Monday, 22 April 2013

Monday Musings: Is Handwriting Dead?

This week's topic: Is handwriting dead?

(Turns out this was last week's topic. Oops!)

Yes! They have stopped teaching in elementary school. My two younger kids are not learning it, but my teenagers did. They have replaced handwriting with computer classes. I don't understand how kids even know how to sign their name anymore. Do they print it?

When I write in cursive my kids can't read it. I suppose that is kind of awesome. It's like I'm writing in code. Handwriting has become antiquated. (I've always wanted to use that word in a sentence! Yay!)

Although, I must admit I don't miss hearing them complain about trying to make the damn cursive letter Q or about how they are making the sticks too tall or the loops to big.

But also it's the death of individualism, in a way. My handwriting makes me unique. No one will ever write the way I do. Kids won't get to experience that anymore. I've never homeschooled before but I think I may at least try to teach them cursive writing. Then again, they'd be able to read my maybe not.

Ironically, styles of handwriting are fonts, so maybe it's not entirely dead.

This post has been part of Monday Musings hosted by The Book Barista.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbrosky

Book Review
Rather than give a traditional review I thought I'd do something different this time. Instead I will answer the Topics & Questions for Discussion in the back of the book. (Note: I have paraphrased some of the questions.)

1. Why do you think Chbosky chose to use letters as his narrative structure?

Because this book wasn't traditional in the sense that there is a plot and problem to be solved. It was more about how Charlie's character changes over a school year because of who he meets not what happens to him.

2. Who do you think Charlie was writing to? Does it matter?

I've always believed when we write letters like that we are writing to our future self.

3. Who did you identify with most?

Charlie because I never fit in, always felt like the friends I had eventually left me and I would end up alone, and like Charlie I cried about nearly everything.

4. Discuss Charlie's character. Would you be friends with him?

Yeah, I always gravitated towards people that were "freaks" when I was in high school. What fascinated me the most was Charlie's mental problems. I kept trying to figure out what his diagnosis would be - borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and so on. I didn't expect mental problems to be a subject of the book, so when Charlie started experiencing them and telling about how he had when he was younger as well I was very surprised and got me far more interested.

5. What do you think kept Charlie from "participating" when he entered high school?

Fear of rejection, being laughed at, failure, anxiety. 

6. Who was Charlie's greatest ally? Who was his worst influence?

His greatest ally was his English teacher Bill. (I know if it wasn't for my English teacher Mrs. Powers I probably wouldn't be writing today.) His worst influence was grandfather who got drunk and fought with everyone during family holidays.

7. How to the references to other books, movies, and music shape your reading?

I loved this! I am a person who seems to reference everything in my life the same way. I remember what my life was like when I read Bridget Jones's Diary or Prozac Nation and when I saw the movie Titanic, and when I heard the song Smells Like Teen Spirit.

8. When Bill invites Charlie over for lunch Charlie says, "He was talking for real. It was strange." What was meant by "real."

Teachers usually talk to kids like they are students. They keep their personal and professional life separate. As a kid you forget that they are people with lives and problems outside of school. When they talk about their lives and problems outside of school, it is indeed "strange."

9. Sam tells Charlie he can't put everyone else first and call it love. Do you agree with Sam?

Absolutely. Being a martyr and sacrificing yourself to take care of other people so they want or need you around isn't love. It's being a doormat. And when they are gone, you no longer feel wanted or useful because you aren't there to rescue or help them.

10. Discuss Aunt Helen's relationship with Charlie. Where you surprised to find out the truth about their relationship?

Not at all. I figured something really messed up had happened to Charlie to make him as unstable as he was. But it's hard to wrap your mind around it because you usually think of things like that being done by an adult male, not a female.

11. After watching an artsy film with Mary Elizabeth, Charlie says "It was interesting but I don't think it was very good because I didn't feel different when it was over." Do you agree works are only "good" if they make you feel differently? How did reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower make you feel?

Yes I absolutely agree. The books I have given the highest stars to made me feel or think differently than before I started the book. Movies and books can be interesting but what makes them great is when they make you feel strong emotions. The Perks of Being a Wallflower made me feel nostalgic about being a teenager. I'd like to write about some of the things I experienced as a teen and how they shaped who I am.

12. Charlie says, "Maybe it's good to put things into perspective. Sometimes I think the only perspective it to really be there." How has Charlie's outlook shifted since the beginning of the story?

He understands what it means to be "participating." At first he thinks it just means to talk to people and get involved with activities. But by the end of the novel he understands it's more than that. It's being fully present and aware. I think the best scene that shows this is when he's changing the music based on the mood and activities of the partygoers. He learns how to "participate" on an entirely different level. Sometimes the biggest participators are actually behind the scenes, hence the perks of being a wallflower.

13. What reflections did the book inspire in your own life? What parts resonated most deeply with you?

Charlie's relationship with Patrick affected me deeply. I had a friend in high school that everyone thought for sure was gay but he denied it all throughout high school. When I finally got back in touch with him 15 years later I was delighted to learn he was openly gay. Reading about Patrick made me wonder what it was like from my friend's perspective.

My rating  Photobucket

Movie Review
Coming soon!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Monday Musings: Amazon's Acquisition of GoodReads

This week's topic: Please share your opinions of Amazon's acquisition of GoodReads

It seems that has bought GoodReads last week and people are not happy. I personally think it's awesome. While I don't buy all my books from Amazon I do go there to read reviews of books. I don't like the way GoodReads has the reviews set up. So if I could click on the title of the book at GoodReads and it would take me right to the Amazon listing, I wouldn't complain at all.

Honestly I don't use GoodReads all that much. Mostly I just like being able to put the widget here on my blog. I think it's just too much of a hassle to get anymore involved with the site. I'm already on Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +. I just don't have time to get more involved.

If you are someone who is deleting your account on GoodReads because Amazon bought them I have two words for you. Grow up! Are you really going to delete your account before you even know how it's going to change the website? That's just stupid and completely overreacting. It seems some of them are overly concerned that Amazon will be keeping tabs on what they are reading.

“I wasn’t happy doing it,” said Michele Filgate, an events coordinator at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y. But she said called the prospect of Amazon knowing what books she buys and also what she reads as “just too much.”

Hello!? That could be a good thing! I love how Amazon shows similar books that I may be interested in. I've found many books I wouldn't have otherwise because of Amazon's suggestions. It's Amazon not Big Brother! (I'm sure there are many that would argue they are one and the same.) I think it would be wonderful for the authors and publishing companies to be able to see where they are ranking at Goodreads and Amazon. If you support your favorite authors, then you would want Amazon to know what you are reading! Because that lets your favorite authors know you are reading them!

And who cares if they know what you buy considering there's no rule that says you have to buy from Amazon? I've bought books other places. I've even written a review for books I bought elsewhere on Amazon a number of times.

Are you really that worried about some exec looking at the books you've bought and complaining that you weren't buying them from Amazon? Does this really keep you up night? Oh I do declare, that in a manner like Scarlet O'Hara, I will never have a profile on Goodreads again! Get over yourself already!

In fact, keep your profile on Goodreads but don't buy from Amazon. That's sticking it to The Man. Here's all the books I've read listed on Goodreads but I didn't buy any of them from you Amazon. Na na na na na na!

This post has been part of Monday Musings hosted by The Book Barista.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going

The Book
This young adult book took my by surprise. I guess maybe it's because I tend to be a little bit prejudiced against young adult books sometimes. There's so many of them that are romantic fluff that I get surprised when I find one that takes a serious topic and handles it beautifully.

This novel doesn't just take one topic. It takes several such as depression, attempted suicide, death of a parent, sibling rivalry, being overweight, bullying, drug addiction, homelessness, true friendship, and the purpose of music. That doesn't even cover all of them. However it's anything but sad and dreary. I found myself laughing dozens of times at Troy's clever observations and hilarious self-depreciating humor. I also ended up caring so much about the characters that I cried for them. There's also a philosophy in the book that will leave me trying to "see through the bullshit" for the rest of my life.

The blurb for this book is:
Troy Billings is seventeen, 296 pounds, friendless, utterly miserable, and about to step off a New York subway platform in front of an oncoming train. Until he meets Curt MacCrae, an emaciated, semi-homeless, high school dropout guitar genius, the stuff of which Lower East Side punk rock legends are made. Never mind that Troy’s dad thinks Curt’s a drug addict and Troy’s brother thinks Troy’s the biggest (literally) loser in Manhattan. Soon, Curt’s recruited Troy as his new drummer—even though Troy can’t play the drums. Together, Curt and Troy will change the world of punk, and Troy’s own life, forever.

Although Troy and Curt are fairly close in age and have the same high school in common, these are the only traits they share. In every other aspect they couldn't be more opposite. Troy is an overweight loser and Curt is considered a local rock legend. Using the phrases "overweight loser" and "local rock legend" cheapens these characters though. They are anything but stereotypes. That's what makes this novel so great. The truth of who they are is what matters in this story. Even Troy's military father defies the stereotype of a cold, hard Marine.

There's also one particular line that stuck with me. Forgive me if it's a paraphrased. "The words I had been waiting to hear my whole life were the ones I needed to give away." There's something so beautifully profound about that. It speaks to me about my own life.

Equally unforgettable is the scene when Troy and Curt are in the restaurant and Curt helps Troy see the world in an entirely different way. I would love to tell you what that is but I never give spoilers in my reviews.

Ultimately the book is a lesson about not giving up on yourself and not giving up on the people you care about. None of these are topics you would expect in a book about being in a punk rock band. When you think of punk music you think of rebellion, anarchy, and destruction. Don't worry. Those things are in there.

My rating and I don't give this many out often: Photobucket

The Movie
I wanted the movie Fat Kid Rules the World to be great too. I especially had high expectations because Matthew Lillard was directing. He was so amazing in the movie SLC Punk that you expect him to really get what the book is about. Unfortunately the movie tended to revert this deep characters back to stereotypes. Troy is a typical fat kid and we just don't get to see inside his mind. This is why we read books though isn't it? Movies just don't show the inner thoughts of people unless there are voice overs. I honestly think a voice over would have given Troy the depth he had in the book.

What was missing the most was the humor of the book. I wanted the movie to show how smart, clever, and perceptive Troy really was but unfortunately the screenwriter just didn't catch it. I don't really blame Matthew Lillard's directing. I mostly blame the screenwriter who on some levels just didn't seem to get the true meaning of Fat Kid Rules the World.

Curt is only a hint of of what he is in the book. The movie version doesn't catch his mannerisms, his hyperactiveness, how dirty and disheveled he really was, or how he was treated like a local rock god. In the movie, Curt was disrespected by his fellow band members and just wasn't treated with the awe that he was in the book. This is what made the book so fascinating. Curt had an image and reputation for being a rock god despite being a filthy, homeless, drug addict. He was an enigma, not a stereotype.

Don't get me wrong. The movie is good, but it could have so much more. It just seemed to care more about plot than it did about character.

It's probably more like 3 1/2 but... Photobucket