Friday, February 29, 2008

This post is as frightening as an old piece of cheese that was left on the heater for too long

(Credit for this goes to M.R. and SJ)

These are ACTUAL SIMILES used by ACTUAL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. Consider yourself warned. (No similes were physically harmed in this production)

Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work .

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy" comes on at 7 P.M. instead of 7:30.

Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.

Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie, this guy would be buried in the credits as something like "second tall man".

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 P.M. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 P.M. at a speed of 35 mph.

The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr. on a Dr. Pepper can.

They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.

The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Should fiction be a story of morals and virtues?

Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, believes safety and health advocates have every right to raise awareness for an issue by criticizing films or TV shows. But he thinks concerns over seat belt use should stick to reality and keep out of fiction.

"If you're going to start strapping any storyteller, whether it be a movie or a television show or a novel with only behavior that's good and healthy role-modeling behavior," said Thompson, "then we're in really big trouble."

18th century fiction, anyone? Boy, when people talk about neoclassicism, they mean it, don't they?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Decisions, decisions

I have a $30 gift card to Barnes and Noble and a zillion hundred things that I'd want to get from that store...WHAT SHOULD I SPEND IT ON??????????

Any ideas?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Trashy novels: a revisit

To continue on the subject of these two posts, we started reading Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey in Gothic Novel class today. One of the things Austen is doing in Northanger Abbey is parodying Gothic Novels from her time that were written by people like Anne Radcliffe. Radcliffe's novels, one of which we just read, were considered trashy at the time and are still pretty trashy now. But Austen read them all and was extremely influenced by them. We learned that she wrote straight out in some of her writings that she was highly influenced by Radcliffe. Many of Austen's novels are responses to Radcliffe's. My teacher went so far as to say that Radcliffe had to be a precursor to Austen. She said that Austen probably would not have written the novels she did if it weren't for Radcliffe and other writers like her.

If this is indeed the case, then how can one say that trashy fiction is worth nothing aside from entertaining the masses in an unintellectual manner? I am not trying to be an advocate for trashy fiction - I haven't even read any and I doubt I'd enjoy them. My point is more, how can one condemn a genre if that genre spawns something more high-browed, more literary, and more sophisticated than itself? Is it not like a stepping stone towards a more literary future? Is there room to believe that it is perfectly alright to spend one's time reading such novels because the reader may be influenced by them in a positive way, like Austen was? Austen herself advocated reading such novels. True, she did not agree with the way people got sucked into them and with the way they were read, but she never condemned the novels themselves and defends them in her books.

So are we going to be so nose-in-the-air* and spurn an entire genre? Or can we say they have an important place in society and that they are actually a comment on certain aspects of society? Perhaps they are not the most intelligent way to spend one's time, but not everyone needs to be intelligent every hour of spare time they have, do they?

I just feel that if Austen - if Jane Austen herself - read the trashy novels of her time, then I will not - I cannot - look down my nose at someone who does so today.

*Yes, I made up a phrase. So there.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pet Peeves about Stern

Ah, pet peeves time. I have oh so many. I'm sorry for using this as a venting table, but I just need to get these rantings off my chest.

Problematic things at Stern College for Knowledge:

1. Security guards who see students as guilty until proven innocent. I'm sorry, but it is inexcusable to shout at a girl running into the building late for class who SHOWS HER ID, "EXCUSE ME, MISS! ID! WHERE IS YOUR ID! I STILL DON'T SEE IT. COME BACK AND SHOW ME YOUR ID!"

Even for a girl who does not have her ID out, there is a polite way to say, "ID please?" and there is an obnoxious way to bark out, "UH, ID, MISS!"


Besides the fact, going back to the students, it's just utterly ridiculous that student IDs are what the security guards are going bonkers about. Of course they need to see everyone's ID, but they don't have to lose their hats over it! YOU SEE ME EVERY. DAY. Stern is not THAT big that people are not recognizable. Honestly, most Stern girls I RECOGNIZE even if I don't KNOW them. Why? Because I SEE THEM AROUND. SECURITY GUARDS - YOU SEE ME EVERY SINGLE DAY MULTIPLE TIMES.

2. Librarians who make you feel like you're wasting their time just because you ask them to do their job.


3. Le Bistro closing at three on Thursdays and the regular caf not opening until five. There should not be two hours where absolutely nothing is open food-wise, especially at that time in the day. ESPECIALLY because 3:00 is right when a class ends so someone who has a class in that time slot (which is a pretty popular slot, too) and hadn't had a chance to get lunch at 1:45 will be messed up food-wise. And if they are going somewhere on Thursday and leaving before the caf opens for dinner, they may not eat for a WHILE. I know seems like a trifle, but it's much more annoying and inconvenient than it sounds. I know this, because I can't even count how many times I hadn't had a chance to get real lunch in between my classes and had forgotten that Le Bistro closes at three on Thursdays and had been left with no lunch. That should never happen. Le Bistro should be open until five, when the other caf opens for dinner, or even until 3:30 or 4, just to give people who have class until 3 some time to get something to eat!


5. This is not a complaint but more of a suggestion. Some classes have Angel accounts and the teacher emails the class when she will be absent and class is canceled. This is a very wonderful and beautiful thing and should be replicated by ALL teachers. It is a bit annoying to get up for class and go all the way to the school building to find out that your class is canceled. To those idealistic people out there, you might be thinking, "what's the big deal? It gets you out of your dorm! I don't think that's bad at all!" But think about all those times you went to sleep too late and then woke up with your eyes HURTING from lack of sleep and your body ACHING and all you want to do is go back to bed. Or how about if it's raining or freezing or snowing outside and you just don't want to leave your dorm if you don't have to? There should be a way for teachers to either email their class or post on the YU website if class is canceled. I know the option exists, but many teachers don't use Angel. I think it should be made mandatory. Or at least strongly suggested.


Aaaaanyway, enough complaining! I feel so much better now! Thanks for listening/reading!

A change of opinion

So I thought things over from my post about trashy novels and decided I disagree with the whole thing. I think trashy means "having questionable content" in terms of appropriateness and other stuff is just popular fiction. I wasn't making a distinction between the two, but I think my point is still the same. I MEANT that I never really bothered to read popular fiction because there are so many classics I have yet to read and I always felt guilty wasting time on something I saw as "lesser" fiction, even if I might enjoy it. But now I think that is the wrong attitude, because just because it is not a classic or not considered especially "literary" (and that depends on how you define 'literary,' anyway) does not mean it is wrong to read such a book.

The end.

You may all go back to your previously scheduled lives or however the phrase goes.

And M.R., this means that Shakespeare is no longer trashy. Neither is Dickens. Shame, shame for suggesting it! :D

Monday, February 4, 2008

power outages, blind pigs, and bats - oh my!

So, on the subject of Gothic Novels, I had my own Catherine Morland experience on the Labor Day Weekend of 2006. I wrote about it in a journal at the time, but I would like to relay it here because it is fun and is on topic. And it's fun.


It is titled: Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! (And it is only very, very, very, very, very slightly edited)

This past thursday (meaning, a week from today) I finished class, packed my things, and took a two hour train ride on the NJ Transit to a place called Wassaic. I'm not sure if it was in Massachusettes or NY. Either way, it was far. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that I walked from my dorm to Grand Central Station because the subway was being annoying and not coming. Right. So I walked.

My mom and my aunt picked me up and we went to the farm where the rest of my family and cousins had been staying all week - Sweet Pea Farms. My brother and one of my cousins were going to arrive later than night because they'd been at hockey camp all week. It was a 45 minute drive from the Wassaic train station. Basically, with every minute we went further and further from civilization.

It was evening when we got to the house. There was this long drive up to the actual house itself, during which we passed a fenced in area for the horses. I couldn't see much of the animals then because it was dark. Anyway, we reached the house which, from the outside, definitely looked like a haunted house. I went inside and everyone was in the living room watching Batman Begins. But, since my cousin and sister (Trademark, if you remember) had requested it, I brought She's The Man. So Trademark, my cousin, and I all went to my parents' room to watch it. Some of my other cousins came, too, I think. In any case, a few of us were in there when we went to put the DVD into the DVD player by the TV. Upon approaching the TV, we noticed a certain home video on top of it belonging to the people from whom we were renting the house. The title of the video - Death I, Death II, Death III. I'm not joking.

We all shared looks of, 'who the HECK lives in this house???'

That night, I was on this sketchy computer in the house talking to someone. Then I went to bed, but first I decided I was thirsty. I went down to the kitchen to get a drink of water, but it was all dark down there except for the Christmas lights that the owners of the house left up in random places all over. Out the windows, it was all trees and wilderness. And I was suddenly quite scared. I mean, it was like just out of a horror movie. You know, innocent family goes to remote farm. Owners of the farm are secretly nearby and murder everyone in their sleep. Sheesh! I need to stop watching TV, I know, but still. I ran back upstairs, back to the sketchy computer, and talked to my friend some more until I finally gathered up enough courage to actually get my drink of water.

Friday morning, we had a whole debate with everyone about whether or not we should go alpine sliding or canoeing. Come on. Alpine sliding! In the end, we didn't do either but went on a hike instead. But it was a pretty heated debate, which was amusing. Every single kid wanted alpine sliding, though. I'm sad we didn't do it. Anyway, so first my dad took my brother and me to take out the garbage. Taking out the garbage was a big deal because you had to walk all the way down that long path from the house to the road where the garbages were. On the way, my dad showed us the grounds which we could now see properly, since it was daytime. We saw the horses - all three of them, and the pig (which we learned later was a pot-belly pig named Rollo who was blind because he got so fat the rolls of fat over his eyes wouldn't let him open them. I think that's really depressing), and the rooster and some chickens. And there was this little creek/brook thing with a bridge over it that kinda creaked worryingly when we walked across it. And as we walked, my brother was like, "you know the movie Chainsaw Massacre? Yeah, that happened right here." But anyway. On the road right in front of the house, there are three signs. One sign says "Sweet Pea Farm." The sign immediately next to it says "Welcome to Massachusettes." The sign immediately behind that one says "Welcome to New York." Yep, we were right on the border of two states. Literally. There was also this monument saying that there was the place General Henry Knox passed to bring artillery to George Washington in order to kick the British out of Boston. We weren't even anywhere near Boston, but that's cool anyway.

The rest of the day was sort of uneventful until we came to half an hour before Shabbat. Us kids were just sitting in the living room doing whatever when, suddenly, a big, winged, flying thing appeared out of nowhere. We all shouted, "Hey look! A bird!" My dad and my uncle went chasing it with a broom and a mop, which was quite amusing, but, alas, they lost it. My mom told us it probably disappeared as mysteriously as it came and that was that. BUT. My brother (Straight Man) made an observation I had been considering but hadn't mentioned. The way the flying thing was flapping its wings was, er, quite un-birdlike. And it was, er, very much BAT-like. Yes. So. Of course, once my brother suggested that out loud, my sister freaked. But it was okay, because the bat-bird-flying thing did not reappear that night.

The next morning was quite like any morning in a haunted house in The Middle of Nowhere, Berkshires, USA, The World. The weather forecast was for rain, but it was quite a nice day in the end. Sort of. It was windy, but there was no rain. And it wasn't even VERY windy. Just windy. Well, right around noontime - before we started eating lunch - there was a sort of medium-sized gust of wind, and then, the power went out. All the power. In the house and in the barn (which was converted into a full court basketball court with a volleyball net in the middle. The only non-sketchy thing about the place). And, as my mom and my aunt put it, we couldn't go see if the neighbors lost power too, because THERE WERE NO NEIGHBORS. WE WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.

However, my dad and I did go to the barn, I forget why, and we noticed that the circuits in the barn were all on. Meaning that wasn't the problem. But while we were walking along the grounds, I pointed out to my dad quite an interesting thing the people who normally live there built. They took a very large tree branch and tied it to another large tree branch and put both of those in between two big tree trunks so that it looked just like a huge cross. I was like, "they definitely crucify the people who come to stay here." It was an odd thing to have on their grounds, to say the least.

Anyway, back to the power-outage, we were all a bit nervous for what would happen later, when it got dark out and it would be PITCH BLACK. And it was Shabbat, so we couldn't even use flashlights! And there was talk about leaving the next day if the power didn't come back. But anyway, we ate lunch. About two hours later, we were still sitting around the table in the dining room and there was another medium-sized gust of wind. My dad was like, "heh, I bet, if we count to ten, the power will come back. Ready?" And he counted to ten, as a joke of course. About two minutes later, literally, the power came back. We all went, *blink* and then we started laughing. It was just odd. Creepy.

Not long later, guess who decided to show up! Our good friend, BAT-BIRD-FLYING THING! My dad and my uncle went after it again and, somehow, it got caught in my brother and my cousin's room in between the window and the window screen. So, it was sorta trapped in there and we all got a real good look at it. It was most definitely a bat. It was actually kind of cool. I've never been that close to a bat before. We could see all the details. It was awesome. My littlest cousin was crying for a bit, though, because she was scared.

A bit later, this girl named Lily who comes to take care of the animals came to the house and took the bat out by carrying it in a towel. As she released it into a bush, she mentioned the nice teeth the bat had. "My, Batman, what big teeth you have!" "The better to make you a vampire with!"

On Sunday, we went to the Columbia County Fair. It was kinda fun. My sister and I got to shoot a bow and arrow and I actually hit a balloon! Granted, it was a total accident because I had not been aiming for that particular balloon, but still! I got a ribbon!

And there was a ride called "Haunted Pirate Ride." It looked pretty frightening from the outside, but I thought, come on, how scary could it be? I wasn't scared at all. I was all, "bring on the scary pirates! Arrr!"

My dad and I got on the ride (no one else was brave enough to join us). We went through the curtain into not-quite-pitch blackness. And, er, that was about it. It was about thirty seconds in the dark, no scary images or anything anywhere, and every few seconds there was a loud buzzer sound.


Anyway, needless to say, that was a sad, sad disappointment. I still can't believe that was even a ride. Sheesh. THERE WAS NOTHING IN THERE. Like, go into your room, turn off the light for thirty seconds, and every ten seconds or so make a loud buzzer sound. THAT WAS IT. Gosh. How did that even have anything at all to do with pirates? Or ghosts? Or anything besides buzzers??? The ride should have been called "Thirty Seconds in the Dark with Loud Buzzers"

Ahem. Anyway. The rest of the fair was okay. I refused to play any of those games where you pay to not win that stuffed animal that you could buy from a toy store for cheaper than you spent trying to play the game over and over and over. But, finally, I did play one game - and won! So I got this really cute stuffed moon with a cow jumping over it. Yay for winning! And I went on the Swings ride, which I LOVE. So yay for that, too.

Monday was the day we left. FINALLY. Goodbye to the haunted house! It was also the day we finally noticed the name on the mailbox in front of the farm. The family's name was Adams. So, of course, everyone was like, "omg! So THAT'S why the house was haunted! It belongs to the Adams family!" Ha ha, quite funny. And we took a picture with the pig.

Before we left, we went to the Norman Rockwell Museum. I love his artwork. It's amazing. So yeah, that was awesome.

And that is all. The moral y'all can take home with you is, uh...don't stay on Sweet Pea Farms?

Oh, and the house is for sale, if any of you want it. Really! It is! Goodness knows why.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Romance of the Blogfest: A Defense of Trashy Novels

I learned in my Gothic Novel class all about trashy novels and how they can be excellently written, but they're known as trashy because they play on the zeitgeist of the times. In normal English, that means they take cultural prejudices and just general cultural tastes and play on them. They are also known as genre novels because they usually fall into a specific genre (sci-fi, romance, adventure, etc.). What really makes them different from literary novels is:

1. They don't try to influence society in any way. They don't take sides on any issue, but just play on the opinions of whomever the novel is targeted to. This is what allows them to be bestsellers.

2. They are not written to last. They only really work on the specific culture they're written for and, after that, become lost in unimportance or become period fiction.

The term "trashy novel," then, is really an inappropriate term for these books. It isn't that they're trashy, they're just written in a way that the masses can understand and enjoy them.

This does not mean they are written badly.
Let me reiterate: yes, there are some very poorly written books out there, but there are also some excellently written ones.

And, here's the other thing - it's okay to read for pleasure once in a while. In fact, it's okay to read for pleasure often! What are we reading for, anyway? Do we read to be enlightened? Do we read for philosophical insights in the world? Do we read to learn? Do we read to be influenced or convinced of a certain opinion? Perhaps. But another great reason to read is because it's enjoyable.

I used to be of the belief that, well, I'm an English major and English majors don't read anything that isn't highfalutin' literature. They certainly don't read that trashy stuff you see sold in airports and that people read on the subways. Heavens, no!


We do read that stuff! In fact, as a writer, if you want to make money writing, that's the sort of stuff you've got to write!

Reading for pleasure is not a crime. In fact, in my opinion, it's the number one reason why people should read, in the first place. Then, unbeknownst to them, they'll also learn (if they're reading a trashy novel of good quality) vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, syntax, and all those other lovely Englishy things! It just happens when you read enough. It all becomes so natural because your brain drinks in the styles of what you've read and becomes accustomed to the correct way of doing things. And, just because these novels aren't literary doesn't mean they don't still comment on society. There are great things to be learned from trashy novels. It's like looking at the world in a mirror, sometimes, and noticing everything about it - the good and the bad.

If the only appropriate novels to read were literary ones, almost no one would be reading.

And that, folks, would be one of the greater tragedies of the world.