The Gift of Receiving

Date written: September 16th

Target Audience: students and/or people who find themselves taking on too much – can be teenagers and up

Possible place of publication: a communal newspaper of magazine

There are many great gifts this world has to offer, but one that I hope every reader has experienced is having a cat curl up on your lap. What sneaky creatures they are, crawling into your arms and nudging you with their soft furry heads, swishing their tail in front of your nose, making you sneeze, and effectively sitting down on your homework so you have no choice but to succumb to their cuteness and pamper them.

I think there is something important we can learn from these felines. When do humans grant themselves that kind of luxurious treatment?

Generosity and selflessness are certainly incredibly valued virtues, but at times I see them getting blurred to sacrifice or even martyrism, yet still thought to be perceived as good values. I agree that a person shouldn’t be selfish and demand too much, but you aren’t doing anyone any favors by refusing help when it would in fact be very helpful to you. Allowing yourself to accept help or gifts from others when they would be happy to give you them are not signs of egoism. If it would be a bother for the person offering than they shouldn’t be offering in the first place. In fact I would sooner characterize refusing anything as being egotistical, as you would just be trying to make a “humble” impression on everyone and thus neglecting what’s actually the best thing to do.

Of course we (at least if we want to appear sane) as humans can’t crawl into someone’s lap and demand to be stroked, but what I’m talking about is, for example, instead of pulling all-nighters to complete all your work; saying “no, it’s okay” when people offer to help; piling up too much work for yourself; ignoring your own marks in effort to try to help everyone else and then trying to get ahead just to be even more of a micromanager – instead of all that, give yourself a bit of a break and try NOT to run out of fuel before you collapse.

It is not humble or modest to deny yourself all needs and wants. You are then denying other people it too. It’s often said that giving is one of the best things we can do in this world – but I think what’s often omitted from this is that it requires some balance of the reciprocal too. After all, giving and receiving can only exist together. Someone must be on the other end with open arms for whatever you have to offer and both people benefit greatly by getting happiness from it. And lastly, we have to able to give ourselves a piece of joy in order to offer some of it to the rest of the world too.

Overworking only backfires, as does overdoing it in practically anything- it never ends up well. You may notice cats never have this problem. If you own a cat I suggest that every time it crawls into your lap you drop what you’re doing and spend some time paying attention to it. It may know better than you do.

Joint review: The Lorax and Brave

Date written: September 14th

Target Audience: from older kids to young adults (people who may want to watch The Lorax and/or Brave)

Possible place of publication: a newspaper, magazine, or review website

Amongst the thrilling science fiction movies, primarily The Hunger Games and The Amazing Spiderman, playing on the screens this summer, were two cheerful animations; The Lorax and Brave. With the rush to go see the other two incredibly hyped action films, these two colorful Universal Pictures and Walt Disney films, respectively, were almost forgotten. However, their popularity was still high enough on the ladder for me and a couple friends to go see it. The Lorax worked as a cute story somewhat following the storyline that Dr. Seuss wrote, but Brave had more mixed reviews. Nevertheless, both left me feeling a little surprised but not disappointed.

The Lorax doesn’t include much to satisfy the action/adventure fanatics, unless you count the main character Ted’s tedious motorcycle-driving maneuvers. The story is perky, disputably loyal to the original book version, interesting, funny, and capturing. It doesn’t lack anything for the people who enjoy this type of movie – laid back, light humor, and a vibrant “fairytale”-like story with a subtle moral.

That being said, the “cutesy” animation style of this film causes a considerable loss of the original story’s moral, that is: the environmental damage that follows poor decisions and forethought. My praise for this movie was said regarding the entertainment value, especially for kids, however, I’m a little doubtful if this is the best story to present in such a style. The romance and childlike comedy that was added to the narration certainly did provoke laughs, but at the same time it removed most of the deep significance that was supposed to accompany the tale.

Brave gives me a harder time searching for words to express my thoughts on it. One online review called it “A disappointment worth seeing” – I’m not sure if I would use quite those words to describe it, but I agree that it was overall an entertaining watch however not without a few frown-provoking details.

The whole style of the storytelling and tools it uses seems to be targeted to children; the lively narrative tone, the wide palate of quirky and emphatically expressed characters (particularly in the different suitors and leaders from the clans), the presentation tools of the plot – it appears to be made to be as interesting and captivating as possible, specifically to capture a young child’s attention.

Yet, fights break out numerous times over the movie and there is an act of violence, big or small, in practically every scene, and the movie makes it seem like the violence isn’t even a big deal. I heard many small children in the theatre whimpering in fear more than once at the brawling. I understand that this is a part of the barbaric background and setting of the story, but I don’t like how the movie is essentially sending out the message that such violence is normal, a part of everyday life, and totally okay.

Another thing is the immaturity of some moments in the movie; boogers, mooning, and armpit hair pulling are just a few examples. Is this how the media wants to raise kids to be? The message they send out with these movies gets repeated, and repeated, and repeated, and becomes a habit for real people.

But if you can look past those downsides, then the plot line is well paced, twists and challenges occur at comfortable intervals, the storytelling is captivating enough, frequent jokes provide comic relief without derailing the chain of events, and many storytelling devices are used to keep the movie interesting- not to forget the realistic presentation of the characters and the ever present scottish music and culture. The only thing I found wrong in the storyline were the plot holes; for example, how naive Merida was when visiting the witch. Oh yeah, just take the flask and let a loved one drink it without even bothering to wonder what’s in it. That’ll solve all your problems! Why does she even ask for that kind of potion in the first place? It doesn’t seem neither logical nor well thought out. The father’s ignorance when Merida is trying to stop him from going out with his huntsmen near the end is more believable, as he is of course filled with rage and desperation. But this wasn’t expressed as distinctly as it could have for optimal audience sentiment … like I said, the movie was made for a younger, less critical audience who is just looking for a fun movie to entertain.

Nonetheless, the approximate 1.5 hours spent at the theatre for each movie was not regretted. I do recommend watching these movies, perhaps as an uplifting weekend study break or just as a fun night out with friends.

Movie review: The Words

Date written: September 15th

Target audience: People who want to watch the movie The Words (young and middle aged adults and aspiring writers).

Possible place of publication: Newspaper of magazine or a review website

So far in the movie industry, we have seen movies made about dance mobs, figure skaters, hockey players, football players (the list of sport teams goes on), pianists, magicians, even hobby-less people… I was delighted to see a new one come out about a writer: The Words, by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal.

I was amazed at how inspiring this movie was- I walked out of the theatre with a crazy urge to go dig through antique shops and buy a typewriter and click away at it all night. The pacing of the plot, the narration, mood, setting and use of soundtrack music; it all pulled you in and soaked you up. I don’t think I was this impressed with a movie’s directing and narration since I saw The Illusionist.

My biggest surprise was that the movie was not quite what the trailer suggested;  it was about a book that was about what the trailer suggested. Granted, 90% of the movie was dedicated to this book’s plot-line (within which there was also a book with a sub-story, pulling you even deeper into the plot), but there would be the occasional and perfectly timed withdrawal to the “real world” in which the fictional story teller is reading the tale. I thought this push-and-pull aspect, much like the various levels of dreams we saw in Inception, was marvellously done and subtly enchanting. It can be quite challenging to arrange such a complex and multi-stranded plot- so that the audience does not get confused, or you don’t jump too many levels at once and disrupt the story’s fictional dream- but The Words pulled it off perfectly. It was able to give the audience more insight with discrete insertion of thought-provoking dialogue and details at each depth.

As far as the acting of this movie goes, it was pretty impressive. Every emotion seemed authentic, the characters displayed great feeling that made them believable and played the role they needed to in order to move the audience. The old man, played by Jeremy Irons, was an especially great character in my opinion, and also the principal reason why the whole movie can make a person ponder on how these things happen in real life and what the implications would be.

The only set-back I can see regarding this movie might be the occasionally slow pace. Others that watched this movie told me that they were compelled to check the time during a few instances, suggesting that the plot was boring them. I do agree that it’s rather slow – but the alternative, it being rushed, would be much worse. In my opinion, even if the pacing is slow, it is near optimal, because it adds to the thoughtfulness of the story. It allows the audience to go through the emotions that the characters portray, and it allows the meaning of everything to sink in. If the subject (writing) and style of the movie is appealing enough to the audience, then they will still be entranced.

If this movie was a book, it would be just as mellifluously written as the novel that the protagonist, Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), pretends is his. The ending is a bit of an ambiguous one, but this movie is a drama meant to transmit emotion and meaning, not a comedy just seeking to provoke laughter and entertain. I think the key objective of this film is to make people wonder about what such circumstances as the ones that are in it would cause. But, of course, each person has their own favourite part.

A philosophy on Philosophy

Written: September 21st

Target audience: young and middle-aged adults, people who are looking to get more insight out of life

Possible place of publication: a philosphy or psychology magazine

Where have all the philosophers gone? :O One day I asked my counsellor about the “career” of philosophy… apparently, it is taught in high school courses, and even university courses, and there are available degrees for it, but it appears to be a path that leads into the abyss. What profession comes of it? A philosophy teacher? Who then teaches philosophy to other people who go on to become philosophy teachers? It’s like an endless loop that spins around and around, floating around in the universe without any further connections attached.

My counsellor laughed when I brought this up. “You’d have to be a couple centuries back to be a philosopher,” she mused. How true – indeed, most of the great people we quote to this day and call by the name “philosopher” lived around the 5th century BC. Socrates, Aristotle, Plato… what did they even do all day? Sit around sipping lemonade, scratching their chin and asking questions about everything they could conceive one for? “What is a flower?” “What makes this oatmeal, oatmeal?” “Why are my pants called pants?” “What makes the world go around?” “What are dreams?” “Are eyebrows considered facial hair?”

When I get asked who I would like to meet if I could choose anyone in the course of history and time, my favourite answer is Aristotle. Firstly because he lived in the very core of Greece, which must have been purely ravishing back then if it’s still such a lovely city today, after decades of commercializing and business growth. But the main reason is because I would love to see what kind of a person would have been someone who is considered a professional thinker. I imagine him as a short fellow with curly hair from twisting it around his finger, deep-set eyes with mysterious twinkles in them, stubble on his face, a crooked moustache, a crooked smile, and to top it off, a crooked “thinker’s” pose.

“Hmmm…..”

Maybe similar to this but without the gorilla-like nature.

Why are philosophers always portrayed leaning over, with their hand resting under their jaw? There’s a piece of philosophy for you to brood over, Aristotle. Or sometimes they have their arms crossed and their fingers gently stroking their beards. It always makes me think of a therapist that’s scrunching up his forehead in worry and asking “How does that make you feel???”

No thanks to the personal-quirks dissection. I have way too many anyways.

But what makes philosophy?? Ahh, the very acme of all philosophical questions. I have given this question quite some elaborate thought, and because that’s what philosophers are supposed to do, I am presenting my ideas in the hereso following paragraphs.

Philosophy is a universal art. All of us actually philosophize all the time. Maybe that is why career makers decided to set it aside. It’s just too popular. We cannot for a conscious moment stop ourselves from thinking and asking (sometimes useless) questions, and that is the birthplace of this mysterious and unrecognized activity. All we need to be a philosopher is an agile mind, an insatiable desire to wonder at the world, a deep-in-thought expression, and a toga (although the last one is optional).

There are school courses and degrees made for philosophy perhaps because we humans, dangerously curious creatures, just cannot seem to get rid of it. In heart, there’s really not reason to either. Philosophy helps us in all of life – whether if it’s to ask meaningless questions about the constitutionof our breakfasts, or to unravel the mysteries of the universe and all that it contains.

It almost angers me that it seems to be seriously underestimated by a great multitude of people. “What do you do?” “Nothing.” “Oh, so you’re a philosopher”. Such brush-offs are even sometimes said with disengagement, an implied dismissive wave of the arm, or culminating on near disdain. I actually take thinking seriously, and I certainly don’t think it is the equivalent of doing nothing. It takes focused attention, a skilled brain, asking the right questions, an adeptness to rearranging your thoughts or facts, mental power, and it is definitely above just sitting around immersed in apathy.

I would even go so far to say that to philosophize is an important life skill. Where would we be, if we could not make connections between things, leading to theories and hypotheses, ponder upon them, and then ask even more questions than we have answered? We would not learn a thing. Even if you are practicing something, it won’t have any value if you are not fully engrossed into it and fascinated by what you are doing. You can plunk away at a piano’s keyboard for years, but if you have no interest in knowing what makes the notes sound harmonious, and no drive to work on expressing the song in the most majestic, sweet, melodious way as possible, all you would gain is perhaps dexterity at typing and a bland ability to hammer surfaces with your fingers in creative ways. That also makes the real difference between a pianist, and a good pianist. Practice: yes, but with ignorance or attention? It is more than just reading notes off a page; what about the ability to bend the sound and create more?

So what about the ability to bend thoughts and think more? It is one of the best ways to gain knowledge and cognitive intelligence, yet it appears blatantly relinquished by most of the human race. Yet, thinking is perhaps the most important thing we can gain experience in. You can use it anywhere!

To tie up how philosophy integrates into all this babbling on thinking: using it is the core of putting attention to thought and using it to the most of its power. You are eating oatmeal, butwhat is oatmeal? Your sister is very kind, but what makes a person kind? An implication of what I am saying is just dawning on me; philosophy makes people better at things. I hadn’t had this in mind when I started writing this article, but philosophy itself has led me here. It makes sense – being the most fully present in the moment, in what you are doing, and engrossed with curiosity in your activities… those things form the bedrock of productive learning. How many times have coaches told athletes to focus on their movements and to be fully alert and active? How many teachers have stressed the importance of good rest before a test so that you can focus more clearly?

Philosophy, in my mind, does not receive enough credit. I know quiet thinkers that can be more productive on the couch than what “must-do-something” maniacs can accomplish in an office or library. We live our entire lives inside the confinements of our minds… but when do we take the time to actually spend some time there?? Perhaps if philosophy were an accepted daily part of our lives, we would be more comfortable in our own skin and correlatively, running about out in the world as well.

And perhaps, if it is true that our consciousness brings material to existence and our own existence into reality, then there’s not so much to scoff at in the statement that philosophy brings the world to life.

Writer’s Notebook Exercise

Date written: September 25

Target audience: Teens and young-middle aged adults 

Possible place of publication: Used in a lighthearted older children’s story (for pre-teens)

You know those days when everything just seems to revolt against you, and you want to go hide somewhere and avoid everyone? Today is one of those days. Everything seems to be happening very weirdly, and I’m the only one that sees it. The animals have decided it’s finally their time to take over the world. Not that they have announced it or anything, but, I just know. It’s always the little stuff you have to watch out for.

My first hint was this morning, during the outdoor zoo drive-through my family went on. We are on vacation and my little sister wanted to see some animals. So we got in the car and slowly inched through a thickly forested area with animals roaming more or less freely. You’re even allowed to feed some. When we neared the llama enclosure, my dad rolled my window down, and said, “Why don’t you say hi, Joshua?” So I tentatively stuck my hand out, kind of scared to touch the robust animal that was sauntering up to our car. Apparently it wasn’t scared of me at all because it stuck its head into the window and burped right in my face. Everyone else ignored my yelps and shrieks and just sat there laughing while this llama attempted to chew on my hair. They finally rolled the window back up when I nearly sat on my sister trying to get away from the rude animal.

I cowered in the back seat until my parents finally gave up and decided it was time for lunch. We went down to the lake by our hotel and set up a picnic blanket. I had just barely shaken off this morning’s trauma when a squad of ducks waddled into a circle around me and started pecking on my shoes. I immediately knew what was coming, and I leapt off the ground, screaming.

“What’s going on?” Mother asked me, but I didn’t wait around to explain. I knew that the ducks were after me, and I had to act fast. I tripped and fell on a tree root on my first step, so the pain emanating from my ankle slowed me down considerably. When I hobbled into our hotel, just two minutes away, the ducks were right at my heels. The porter ogled them, befuddled, and stammered-yelled something at me, but I was already furiously jabbing the elevator close-doors button. The doors shut right in the ducks’ beaks, barely missing them. Thankfully I made it to our room alive, but only then I realized that my parents have the keys. So I’m crouching in front of our door, sneaking glances left and right, wondering if even the germs on the wall are participating in the “let’s mock Joshua” game. I’ve always known this would come eventually, right from the day that our cat Mitsi started hiding my socks all over the house. For years I fooled myself thinking it was just a kitten’s sock hide-and-seek. But the animal kingdom’s air of nonchalance and innocence is just a cute facade. I have no idea why they choose to pick on me – maybe I was dropped onto an animal as a baby, and that plus my series of unfortunate experiences with pets and tamagotchis has fuelled their resentment over the years. I really don’t have a clue. But one thing is for sure. Today is the day that the llamas begun to rebel against me.

People watching; characterization and dialogue

Date written: September 20th

Target audience: teenagers and young adults

Possible place of publication: can be used in a novel for teens or young adults

 

There’s just no studying in study halls

Characterization and Dialogue: There’s just no studying in study halls

By: Silvia Adamy

 

A normal afternoon in the cafeteria. A few classrooms, whose teacher called in sick, or perhaps just didn’t feel like teaching, occupy a handful of tables. Spare students are scattered around the remaining ones, some intermingled with the full classes. Across the room, a young teenage boy sits with a crowded table of energetic 16 – 17 year olds. His dark hooded sweater, thick and cozy, contrasts sharply with the white brick-patterned wall behind him. It loosely hugs his skinny frame, accentuating the almost scary effects of a velocious teenage boy’s metabolism. His legs sprawled under the table, his back bent in concentration, his head hovers over something on the table. Kids around him throw empty pop bottles and pencil nubs at each other, oblivious to his calm manner. He might be part of the group, or perhaps not – because he’s actually doing some work. He scratches his high cheekbone with the gnawed end of his pencil and shifts his head, as if the equations in front of him would make sense from a different angle. His eyebrows twitch in confusion above his light blue eyes, the corner of his mouth moves like it’s not sure whether to form a self-amused smirk or a grimace.

“Could I borrow an eraser?” He expectantly turns his whole body to the boy next to him. A smile, probably his ordinary one, but one coming off as mildly ironic, creeps onto his face. A tone of slight bewilderment and amusement touches his voice.

“Don’t have one.” The athletic companion beside him throws him a scoffing leer then goes back to hollering at someone across the room – it might be a similarly dressed friend, or a cute girl, or perhaps the wall.

The boy in the dark sweater swivels around on the bench to the redheaded girl on his other side.

“Could I borrow an eraser?” He repeats the same question, with the same expression, the same coy and mysterious smile.

“You’re making mistakes already?” The redhead bats her mascara-loaded eyelashes and starts nonchalantly digging through her pencil case.

“Well! …” the boy scratches his head and ogles his homework. “I just… I don’t…”

“I see.” The girl chuckles and tosses the eraser nearly into his face. “Have fun.”

The boy’s stutters dissolve into quiet laughter, his smile stretching all the way across his face. He grabs the eraser and furiously erases half his page. It crunches beneath his loose hand and a piece of it rips. He turns his head to look directly at the tear and stares at it for a few seconds, the same slightly satiric, slightly amused expression bending his mouth.

“Well that was…” He turns to return the eraser, but is interrupted with the redhead’s squeal directed to the girl across the table, as she leaps out of her seat.

The boy throws his head back, a delayed reaction, one performed solely for the comical show.
“Okay”. He stretches the “o” out. “Well, looks like I won’t be using this paper anymore.” He states to no one in particular and crumbles it up. The redhead turns back to him.

“What did you do??” She exclaims and starts laughing. “You’re an idiot!”

“How am I an idiot?” The boy grins even wider and looks at his companion with his sparkly light blue eyes. “For ripping up a page?” Sarcasm is one of his natural talents.

“Okay fine,” the girl says and whips out a new page. “Here, take this.” She slaps it in front of him. “Why are you doing this now? You’re so slow.” Out of nowhere, she’s suddenly a little annoyed.

“What?” The boy turns back to her, putting his hands in his lap. “I just wanna get my work done! None of you guys are doing that! You’ll have to do it for homework!”

“So?” The girl raises her eyebrows at him. “At least we’re socializing!” She gestures around her jokingly.
“Yeah man, why don’t you socialize with us?” The redhead’s friend, across the table, blurts out at the boy, a little dispassionately, but still playfully argumentative.
“Well, why don’t you guys join me and get some work done?” A little remorse now joins the smile in the boy’s voice. “We’d all be a lot more efficient!” He enunciates the last t in the sentence, jutting his bottom lip out in a comical grimace. He looks at the two girls with his penetrating eyes from under semi-closed eyelids. Both the girls burst out into giggly laughter, perhaps at his suggestion, perhaps at his funny face.

“I just…” The boy stammers slightly, his face dropping some of it’s sarcasm, allowing the issues he hides deeper inside to show more boldly on his features. Presently, a look of slight frustration emanates from his creases and worry-wrinkles. He throws his hands up in the air briefly then starts collecting his pages with short, brisk, but once again theatratical movements.

“Where are you going??” The redhead asks him over her shoulder, once again chatting jovially with her friend.

“Somewhere quiet!” The boy does the same funny grimace at the t, turning to throw the redhead a playfully-accusing look as he shuffles away. She sticks her tongue out at him then turns back to her riveting conversation about the upcoming Twilight movie. His steps gain more confidence after a few feet. He should have walked out ages ago. There is just no meaning to “study” halls.

Characterization by Narrator

Date written: September 19th

Target audience: teens

Possible place of publication: can be used in a teen romance novel

 

Setting: Scene from a first date between two 15 year olds, told by an omniscient narrator

It was 3:18. Martina ran breathlessly up to Simon and leaned on her knees, gasping .

“Sorry I’m late!” She panted. “Marx slipped out in muddy weather, it takes forever to get the dirt out of his fur…” She trailed off, stuttering over her words. Her face looked flushed, Simon noted. “She looks really rushed.” He thought. “But she’s still so composed and pretty.” 

“It’s alright.” He said out loud and touched her arm with a smile. Martina blushed. Simon took this to mean coy shyness or a sign that she was into him, but what really was the origin of the colorful hue of Martina’s cheeks were self-embarrassment.
“Oh my god, what a horrible self impression!” She thought. “Now I must smell like sweat and mud. He must be so put off by my late arrival.” She tried to inconspicuously whiff her shirt to check for body odor or mud flecks.

“She’s so shy, casting her eyes downwards, avoiding my gaze…. she’s such a nice and well-mannered girl.” Simon thought. “Let’s go in!” Simon gestured a little awkwardly at the bagel shop they were standing in front of, feeling small and very plain in front of this amazing girl he was lucky enough to get a date with.

“Okay.” Martina agreed, the color rushing once again to her cheeks. “Oh my god, it’s obvious he feels awkward.. it’s all my fault… that stupid dog!” She smoothed her frizzed hair and they both stepped into the sweet smelling bakery.