26 March 2013

Triviality VI: VOC

I'm in love. So, let's begin with...empire time!

More correctly speaking, it's time for the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or VOC, or the Dutch East India Company, in English.

What am I in love with, exactly? This wonderful symbol right here: 

As you can see, I might be a trifle obsessed. It's just a symbol! But that symbol, dear friends, is a remnant of a long-lost company (or compagnie) that was the first megacorporation in the world, in addition to being the most powerful and richest compagnie in history.

Let's delve into history, shall we?

The year is 1602. Islands and landmasses are being discovered almost daily. It's the Age of Exploration (which I personally hate, for all the injustices made) and of course there are only two ways to explore: on foot, and by sea. Foot's out of the question, because of the islands. 

As you can see, ports are extremely valuable and useful in cases like this. Roanoke, which is creepy but interesting, was a sort of port, near the ocean. In fact, it's why Roanoke was so close to the sea. It's close by and easy to transport goods and living services.

There was Jamestown in Virginia. There was New York (Amsterdam) over in New York, there was Port Royal in Jamaica, etc. Now let's look a bit at the macrocosm, the larger picture.

Portugal was busy and creating an interoceanic empire and starting the slave trade. The Spanish were busy conquering South American, looking for gold. The French were discovering bays and looking to Canada. The English were with said Roanoke and Jamestown. So where were the Dutch?

[Historical Side Note----read at your own risk----]

Wait, wait, wait. What about Ireland? Germany? Italy? Greece? Surely these countries were also colonizing and taking over powerful tracts of land! Well...not exactly. Germany was still stuck in the Holy Roman Empire, later to be part of Prussia, and some of Austria-Hungary, and Sudetenland...anyway, it was still in the 100 Years' War fighting itself (which was really 116, but no one back then could count higher than 100 till Isaac Newton came along.)

By the way, the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, Roman, nor an Empire. It wasn't holy, at least in the Catholic Church's eyes. C'mon, Luther came from there! It wasn't Roman, it was modern Germany and Poland and the Czech republic. And empire...we just said it was busy fighting itself, so yeah. But I digress.

Italy was in the same predicament, but it was the Papal States and all those cities (Firenze, Venezia, Roma, Milano, etc) and was busy being artistic in the Renaissance. Despite Columbus coming from Genoa, Italy never really was powerful in the Age of Exploration, being powerful instead in the 1800s European scramble for Africa.

[Historical Side Note Over]

So the Dutch decided that ports were the way to go, and founded lots of ports or took over a lot. They discovered new islands and places, and left their mark on geography and history. But was it really the Dutch? I should say the VOC was more in charge of this than anything.

But what the hell is the VOC? I can hear you asking, along with Why do I need to care about this?

I'm getting to the first question. I can't really answer the second, because everyone has their own reasons for learning and teaching stuff. 

The VOC, as said above, the Dutch East India Company, was this chartered company. What's a chartered company? Well, in these turbulent times of exploration, the countries and kingdoms wanted power and wealth, but they couldn't go wasting all their money, because as we saw two weeks ago, France ended up in revolution. So stockholders and merchants would strike deals with the King and Queen, for some funding.

So these Dutch merchants asked for money from the King and Queen of the Netherlands, under the condition that they claim everything in the name of the Netherlands. And so this compagnie worked well for about 150 years. Then it became corrupt around 1740, bankrupt by 1790, defunct by 1798, and completely gone by 1800.

But in the first 125 or so years it was powerful. The VOC established trade ports, named places like New Amsterdam, New Holland (Australia), New Zealand (after Zeeland, a Dutch province), and much more. They controlled the Spice Trade, making the Dutch very rich. They controlled Batavia (aka Jakarta, Indonesia) and that's where outsourcing began. But I digress.

Finally, they became the richest country EVER (worth more than 10 trillion) by a little crazy thing called Tulipmanie. Without saying (or criticizing) too much, in 1637 tulips made their way to Holland. Yes, they were imported, from Turkey, actually. The people and merchants loved these wonderful flowers that they decided to actually BUY AND SELL in them. And they became worth so much, inflation was extreme, people quickly made fortunes and became paupers within hours over a single tulip bud, and more. Don't try to tell me about living life on the edge.

Then this frivolity ended in less than a year, with everyone all crazed and poor. The VOC, of course, had done this too, that's why they were so rich. A single tulip bud could be worth about 220,000 US dollars in today's money. But then the VOC recovered and went on to greatness. Another thing on their list of achievements.

Oh, and don't forget - they also made your World History class harder by leaving copious notes in your textbook, and had an epic logo to boot. Have fun!

(I got most of my information from this wonderful video by CGPGrey, who is a brilliant Youtuber. Credit goes to him for about half the info here, if not more or less.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE_IUPInEuc )

25 March 2013

So shines a good deed in a weary world...

Greetings from a warm, sunny afternoon.

I've just been watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a wonderful movie full of poetry, fun, hilarious moments, other languages, everyone being German instead of British, and much more.

It came out in 1971, and is INFINITELY better than the 2005 Johnny Depp version. Roald Dahl purportedly hated it, because they had "my beloved Willy Wonka spouting poetic nonsense that wasn't in the books."

So, as a result I'll post some of the quotes Wonka says (in bold), and where they really came from. Enjoy!

"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams." ~Arthur O'Shaughnessy. Here's the full poem, titled Ode:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

"So shines a good deed in a weary world." ~Portia, from the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare. The exact quote is
"So shines a good deed in a naughty (worthless) world."
"Bubbles, bubbles, everywhere, but not a drop to drink."     This of course comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which goes

"Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink,
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink."

"Where is fancy bred? In the heart or in the head?"   Another from Merchant of Venice, fancy in this case meaning love or passion. Make of that what you will, especially in the context of the movie.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever." ~John Keats, of course, one of his immortal epigrams on love from the poem Endymion

"Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple."  Excellent quote, said by the fraudulent Thomas Edison. I've discussed his fraud in a Triviality column, which you can read here.

"Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker." ~by the brilliant Ogden Nash!

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." ~This was actually said by Dahl himself, in the original Charlie book, which is ironic because he hated the nonsense they had Willy say.

"The suspense is terrible... I hope it'll last."  ~from the Importance of Being Earnest, said by Gwendolen in Act III. Of course, by the wonderful Oscar Wilde.

"In springtime, the only pretty ring time, birds sing hey ding... a-ding, a-ding, sweet lovers love... the spring."
Yet another Shakespeare quote, this time from one of his poems.

"Round the world and home again, that's the sailor's way!" ~William Allingham, a 19th-century author who wrote a poem called Homeward Bound, which is where this appears in.

And of course, the true classic crowning quote of Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka:

 "There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you'll be free if you truly wish to be!"


23 March 2013

I lie awake and miss you...pour me a heavy dose of atmosphere...

Apologies for the abrupt and random title. I'm still recuperating from the past couple of days.

I'm gonna be a Modernist and include random song lyrics in the middle of this post like a stream-of-consciousness novel. And I HATE stream-of-consciousness. With a burning passion. But it's late, today was particularly trying, and so have the past days. So let's go over them, shall we?

Ready for a long-winded life story for the past two weeks? :)

First off, Spring Break is here. HUZZAH. Praise the Lord. 10 days for peace, joy, sadness, Easter, Friday, and lots of other stuff besides.

Today I was at the ELA-JEA Write Off. (ELA JEA, for all the uninitiated, is the Eastern Los Angeles County Journalism Education Association Write Off competition. There.)

I'd like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly...

I was in the Novice News group, where we had to hear my journalism teacher and some people give forth statements about a case that's currently going on. As a mark of respect, I won't talk about it. Suffice it to say it was very interesting and fun to write.

Bad part? I wrote in PENCIL. Graphite. Particles of a carbon allotrope. And I was supposed to write in pen.

I'm just beginning to see...that I'm on my way!

So that went well. For the last 10 minutes of the hour period I was sitting there in ennui, waiting for time to run out. Then as I turn it in I realise I have written in the entirely wrong media possible. *facepalm*

I'm glad I got the experience, at least. Most people went for extra credit. I just went for the fun and games, and to see what it would look like.

Then today was also my brother's birthday! Congratulazione, Richard, if you read this. But I've told you that five times today. As of present he and his friends are in the other wing of the house, in his room. So hurray for that.

As to Catechism, I should have gone today, but I didn't for the second week in a row, because I assumed I was going to be at the write-offs for the awards. But then at home I got a horrible headache and slept for 3 hours, missing the awards. Oh well. And then I have to go to a Renaissance Faire on the penultimate meeting. I feel horribly guilty. But then again, the class has been watching The Passion, which is not the nicest movie to watch. So I don't feel I've missed much.

(As to the Renaissance Faire, I will totally take pictures, and it'll be my first opportunity to use pictures as a media here on InfiniteMind. Be happy. It's a milestone. I'm getting there, to be adept at technology.)

Did you write the Book of Love and do you have faith in God above? (If the Bible tells you so) Do you believe in rock n' roll? Can music save your mortal soul? 

Now, to the vacation. I get the lovely days of March 23rd (today!), 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, and the 1st of April off. Technically I go back on the First, but I have a physical that day. First in like 3 years. Hopefully nothing's wrong, so there is that. Extra day.

Pretend you're not alone...like you are centre stage on Broadway...'Cause when you're on your own, a little opera goes a long way...

During the break, we're getting the floors fixed. You see, when we bought our loverly home 3 years ago, it was all carpeted. Even the kitchen, which was just AWFUL.

Which of course we removed immediately, but the bedrooms kept their carpets, even though I've hated them. But now we're getting them removed from the rooms. Long job, which means we're moving everything into the garage. It'll take two days. Originally it was gonna be Monday-Tuesday, but the guy changed his mind and is gonna do it Wednesday-Thursday. Either way, we're camping out in the garage!

I'm getting a new desk. It's epic! MICKE, from IKEA. How I love the Swedish and their made-in-China products. (I'm so unfair. It's made-in-Vietnam, too. I'm so mean and Chinacentric.)

Last night it was so good, I felt like crying, felt like crying...

Now for some rather academic stuff.
I got programmed for next year, sophomore year. 2 APs, 1 honors class, 1 extracurricular activity, and yeah. After the disappointment that is my third through sixth period classes, I'm excited for these classes.

AP Chemistry, AP World (by the way, I'm planning to challenge the AP Euro exam. Wish me luck.) Honors English 3-4, French, Journalism 1-2, Trig/Precalculus (I'd discuss that but it's too painful and boring), and PE.

The class I'm easily looking forward to the most is Honors English 3-4, or British Literature! :)

It was fiddle-de-dum and fiddle-de-dee and the Dancing Bear ran away with me...

I LOVE British Literature. Give me Dante, Hemingway, and Jonathan Swift - and you can keep Dante and Hemingway. (To be sure, Irish authors are also good, and Swift was technically Irish. Fine. British-Irish literature is awesome.)

I haven't read any of the female writers besides like Elizabeth Browning and one of Bronte's books, because I'm a sexist b-----d. No, actually, to be honest, they all feel like they have the same plot. And the titles are REPETITIVE. Sense and Sensibility. Pride and Prejudice. I like alliteration, but that's a little killing it.

Now, let's discuss tests.

I've come to realise that high school is nothing more than a myriad of tests, more or less 4 a week, in all classes. So last week, for example, I had a Health test Monday, Chemistry on Tuesday (which I'll touch on,) Mythology on Wednesday, Algebra II yesterday.

Then I discovered that my castles stand upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand...

Chemistry didn't turn out so good. A C+. Still, that is more than can be said for some people. But of course, my brilliant friend Gabriel (and some other people) got perfect papers, or just about. Maths is just not my strong suit. It was stoichiometry. Fun to spell, NOT FUN to do.

Incidentally, I'm not sure why I'm taking AP Chemistry, or any AP science down the line. I'm gonna major in comparative literature, so...well, at least it'll get me in Columbia or Berkeley. :) With the responsibility of freshman rep for CSF (I know. Freshman rep. So big and important.) hopefully I'll get there!

As to mythology (aka Honors English) that was EASY. It was open-notes, I only used them once. (Damn you, Epimetheus!)
The years go by, as quickly as a wink! Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think!

We're working on a "commercial" for English. Turn a modern-day product into a commercial with a Greek spiel. Think Percy Jackson. So we have SOBESSEUS (pun on Sobe Energy Drink and Odysseus). It's gonna be so much fun. Hopefully. 

I think that's it, really. As you can see, a lot going on. Very busy. So, until next time, I'll leave you with this to chew on:
Is this the ROB life? Is this MIRANDAsy? Caught in a landslide...no escape from reality...

To the next!

19 March 2013

Triviality V: Gematria

Short Triviality today, but I figured I may as well make a post on it.

I love codes and cyphers, as most of you reading this know already. If you don't, suffice it to say that over the past 4 years my fascination with them has been extensive, to say the least. I can tell the difference between Baconian Biliteral and Ogham. I can spot one-time-pad keys against Vigenere repeatings, and much else.

So today I'd like to take the Tuesday to (see what I did there?) explain a rather basic-sounding but interesting idea that originates in Ancient Hebrew and Greek writings. Gematria.

Gematria is the name of the number system that the Hebrews used, or rather, lack of. You see, the Hebrews didn't use numbers. They didn't have them. They used letters.

Schoolkids use this principle with alphanumeric ciphers, such as A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5 and so on. So:

Robert Miranda = 18-15-2-5-18-20  13-9-18-1-14-4-1.

Just an example. But that's pretty much all gematria is. (Note: gematria is the Greek term for this method. It's where we get the word geometry.)

There's some tables onnline, if you want to try it yourself, I can't make one or post one without copyright permission.

A short note: that all-too-shocking 666, the number of the Beast, spells out Neron Caesar. 616, which is actually the accurate version of 666, spells out Nero Caesar. Both Neron and Nero are accepted spellings, kind of like Robert and Roberto work for the same name. Make of that what you will.

To the next!

12 March 2013

Triviality IV: The French Revolution

Come all without, come all within! Triviality's today, the first in a while. And that one about Dante and Bohemiens counted as a Triviality, even if I didn't necessarily title it as "Triviality III." So, let's begin!

I'm not one for openly discussing war and politics but there are some revolutions, at least the French Rev, that I find VERY interesting. Let's take a look at it and the backstory behind it, shall we?


Prologue: Ah, the French! I love the French! They have that stereotype (even though stereotypes are wrong) of being extremely scandalous. I like scandal. Not the show, SCANDAL, but scandal in general. But it's been proven that political extramarital scandals in France tend to get a candidate more votes. (Well, not entirely, as we'll see with the Bastille breakage further down the line.)*shrugs*

Act I: The Louises Three

Back in the 1700s, King Louis the XIV reigned. That's 14. X being 10, IV being 14. (The way I remember it is, 1 taken away from 5. 1-5, or IV. It's not mathematically correct, but it works for me. Then the opposite is just 16.)

Louis the 14th was known as the "Sun King." He got that name for basically being Apollo. Apollo (or Helios, but the Roman figures reigned eternal in that time) was the Sun God. Old Louis felt that he was as powerful as Apollo, as important as the sun. He had a large painting of him in the Sun Chariot, and he said his famous line,

"L'etat c'est moi!"

meaning "I am the state." At the time France was the largest empire in the world, or one of the largest. And he ruled all that. Well, he had his ministers, of course, he was a figurehead, but there you go.

So by the time we get down to his great-great-great-grandson Louis XVI, the 16th, the country is in shambles. It wasn't his fault. Little "Sixteenth" was genuinely concerned for the poor and destitute of France. He and his wife (Marie Antoinette, who never said "Let them eat cake") were touched by the plague of famine and destitution that was quite rampant in the times. But nonetheless, the monarchy was blamed. Why?

We've lost a lot of land, there's strife and misery, we wasted a lot of money helping out America, so he invoked "The Estates General," which was a committee held of 3 "estates". Basically a social heirarchy.

Act II: The Estates Un-Generally Speaking

The First Estate was comprised of the priests, monks, clergy, what-have-you. They were tax-exempt, owned most of the land in France, and enjoyed many benefits.

The Second Estate was the noblemen, the ones closest to the King. They really didn't have power in the times of Louis XIV and XV, but lately they had started to become more powerful under XVI.

And the Third Estate was your everyday hardworking peasantry men, the ones who made up the majority of French population. They elected their reps, just like today. They were pretty much the most screwed out of everyone, but doesn't that always turn out that way?

The Estates met for the first time since 1614 and since there were so many unclear reforms that were being made (think Congress everyday) Louis decided (or was forced, to be precise) to grant freedom of speech to everyone. Thus hell broke loose.

Act III: An Assembly and Prison Break

All the peasants suddenly had a say! Pamphlets and books were published supporting anarchy, reforms, the destruction of the monarchy, you name it! At around the same time, new elections and positions were being given out/voted for the Estates General, the result being about 1250 people were now in the committee.

Inspired by America's example, on June 17th, 1789 (my birthday, incidentally) the Third Estate grew fed up with the other castes and formed the National Assembly. The peasants and serfs were happy but then riots began, the resuly being on July 14th the Bastille, a national prison, is being broken open.

The Bastille only had 6 people in it, at the time. Some poets, writers, and the Comte de Solages, who was there on a sexual misdemeanor. (They evidentally weren't as free and easy as we know them for then.) There were no dangerous lunatics, maniacs, killers, etc. All fabrications, likely from said poets and writers, to cover up the fact that they were there. :) Louis had to go to Paris to settle the matter, and had to concede to the demands of the National Assembly.

The terror really began the year 1791. Louis and Madame de Antoinette were caught trying to escape their palace Versailles. They were tried for treason and they met Madame de Guillotine in January and September 1793, respectively. They weren't the only ones.

Act IV: Robespierre (No Relation To Perrier)

Enter Maximilien de Robespierre into our little pageant. A dry, boring lawyer, he had been a member of the Estates General (remember that?) and quickly grew powerful. He had been part of the Jacobins,  He never tired of making speeches testifying to the power and the wealth and the legend of William Bell Cicero, Cato, Horacio, and all those great men of the spirit. In short, the orators.

He was just as ineffectual as the monarchs he had helped depose. So, now, we watch as some soldiers drag him to the beautiful but sharp Madame de Guillotine next to the great scientist Antoine Laurent-Lavoisier (one of my favorite scientists.)

Act V: The End (With Some Napoleon-taine Ice Cream)

The Reign of Terror quickly ended after Robespierre.  at least 26,000 revolutionaries, soldiers, anarchists, and counterrevolutionaries met the Madame's sweet kiss. But there was war. There invariably always is. French soldiers had gone all over - Belgium, Italy, Spain, etc. And that needed to be dealt with. As it so happened, a fellow inversely proportional to his stature in history was able to take control of that.

Enter Napoleon, who everyone knows the story of. He becomes Emperor of France, has the Napoleonic Code, brings the miracle of Egyptology to Europe, and then is tried for being a rebel and an autocrat (which was true.) He is exiled in 1815 to Elba Island but comes back! His soldiers loved him. He was very popular with the men. Little short of a wonder that soon after escaping Elba he gains power again.

He loses it, of course. On June 17th, 1815. (My birthday is popular with the French, isn't it? :) At Waterloo, which everyone knows about. He is exiled to St. Helena, where he remains until his death in 1821 from stomach cancer. The curtain closes.

Then there were more revolutions, Napoleon III, Les Miserables, the barricades, singing, dancing, and Communism, but that's later. Hope you enjoyed today's history lesson.

-Rob (who had nothing to do with the revolution despite having some significant date-history)

09 March 2013

10 Books That Changed My Life

Rob's Note: The blog's hit almost 1000 pageviews, not counting mine, as you can see from the counter. Thank you, visitors, commenters, and lurkers! :)

Yesterday, while ordering a plethora of books to add to my ever-increasing book collection (it's over 250 now,) I realised that it's pretty negligible compared to the Bodleian Library, which is on my bucket liszt to visit, but EXPONENTIALLY more than 95% of people I know.

So, today I'd like to talk about the 10 books that have most profoundly impacted my life, thoughts, actions, ideas, philosophy, ideals, etc., for better and for worse. Most books on the list are awesome. They're my favorite. But there are several on there I hate. With a passion. I'll make it clear. But they have influenced me, for worse, as you can well imagine. :)

So, let's begin! The title of the book has a link to the Amazon page where you can find the copy I own, or a copy of the book. And the placement of the books aren't in any necessary order, so don't go thinking they're in a certain order.

1. The Bible

Rather controversial among most my friends and acquaintances, as I do know a lot of atheists and deists. But the Bible, even if I haven't read the entire thing, is well worth reading. It explains many of the happenings of the world in an interesting light, and also manages to mix morals and the like into it. My favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes (and Job, too.) Make of that what you will.

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray

The original dandy.
Oscar Wilde's only novel, written in 1890 in serial form and then extended to be longer. Very controversial in its time (and still today among conservatives) because of its references to homosexuality. They're very blatant and pretty obvious. But still, a very good book. Think of Faust (which I'll explain next), and it's just like that. Morality, sin, all that interesting thought-provoking stuff.

3. Faust

Wilde based the above book on this one. The classic tale of the mad Heinrich (or John) Faust, who sold his soul to the Devil to become smarter. I identify with most of Faust's traits (not the demonic transaction one, though, before you call the priest.) Chris Marlowe wrote Faustus, which is the older version. However, Marlowe's a bit too dry for my tastes. Goethe's version is far more humane and it focuses on whether the powers can be used for other means (lust, power, etc.) instead of just knowledge.

4. The Great Gatsby

Oh, Gatsby...I love this book. The realism. The decor of the 1922 setting that Fitzgerald so expertly wove together in the pages of this masterpiece. The language, the emotion, the setting was as real and moving as if I had lived it. The romance was as complicated as a soap-opera, (a good thing) without all the romantic kiss-slap-what have you that is prevalent in soap operas (an even better thing.) Needless to say, I can't wait for the movie to come out in May. Nothing more to be said, unless you want an endless rave.

5. The Sun Also Rises

The only book I've read by Hemingway, it's also been one of the most tedious. Before all you Hemingway fans come and bash me, let me give my own reasons. I do like certain parts. It's changed my writing style, which is why it's on this list. The language is clipped, terse, and to the point. Out of any book I've read (yes, even you, Numbers 4 and 10) it captures how people talk accurately. Why is it tedious? I don't like the plot. An attractive girl sides with a bunch of guys and they all go watch bullfighting, and she falls in love with the bullfighter, and then the narrator is arguing with her husband, and the bullfighter...just, eh. This may seem childish but it's the truth.

6. Great Expectations

As a 6-year-old, I remember reading the watered-down kids version. Two years ago (wow, it's been that long?) I had a Kobo (warning: NEVER get one, their customer service sucks. Tried getting in contact to return my broken one and they never responded.) Anyways, so I had a Kobo and it came with the book, along with 99 other books. I was able to finish it before the Kobo broke, just 4 months after I bought it. I liked it, enjoyed the realism again. As real as Dickens can get, which is often. For some reason the idea that Ms. Havisham would hire Pip just to play was interesting and awesome to me. Paid for playing. But she was creepy. :) And then I was also fascinated with the meaning of "satis" and Magwitch, and the whole debacle behind that.

7. The Anubis Gates

Good old Scott at Polite Dissent recommended this book in his review for Fringe back in 2010's "White Tulip". I bought it on a whim, and LOVED IT. It isn't nerdy, esoteric sci-fi that you usually find in pulp magazines that only weirdos read. It's brilliant. Time travel at its best. One college professor ends up in 1810, among such literary greats as Byron, Colleridge and William Ashbless. The way Powers can turn the setting so quickly and harrowing is nothing short of genius. I recommend it for anyone who likes how chains of events unfold to create something true.

8. The Maze of Bones

The only children's book on this list, if you know the story behind it, good for you. Suffice it to say that this book got me into a very major part of my Internet and real life. But to be honest, the 39 Clues isn't really that great of a book series. Teenage cynicism, it's sad.

9. The Importance of Being Earnest

I love this play. It's amazing, witty, dramatic and much more. I can quote the play so profoundly. I usually do. "My dear Algy, you talk just as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn't a dentist. It produces a false impression."

"Well, that is what dentists normally do."

10. The Catcher in the Rye

My all-time FAVORITE book. I read it shortly before I turned 12, at the behest of my mom. I love everything about it. The language (but don't count that against me), the angst, the adventures, the way Holden views the world, just as I do (cynical and curious) and how he makes everything funny. Or sad. It's tragic that he's such a pessimist and a depressed soul. But I sort of imagine Holden in myself (not entirely, but certain aspects.)

So, those are the 10 books that I respect and agree that they have changed my life the most. What's on your list? I'd be interested to see everyone's opinions.

To the next!

03 March 2013

Design Note

Regular visitors/readers will note that the site is mint-green now. And I just changed it some weeks ago...

You guys are probably thinking I'm indecisive and random. Not really. The green will stay that way until March 18th. Why?

I just LOVE celebrating holidays. Doing something out of the way just for the occasion. So whenever a holiday's around the corner I'll change the color of the site for a week or so, depending. The regular colour of the site will be the red/yellow scheme I changed on Valentine's Day.

But it will change, for Easter, Patrick's, Thanksgiving, my birthday, Halloween, Christmas, etc. Just a design note.


01 March 2013

Limerick Laments

There once was an old man from Dover,
Who enjoyed - no, that's not it...

There was an old woman from Glasgow,
Who decided to open a magic- that sounds terrible...

Such has been my problem this week. (I have lots of problems this week, don't I?)

So, consider this part two from yesterday's life post. I said there was still some more left for me to share. So let's discuss poetry, shall we?

For my writing/poetry club we've been selling St. Patrick's Day Grams, which, in my opinion, are a tad overboard for the holiday. Just a tad. But then again that's what high school is. A lesson in moneymaking for the future stockbrokers and corporate leaders of America. Sorry for pointing it out. Carry on!

But I wanted to write a poem for the grams this time, because I missed out on the sonnet writing for Valentine's. And I like writing sonnets. And reading them. Besides Shakespeare, I wholeheartedly recommend Elizabeth Browning's Sonnets from the PortugueseShe's very good in all 44 of them. I have the first and second memorized, not the 43rd, though (the iconic "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways")

Elizabeth and her husband, master monologue poet Robert, are both my favorite poets. Their meeting story and love affair is something out of a fairy tale. My favorite poem of all time is "My Star", by Robert. "All that I know/Of a certain star/Is it can throw/Like the angled spar..."

But I digress. So this time I wanted to write a poem. And boy, do I regret it...This time, the theme was "limericks".

A limerick, if you don't know, is a short, witty poem of five lines, with the rhyme scheme a a b b a.

Edward Lear (1812-88) is one of the best known limerick writers. I've read him in elementary and middle school. Not so much now. The Schurr library doesn't think he's important. How sad. Or maybe I'm just not looking. (Stop digressing, Rob! Of course, I'm sorry.)

As to the limericks, I've been working on them for a week, with very little success. I've tried everything. Reading Edward Lear to get a feel. Listening to that Natalie Merchant album to get a childish flair. Reading some of my fellow writers'...

But the best I could come up with was this gem:

There once was an Old Man of Dover
Who enjoyed making lots of clovers.
Twenty sheets of green paper
With scissors and taper
Made millions, did that old man of Dover.

 It's ok. But it doesn't have quite the rhythm and flow. The feeling's there, all right. The big problem is that there is quite a lot to encompass in only 5 lines. And the third and fourth are the lines that I consider 'dead weight', because the lines are shorter and need only about 4-5 syllables. The first, second, and fifth lines (the 'a' rhythms) are usually and conventionally longer.

So I went back to the drawing board. Some coffee and biscuits (note: I have really stopped drinking coffee as of late. It's terrifying.), Natalie Merchant, Block Dude on the PC...and nothing. But then...wait for it...wait for it...I got this:

There once was a woman from Kilkenny
Who enjoyed collecting too many
Hats of all sizes
Including their price tags,
Till she went bankrupt, with hardly a penny.

That one's a little bit better. It's funny. It has the wit that the great Lear had. Rhythm. A point. But it's not holiday-oriented. Everyone liked the Old Man one better and I was inclined to agree. So once more I went...with nothing and horrible line fragments...

"'Until divine inspiration hit me.
And the stroke of nine', quoth he" , as the great literary poet Robert Miranda once penned in his great epic.
Ok, enough!

I had been playing with the rhyme scheme of John/leprechaun, which someone idly suggested as I showed them the above two poems. Add in something about gold, which was brought in by a song I was listening to.
And then I got it:

There once was a young boy named John
Who stole gold from a leprechaun.
He tripped over a pot
Of gold, and he thought
"I'll never steal again!" with a yawn.

Perfect. Well, not perfect. But nearly perfect, at least in my opinion. What do you think? Is it worthy of Edward Lear, or did it fall flat? You can be honest, I love constructive criticism. :) 

-Rob (the Limerick'd Leprechaun)