the name, Monte Cristo, have anything to do with it? Is there any significance about where the treasure was hidden? 

- Why is granite so important that is mentioned in two major turning points in Dantes life? 

- Take note of the date of Dantes’s escape. Why would Dumas have lined up Dantes’s escape to this particular date in spite of its almost numerical impossibility? 

I had a lot of fun answering the latter ones. I read about a Monte Cristo sandwich (fried ham and cheese), the meaning of symbols of gravestones, pirates (Red Beard), legends (dragons guarding islands), numerology (fourteen day people have strong negative influences on others if they are aware of their own energies), and religion, mythology and folklore.

I had to speak for my group and I did. All three times and I think I did good. There was also an online discussion with the same questions. I answered the last question.

- The date of Dantes escape is February 28, 1829. He entered the Chateau d’If in February 28, 1815. He was imprisoned for exactly fourteen years. Dumas might have chosen these dates for the symbolism of the number fourteen found in the Bible and numerology.

- According to several biblical and palm-reading sites (thisthisthisthis, and this) from the first few pages of Google’s more reliable-looking links, seven is a lucky number and fourteen is double that, which means double spiritual perfection and double completion. The number two (2×7) symbolizes incarnation. This relates to Dantes because he rose as a different man from he sea, the graveyard of the Chateau d’If. He was extremely lucky to have escaped alive, and the perfection and completion he desires will be achieved only through his vengeance.

-In the Book of Proverbs, the expression “the fear of the Lord” occurs fourteen times (I checked with an online copy of the Bible and ctrl F). Dantes seems to think that he’s God because he’s righting his world as he desires after it fell apart in his absence. Those who are good to him, he graces with gifts (his distracting presence to Faria, knowledge and gifts to the pirates, diamond to Caderousse, etc) and those who wronged him, he will punish. 

- The fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover, when God delivered the firstborn of Israel from death. (Exodus 12) Brief summary: God told Moses and his brother in Egypt each household needed a male lamb on the tenth day of the first month. On the fourteenth day, everyone in Israel killed their lambs at twilight as a sacrifice. The Jews would mark a blood X on their door and the angel of death would pass over that house. The firstborn male child would be killed in each unmarked house. Here, Dantes is the angel of death and Danglars, Villefort, and Fernand have unmarked doors. Dantes is more creative than this angel. 

I sound smart. Well-researched, at least. I need to work on relating the information to the book and staying on task. The question had nothing to do with the number fourteen; I got there all on my own. As far as I know, nothing important happened on February 28th. I subtracted the years and got fourteen. I’m almost certain I got it wrong. But in English, you can twist around wrong answers if you ramble intelligently. Most of the time you get at least partial credit for getting something right, and if you’re lucky, extra credit for uniqueness.

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WWI Poetry

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A while ago, we wrote a poem in class by combining various lines from other poems (“Dolce Est Decorum Est” – Wilfred Owen, “Break of Day in the Trenches” – Isaac Rosenberg, “The Conscript” – Wilfred Gibson, and “Dreamers” – Siegfried Sasson). The theme of all the poems was war because we just finished reading All Quiet on the Western Front

The final poem my group came up with was:

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

It seems, odd thing, you grin as you pass

Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,

Then suddenly I shudder as I see

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags,

And mocked by hopeless longing to regain

What do you see in our eyes

The torn fields of France.

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a story

Hello, hi, it’s been a while. My teacher wasn’t hounding us on February blog posts and I kind of fell behind. Some people in my class are falling in love with their blogs.

I am not. It feels like another diary. I used to keep them until I found out that my brother could pick the locks with a lead pencil. Stupid locks. For ages seven through ten, I tried to keep up and wrote daily. It was horrible. I had girly stickers and actually used the dictionary and thesaurus to find big words that my brother wouldn’t understand. He was two years older than me and also had equal access to those books and the internet.

I felt like I had to make up something kind of believable and interesting every day because he was reading it. I wrote fantastic stories. Love pentagons (five was my favorite number), gazillions of imaginary friends, wish lists, and rants about unicorns not being real. Anything to fill up the pages. The fake stuff I wrote in pink, sparkly, glitter pens, the kind with feathers on the end and glitter that rubbed off everywhere.

The real stuff I wrote in the margins with a 0.5 lead pencil as small as I could. I barely wrote anything real. My brother teased me and it was fine because it was all fake. I eventually got fed up with my books of lies and threw them away. The most exciting things were weekend trips, As on tests, and being in the last five of spelling bees.

Once, I brought home a tiny, little, hermit crab thing from the ocean. It was blue with an ugly shell. I had half a bucket full of ocean water and it lived in the kitchen until my dad came home from work and flushed it down the toilet where it eventually clogged up the drain and stunk up our bathroom and I got lectured and cried. Know what I wrote? OMG BEACH WITH GRANDPA SO MUCH FUN THERE’S STILL SAND EVERYWHERE!!!! (stars and smileys and swirlies)

I can’t make up fantastic stories here. It has to be real. Writing about reading and writing is boring. The most thrilling things that have happened to me in English class this year were not freaking out during a presentation, and sneakily double-doing a partner writing assignment because I felt it needed it and finishing before class ended (which was busy work and never got graded). We do watch movies occasionally in class and that’s fun but how do I blog about that? “Oh, I think it was cool and here’s my short version of plot summary from Wikipedia.” No. It’s like stating “the sky is blue” in as many different ways as you can and it will never be interesting.

I have a prayer notebook because I’m Catholic and reciting words make me feel like a robot and my mind wanders into crazy, extremely, inappropriate territory. I pray because I have to even though it feels fake sometimes.

Here’s one of my entries: God, I hate.

And that’s it. He’s all-knowing and there’s no crazy explosion of feelings and word-vomit. My handwriting says everything else that I need to say. I can write with all the fingers of my right hand (pointer-thumb, middle-thumb, ring-thumb, pointer-middle-thumb, pointer-middle-ring-thumb, pointer-middle-ring-pinky-thumb, pointer-middle, pointer-middle-thumb, middle-ring-pinky, and that’s all of them I counted with a pencil). I switch with feelings. Annoyed is pointer-thumb. Really, really, really angry is pointer-middle-ring-pinky-thumb (to prevent fingernail cuts). Lazy is pointer-thumb. Happy is pointer-middle-thumb. Perfectionist neat is also pointer-middle-thumb. I’ve been doing this since I could write. Each position I hold the pen and each speed I write make a different handwriting. Sometimes I switch to cursive which basically has three variations: fancy-looking slanty, normal and neat, and wide and curly. I mostly use my perfectionist neat or lazy. My notes are interesting to look at because I switch fingers to emphasize.

I have several story journals that are embarrassingly all over the place. I typically write prologue, end, end part of middle, then beginning, middle part of middle, and lastly beginning part of middle. Handwriting switches everywhere too. Intro is a must, the end is easier than the climax, climax to get it over with, back to the beginning for foreshadowing and character loving, and then middle to glue everything together. Plus revisions in highlighter. I rewrite the whole thing with more subtle handwriting hints that are all lost typed up. I could be anyone. It’s a pain to type. Word docs are okay because of multiple fonts, sizes, glow, highlight, outline, etc. I don’t have that here. I do publish some of my stuff online but I don’t delete stuff. On ffnet, AO3, dreamwidth, and other sites, I have different names. There’s stuff I posted in sixth grade that I’m really ashamed of but all those adjectives are kind of cute and, wow, I couldn’t spell weird, did I forget spell check or did I turn it off because it zigzagged my Mary-Sueish names?

I don’t hate blogging. It’s for school and it’s annoying and I’m doing this at like two am because I’m really behind and I’m also waiting for my laundry because I suck and procrastinated on that too. I’m really tired and this is what I call word vomit but I need to post this before I sleep. And by the way, bolds, italics, and underlines aren’t dramatic enough for what it does look like on this draft. You don’t get to see a picture of it because I like trees and this is written on top of old chem homework in blue highlighter that I didn’t do spectacular on.

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Idea Dispenser

Remember that post I did a while back on the humans vs zombies game? It isn’t working out so well (at all). A Nerf gun costs around thirty dollars, not including the cost of refills. There are around three thousand students and it’s impossible to think we could raise that much money plus the cost of everything else in just a few months.

We tried keeping it but at a smaller scale, but that isn’t educational at all. Schoolwide, it could be a learning and bonding experience (please don’t ask me to elaborate on this) but with our class and maybe another on just one day… If we can’t make it a week long and leading up to the Baron Games then we can’t call it school spirit. Students would want to participate but the teachers wouldn’t.

On mish-mash day, my teacher mentioned an idea dispenser for an assignment. Our group needed a new innovation project and he approved it so that’s what we’re doing now. We’re going to fundraise for the machine which costs $160.99 + $50.65 shipping from amazon and a hundred empty capsules which cost $20.20. The total is $231.84. After that we’re going to brainstorm for ideas to put inside them, decide how many repeats we can have, and put them inside. The final step will be putting the idea dispenser into our English classroom and hoping that the first few ideas that pop out will be amazing.Image

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A Finger Slip

Look at this.

It’s called a fan fiction. Fanfic or fic for short.

Continue reading

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Mish-Mash

We did a fun assignment in class. My teacher called it mish-mash and we had four options: to make a unique blog post, to design a homework assignment so that students will want to do it, to doodle around an everyday object (inspired by Javier Perez, his instagram is cintascotch), or to think up ideas to put in a 50 cents toy dispenser idea/innovation machine.

I chose the third one. I doodled around a white-out tape. I spun it and when it stopped, I drew around it. So I came up with a butterfly, dead fish, and bird. The butterfly was my first and not at all impressive so I drew two more. Three’s a nice number.

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