Archive for December, 2011

Book Movies and Movie Books

Book Movies

I often hear, “That movie sucked! The book was so much better!” or “The actors were terrible, I imagined the characters to be more like _____.” Usually, I just roll my eyes and sigh internally. Of course one’s imagination differs from what one director or another feels appropriate! That’s one of the many beauties of reading an actual book; the writer leaves a certain amount to the reader’s imagination. Readers often fall prey to the idea that more people agree with them than actually do (just because you, your grandma, and your next-door neighbor think that the new Dumbledore sucks doesn’t mean that everyone thinks so.)

Another reason that readers are so dissatisfied with their favorite books’ silver screen portrayals is that they fail to realize that the recipe for books and movies are much different. Movies have many physical advantages that books don’t, such as music and tangible imagery. Books, on the other hand, can contain mass amounts of information that movies can’t quite match. There is no possible way that movies can contain the same information in the same order that books do. I often ask myself, “Would I have cared that this particular detail was left out had I not read the book first?” The answer is generally no.

Movie Books

Many authors attempt to create literary works that have the same effect that world famous film makers achieve in films. This goal is actually impossible. Film and literature are of different universes. They have different components and different purposes. Readers aiming to kick back, relax, and read a masterfully written piece may be disappointed with a novel modeled after an action packed, instantly gratifying blockbuster. Books like this can often be confusing. This reminds me of an article that Limebird Writers wrote, called “Keeping Secrets From Your Readers.” Random flashes of story and information at odd times do not always please the reader by coming together at the end. It’s about what’s best for the story, not about how much whiplash you can possibly give a reader in one sitting.

The point is, both books and films need to be judged at their own level, not by comparison of each other. People that do this will never be satisfied with a book or a movie as it stands on its own. Books and movies will always be different and always should be. Just as two positively or two negatively charged magnets cannot be attracted to each other, the world of literature and film can never perfectly mesh.

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And Sometimes “Y”

I remember learning as a child the song that goes something like “a-e-i-o-u-and sometimes y.” I’d taken my elementary teacher’s word for it that every single one of those were a vowel, and had never really thought about the difference between vowels and consonants. I figured, as long as I can spell words correctly, who cares? For years, I’ve taken great interest in the English language, but neglected to examine some of its finer points until a writer friend of mine asked the question, “Why is it only sometimes Y?” I tried to answer, but found that even though I felt I knew why deep down, I could not piece together a complete response.

I embarked on a journey to get some answers, and made a surprising discovery along the way. Before we get down and dirty with the consonant that is even more mind boggling than “sometimes y,” let’s take a look at why the 25th letter of the alphabet swings both ways.

First off, the difference between consonants and and vowels is worth knowing, especially if you are a poet or a singer. According to Oxford, a vowel is “a speech sound which is produced by comparatively open configuration of the vocal tract, with vibration of the vocal cords but without audible friction…”, while a consonant is “a basic speech sound in which the breath is at least partly obstructed.”

That being said, Y is easy to recognize in consonant form, such as in the word “yellow” or “barnyard.” Sometimes, however, the letter becomes part of this super creepy thing called a dipthong. A dipthong is is a pair of vowels that, when combined, create a new sound. Some good examples of these kinds of pairs are “ai” and “au.” When Y is next to another vowel, it can actually adopt vowel qualities. This concept is a lot easier to imagine if you play around with the pronunciation of each letter enough.

As it turns out, language has a sort of mathematical quality that can make another consonant a vowel by the same logic. The letter W (yep, you read correctly) can also become a “semi-vowel” when part of a dipthong. The concept of this one is a little bit harder to grasp than Y, but it is technically possible. Grammar Girl tells us that in words such as “claw” and “few,” the letter W becomes a vowel. She even goes on to say that W can stand alone as a vowel, such as in the word “cwm.”

Whether you believe this or not, it’s logically sound. Though I’ll admit, trying to accept “W” as a vowel feels like a cheese grater is moving across my brain. Most of my friends and family seem to feel the same way. However, my grandfather said he was taught this concept as a child and it was no surprise to him. It seems odd that elementary school teachers would leave “W” out of the picture. But really, how do you describe a dipthong to first-grader?

Personally, I think I’ll just have to keep making do with “a-e-i-o-u-and sometimes y.”

The Art of Language

Ever since language came to be, it has undergone a barrage of transformations brought on by countless factors. One cannot deny that the difference between a young adult novel and a paperback classic is enormous. The beauty and genius of sentences penned by early authors such as Dickens, Hugo, Shelley, and Tolkien throw into sharp relief the deficit of creative language in modern literature. Take a look at these two contrasting passages, paying special attention to the vocabulary and content of each and how they affect the reader:

“He was small in stature, with a furrowed visage, which, as yet, could hardly be termed aged. There was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself, and become manifest by unmistakable tokens.”

– The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

“After dinner, I folded clothes and moved another load through the dryer.
Unfortunately it was the kind of job that only keeps hands busy. My mind
definitely had too much free time, and it was getting out of control.”

-Twilight, Stephanie Meyer

We can see from these two passages that classical and modern literature are of separate worlds. One of the biggest attractions of classical literature is its display of creative and elevated language. The passages are often so elevated that readers cannot keep up with what is going on in the story. Readers with a small vocabulary become bored or confused when trying to translate classical imagery into layman’s terms, which can be a feat for even the most experienced reader. Stories written in earlier times were typically based around specific themes and frameworks, which can sometimes be less interesting than the fantastic free-range ideas of authors today. That being said, probably the most impressive feature of a classic would be mind-blowing vocabulary and style.

Modern literature, on the other hand, tends to focus on the story itself, rather than the use of interesting writing styles. Readers these days, upon finishing a book, tend to reflect on the plotline of the story versus how the story was written. Although beautifully written passages are certainly a plus, the heart of popular literature today lies in the allure of the plot and its characters. The readability of a book also includes the relationship that the reader can share with the characters. In essence, the reader can become the main character much easier than a character from a classic. For example, the “job that only keeps hands busy,” in Meyer’s passage above, is an easy concept for anyone to relate to.

Because readers are usually more sensitive to non-classical styles of writing, a great deal of vocabulary has been lost and has seen a decrease in contextual opportunity. Many authors create blockbuster stories with hardly any literary value. These stories tend to captivate young people, who were born in an age of technological amusements and instant gratifications. It seems that many readers fail to appreciate poetry in its fullness for the same reason; it’s simply too much work.

So this leads us to the question, is it detrimental to our language to write so lazily? The answer is both yes and no. Readers are used to reading simple and straightforward language. This gets more people to read, and usually means more to the reader on a personal level. However, they miss out on enjoying the genius and beauty of more complex language. The thing is, people choose to read things that interest them, according to their wants and needs at the time. Perhaps the best thing for people of this era is writing that is free and unencumbered by embellishments, as well as stories that break free of traditional themes and structures. With the rise of the internet, free thought and expression have become more important for everyday people. Regardless of which style is better or more relevant for readers today, both styles are necessary to become well-rounded readers and write effectively.

Politics in Action

Politics can often be very frustrating and boring, especially when the conversation seems to be going nowhere. Although our governmental system is superior in many ways, it is often inferior for the same reasons. The US government is best known for its checks and balances system, which, as well as keeping people safe, can make things really hard to get done. For instance, it takes so much legal processing and procedure for a guilty murderer to be convicted that he/she can roam free for years before being put in prison.

Serious public issues sometimes get continually worse while politicians sit around discussing how to fix them. It often seems like more would get done if there was less regard for political etiquette and party based opinion. This clip is of Dylan Ratigan “losing it” during a political debate. Although he probably could have handled it better, this seems to be the only way to get his point across.

 

The points that Mr. Ratigan had made are correct. We as Americans have little control over what happens in the country. As much as you would like to believe that your vote counts, it doesn’t. America runs on a system called electoral college. Here’s a very condensed version of how it works: from the selection of people that are running for your state government, you pick the candidate that represents your views best (the keyword here is best). When presidential election time rolls around, you vote for who you want to be president in the popular vote (which can sometimes include a whole bunch of people you may not realize you were also voting for, since most states use a short ballot). Your state government takes a look at who the public wants to be president, and then they cast votes as representation of the public. Those votes are then counted and the new president is chosen.

Here’s the kicker, your state representation may not agree with the way you voted, and it’s their vote that counts. Your individual vote itself is statistically irrelevant, and is only as good as the state representation you have to choose from. Lets face it, not just anyone can run for office . You have to have the funds and the political skill to campaign, something that few citizens have. It is virtually impossible for the average Joe, whether he has awesome political ideas or not, to run for office. Theoretically, all citizens are eligible to run for office, but few make it simply on wit and charm.

This is the issue that Mr. Ratigan seems to be so angry about, and rightly so. The control of the country is out of the hands of the citizens who live in it. There seems to be more concern about which party is right than what will actually solve our biggest problems. It is worth considering that BOTH parties may be wrong, or right about some issues and wrong about others. No matter what your political view is, what is currently being done is obviously not working. We must consider the facts, or mathematics as Ratigan put it, instead of the opinions of one party or another.

Perhaps the solution is to “lose it” politically. Getting to the point seems to be the most effective way to get things done in this clip, instead of politely discussing viewpoints over tea. If something is not done, a second civil war may be on its way. One thing is clear: the individual citizens of America must stand up and take the government back from politicians.

Big Brother in Religion

The following video is the visual representation of my term paper, which compares modern dystopian literature and frameworks with religious perspectives. For someone who has not read the novels depicted in the video, the comparisons may be a little hard to follow. You can find synopses for Uglies, Pretties, 1984, We, and the Bible almost anywhere in the web. The purpose of this project is not to prove or disprove the existence of God, but to explore “Big Brother” characteristics shared by religious concepts, namely Christianity, as well as how our idea of “Big Brother” came to be and why it is important to humanity. I hope that you enjoy the video and take no offense to it, for none is intended.

If you have any questions, comments, or just want to know more about my English project, feel free to contact me.

Inhuman Fashion

Both men and women are heavily affected by the media, which distorts body image more and more every day. The following video, showing the transformation of an average woman into a gorgeous billboard star, was made by the Dove Beauty Campaign. This video is very popular, but for those who haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

Everyone knows that people in magazines and other images are usually altered and airbrushed, but seeing the entire process makes it a harsh reality. This video is the kind of thing I used to shake my head at, disappointed with the way that young girls everywhere were being influenced to achieve an impossible beauty standard. But something worse has already trickled down into the many facets of the beauty industry.

The airbrushed-but-still-human look is a wave of the past. The models replacing the photoshopped ones don’t even exist. That’s right; the two women in the picture below are completely computer generated, with features hand picked by fashion tycoons. If you look closely, the bodies of the two women are strikingly alike. How can any real woman possibly look so perfect? The fact is, they cant, and the spokesperson of H&M (the company who created the models below) agrees.

“H&M…cannot find someone with both body and face that can sell their bikinis.”
-Helle Vaagland

Click image to view source article.

The sad thing is, millions of people will see these images and buy into the messages they convey. The mission of the Dove Beauty Campaign is to remind society what human beings are supposed to look like. If companies continue to create impossible standards, we may be headed into the same sinkhole as the world in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies.

Next time you compare yourself to a picture in a magazine or a person on TV, remember that God didn’t grace that person with perfection; a computer did.

What Poetry Isn’t

Poetry is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and effective literary mediums that exist. In comparison to prose, the boundaries of poetry are very much expanded. However, that’s the kicker; there are still boundaries. Unfortunately, many people today (especially teenagers) have the wrong idea about poetry. Many public schools fail to expose their students to poetry in the correct way, partly by allowing them to write weak poetry.

Growing up, I was primarily exposed to Haikus, simple rhymes, and an occasional sonnet here and there. Needless to say, I never want to see another Haiku again. Unfortunately, I developed an aversion to poetry because I felt it was boring and unimpressive. Honestly, I still feel that way about certain forms of poetry. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I really came to know and enjoy good poetry. I was lucky to have Tasha Seegmiller as my teacher, who taught many forms and elements of poetry that I never would have experienced had I not taken the class.

I feel that this is the case of many young people today, who tend to make two very distinct mistakes when approaching poetry.

The first mistake concerns “free verse” poetry. Traditional poetry forms are taught in less depth than they were a hundred years ago, which has triggered a flood of creative writers who don’t quite know what to do. This tends to result in what I like to call “Paragraph Poetry.” This kind of poetry often lacks depth, meaning, and literary value. The term “Paragraph Poetry” comes form the distinct structure of the poem, which seems as if the author wrote a paragraph about how they feel about a certain subject, and then just varied the line length enough to make it classifiable as a poem.

There are those that say “I can write it however I want, that’s what poetry is all about!” Or is it? If one who knows nothing about music bangs on random piano keys, does that make he or she a musician? Does throwing canned soup into a pot make one a chef? Icarus made himself wings; therefore, is he a bird? Certainly not. Slapping words onto a page without rhyme or reason (see what I did there?) does not make one a poet.

Even in “free verse” poetry, there is structure. Free verse simply indicates that a poet had strayed from conventional poetry styles, not that the poet is about to spew a mountain of unorganized word mush at the reader. University professors rarely delight in poetry that follows the “paragraph” format. “Good” poetry usually follows a specific form, evokes feelings and thoughts not expressly written in the poem, and includes literary genius. It is questionable whether what most teenagers write and consider to be poetry is even poetry at all.

This leads us to the second mistake, which involves content. Dr. Todd Petersen once said “Edward Cullen hates your emo poetry.” Although this statement induced many giggles from the class, everyone understood the importance of what it meant. Too often, young people write angsty poetry that is of little value to anyone but themselves. Writing about feelings is wonderful; many of the greatest poems ever written are about sadness, etc. However, there is a fine line between poetry that only communicates “I’m sad and misunderstood” and poetry that does good to the world. There are so many things in the world that are more worthy to write about. It’s important to consider what poetry is all about before flinging unchecked thoughts and feelings onto a page.

This isn’t to say that one cannot write simply for one’s self. It is often very healing to express thoughts and emotions through writing. However, not everything one writes must be shared with an audience; you are what you give to the world.