Saturday, January 28, 2012

Slenderman the Pincushion

There is a (very) obscure web series called Marble Hornets, which is sort of like a horror movie in installments of YouTube videos. For a very low budget film series, it is pretty darn decent. Creepy masks are probably more frightening than all the CGIs in the world, in my opinion. (see: Tim).
In the entry where Jay visits the abandoned house, there is a briefly featured shot of a plain white doll with unusual proportions, eerily similar to the enigmatic main antagonist of the series, the Operator, also known as Slenderman. 
Well, I'm sure you all know my great appreciation for all that is creepy, so you won't be terribly appalled when you find out what my most recent craft was!

Turns out, Slenderman also doubles as a pincushion! He's very multi-purpose.

Thinking upon it, I suppose he would also make a nice voodoo doll, if it were possible to remotely inflict pain by sticking pins in dolls. Hopefully no one is in intense agony right now. That would make me feel bad.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tardigrades just want to snuggle.

Tardigrades are 0.5 mm long invertebrates, affectionately referred to as "water bears". I am mildly obsessed.

Adorable, right? It's like a blindingly cute pillow, except it's actually one of a phylum of invertebrates with an affinity for moss. Who wants to snuggle?!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Je l'ai fais pour le fromage!"

We don't do a lot in French class, but every so often, something beautiful comes out of it. Last year, it was my notebook nearly completely filled with elaborate and exceedingly bizarre doodles. The year before that...well, it was also a notebook full of doodles. Shush, I get bored.
Anyway, this year has surpassed all. In addition to my notebook filled with elaborate doodles, I managed to convince our teacher and our class to create our own silent film, in the time-honored tradition of the French!
Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking; more than one person has mentioned this to me. "A silent film? But aren't you in French class? Shouldn't you be speaking, you know, French?" Well, shush, I say to you. It was fun, our title slides are en francais, we're celebrating the history of film, and, perhaps most importantly, none of us can actually speak French all that fluently. Really, the silence of our film is for the best.

The title of our film is "Je l'ai fais pour le fromage!", or, "I did it for the cheese!"
Yes, it actually makes sense. Watch it. If you don't speak French, I have a plot summary for you after the video.
I'll warn you in advance; we are not very good at filming. Just bear with us and laugh at our over-dramatic facial expressions.

So, let me take a guess. Your head is spinning a little bit with confusion and awe. It's a little like getting off a  carnival ride. Don't get up - you might stumble into things and hurt yourself. Stay right there and let me explain what just happened.
I'm the girl in the poofy dress, tights, and hat. Grace is the girl with the top hat and striped sweater. Dustin is the whistling guy, and he also has a hat. The train is two random people from study hall, more on that later. Here's a scene by scene summary:
The first scene begins with me giving Dustin flowers. Dustin says, oh boy, flowers!
Grace gives Dustin cheese. Dustin says, no, I don't want your cheese. It smells. (It actually did. It had been sitting in my locker all day and smelled like ... distilled evil).
I magically disappear, because I'm like a genie.
Grace is angry that Dustin does not like her cheese, so she ties him up and carts him off. She then places him in front of a train, because placing people in front of trains is a required part of any 20's style silent film. Have you ever seen a silent film without a train scene? I didn't think so.
I rush in and ask, what are you doing? 
Gracie explains what she is doing. She is tying up Dustin because he does not appreciate cheese.
I express confusion as to why Dustin does not like cheese, because cheese is delicious.
Grace asks if I like cheese.
I exclaim that I love cheese!
Grace and I skip off arm in arm, leaving Dustin to get run over by a cardboard train and some cheerful study hall people. (We had to recruit kids from study hall, as the fourth member of our class (who played the train) was absent that day.) 
Grace and I pretend to eat cheese, but not actually because it is evil, and discuss Roquefort. Dustin enters. Somehow he has miraculously escaped from being hit by a train. Just ignore the plot discrepancy. Maybe he's a ghost. Maybe he's Houdini. Whatever.
He attempts to tie us up, fails, gives up, and then retrieves a train. Grace and I huddle in fear and say "Oh la la". It is suggested that Grace and I were hit by the train, although it was just hanging there. Shush. The study hall kids had to leave to do their homework or eat muffins or do whatever study hall kids do. Instead, we had to substitute the microphone stand. ...It was a low budget film. Don't judge.
Dustin winks at the camera and takes a bite of cheese (not really, because it was evil cheese). 
The End!
Oh, and a special thanks to Grace, for editing all of it like a master, to Dustin, for having a great face, to random study hall kids for being a very cheerful (bemused?) train, and to Scott Joplin, who wrote the "Peacherine Rag".

One thing is for certain - We have certainly attained the level of bizarrity mandated by French film. Then and again, with a film directed by me, what did you expect?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Photography didn't teach me this.

The photography of Brooke Shaden is possibly the most beautiful photography I have ever seen.  She mostly does photographs of women in deep hues on dark landscapes. Her pictures remind me of dreams - ethereal, vivid, part of a story you can almost remember, but never quite. 

And to think I was so proud in 10th grade of cutting and pasting crocuses onto a piece of sky...

I think it might be a fun activity to write quick stories or verses for some of her photographs. I worry, though,  that the image won't translate mediums, and I'll destroy the evanescence... Well, you know what, let's give it a shot. It's a nice little creative writing prompt, n'est pas?

She spent so long between pages, absorbing worlds through letters. She wandered through forests and cities, speaking to people she'd never meet and tasting food she'd never eat and drinking wine that would never be so sweet to anyone else. Reality bore down on her like a painful yoke and tried to catch her in its final grasp, and so she fled through paper to places that could save her. She found villains to hate and heroes that would fight, for her and the world. And there she was safe.
But even the safest refuge, the greatest paradise, can turn into a prison. And so, the wise books talked among themselves, whispered between their paper mouths and their ink-black lips. They shook their paper-thin heads and looked at her, hiding and dreaming and fearing. The wise books took her by the hands and by the feet and lifted her free of them. Twining about her, they carried her high above the earth, and they showed her the world. They showed her the darkened houses and the crying men and the starving and the sick, and she cried, Why are you showing me this? This is what I was fleeing from!
We've taught you, they said to her. We've taught you everything we know. Now you must use that knowledge. 
What do you want me to do? she asked, fearfully, hesitantly.
We are tools, the books said. We are guidelines and hints and visions. We are points of view. We are knowledge. And knowledge is power. And power, they said, is the ability to change things. 
What do you want me to do? she asked. What can I possibly do with this power?
Simple, the books whispered. We want you to save the world.

Perhaps I'll do more later, if I get to it. Lately there is so much I want to do. Projects to complete. AP Bio notes to hole punch and binder. Physics midterms to study for. Sewing machines to conquer. Chopin to play. I need to stick with only having a few hobbies. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fun Internet Censorship!

I considered blacking out my blog, but I got home at four so I thought the statement might be a little lost, as the day is almost over. I'm totally with them all in spirit, though. It is fascinating to see the Internet all banding together over this. The solidarity is inspiring.

Wikipedia has a snazzy screen.
I have to admit, they scared me a little. I can barely imagine how I would function without Wikipedia. It is possibly the most helpful tool ever invented. All the relevant knowledge of a subject you could need. No need to go trawling through years of newspaper posts or sketchy blogs. It's right there. Being helpful. Like a ridiculously intelligent friend, who always pops up first when you search for anything. It's great. A world without Wikipedia... *shudder*  It's terrifying. I would be so lost.

I've been doing some reading up on SOPA and PIPA. They both look rather suspect to me. Granted, I suppose my sources are slightly biased, but they are factual enough. Basically, what I got out of my reading is that SOPA and PIPA are dangerous due to their scale. Instead of simply removing the offending content, they would give the government or corporations (I worry about the latter more) the ability to block entire host websites. Instead of merely removing an infringing video from YouTube, they could remove YouTube. While I agree that intellectual property should be protected, I can only support it to a degree. The price of degrading the Internet and putting a powerful weapon for censorship into the hands of the political-industrial complex seems a bit high.
The Internet, if I may speak from a combination of observation and research, is a massive tool for social change, entrepreneurship, free speech, and open discourse of ideas. It's a feeding ground for creativity, in short. (Creativity in the sense of creating things - anything, not merely art.) These bills would place a lot of power in hands I'm not sure that I trust. Maybe Orwell got to me, but I don't take freedoms for granted. At least, not too many of them.

Here's a few more pieces on it:

Could Facebook Shut Down?
CNN does an article on the phenomenon.

I'm considering writing a letter to a congress person. What should it say?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Jessica Ahlquist Case: People Can Be Jerks

So, I don't know if anyone has been following the Jessica Ahlquist trial. That's the one that was taking place in Rhode Island, where sophomore (now junior) Miss Ahlquist challenged her public school's prayer banner.

The school refused to take it down, despite its blatant illegality, and so she took it to court. As hopefully is obvious (though, sadly, perhaps isn't), Miss Ahlquist won her case this week. And as is, unfortunately, obvious, she has been receiving all manner of vitriol and bile and acid from all the "moral, forgiving Christians" who argued that the banner was "just a banner" and a "school tradition" and that the terrible, terrible atheists were infringing on their freedom of religion.
Riiiiight. Because we all know it's legal for public, federally funded buildings to promote one religion over others. And we all know that you can't say your own private prayer in a public building, but instead have to shove it down everyone's throats. (Actually, you'd think that would be the case, judging by the reaction...)

You know, sometimes you start thinking that the world is a pretty nice place, and people are generally decent, and when they're not they're really just kind of stupid and bumbling, not really malicious. Then you read articles and see some of the crap that has been sent to this brave, intelligent high school junior, and you think, wow. People are terrible. If you feel up to it, read some of the sickening puke that has been sent at her. From her own classmates, no less.
It's really vile. People threatening physical harm to a sixteen-year-old smart enough and courageous enough to go into court and speak on national television about something she clearly believes in (not to mention, is right about). I mean, honestly, let's think about it for a second. Here we have a banner that reads "School Prayer" and contains a plea to God, singular and capitalized. Now let's pretend you're not a Christian. Okay, Jew or Muslim, maybe you can get past the fact that it's clearly a Christian prayer to a Christian god, since you're monotheistic and all. Now let's pretend you're a Buddhist. Or a Hindu. Or, god forbid, an atheist. Let's think about it from an atheist's perspective. A prayer banner praising a god is contrary to pretty much their entire philosophy. Can you say...exclusionary?

And, look, even regarding the fact that these people are more incorrect about the issue than everyone on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, it still doesn't negate the fact that you shouldn't be threatening people and calling them vile things. I don't care how much you disagree with their position, you should not be threatening physical harm. I thought they taught most people common decency in the elementary school. Evidently not. They were probably too busy reading Leviticus or something.

UPDATE: Here's part of the judge's ruling that was particularly eloquent.

"No amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything other than a prayer, and a Christian one at that. Its opening, calling upon the “Heavenly Father,” is an exclusively Christian formulation of a monotheistic deity, leaving out, inter alia, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists alike. The Prayer concludes with the indisputably religious closing: “Amen;” a Hebrew word used by Jews, Christians and Muslims to conclude prayers. In between, the Prayer espouses values of honesty, kindness, friendship and sportsmanship. While these goals are commendable, the reliance on God’s intervention as the way to achieve those goals is not consistent with a secular purpose."


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Annotated Bibliography of Children's Books: "Never-ending Series"

My end product for our current independent reading project is as follows. 
Basically, the premise of this project was to introduce us to the joys of writing annotated bibliographies! However, as our instructor wanted to keep the project short while still having us read a decent sum of books, we were told to read children's books. 
This project of mine is very strange, but it made the maternal unit laugh so I think I'll share it with all of my dedicated blog followers. 
Haaaaaaah, jokes about how no one reads my blog never gets old. Heheheheh.


A “never-ending series” (yes, I coined the term and it is very creative) is a book series characterized by several criteria. Firstly, it is a series that contains an obscenely large amount of books. Some series, such as Nancy Drew, contain over one hundred books. Others either haven't reached that level, but are on their way. At the very least, these never-ending series tend to have books that number over fifteen discrete volumes.
Many never-ending series are contrivances of publishing companies, conceived for the sole purpose of making capital. Books like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys are the quintessential examples of this, as they were both written by ghost writers, and the series continued far past the time when it might have been kinder to let them die in peace. (Though it is interesting to note that Nancy Drew never declined in quality over the years. Perhaps they couldn't sink any lower). Other books, such as the Scooby-Doo books or the Magic School Bus chapter books, were made to capitalize on a successful television show or previous set of children's books aimed at a different age demographic. The American Girls books also capitalize, in this instance on the assumed inherent property of young girls to desire large, creepy dolls. Other books of the never-ending series variety started out with a legitimate artistic vision and then seem to have either gotten snatched up by companies for merchandising. Some books merely continued for 40 odd books past where anyone cared about them anymore.
Generally, another characteristic of these books is that they are all discrete volumes. One can typically just pick any book in the series, be it number one or 37, and completely comprehend the plot. They're not unlike sitcoms in this regard, despite that they are numbered serially. However, I was surprised by some of these books. For instance, The Magic Tree House series actually seems to be setting itself up for some over-arching plot. Jack and Annie discover mysterious M's in the tree house that they think may relate to the tree house's owner. I thought that was a nice touch, as it adds a dose of reality to an otherwise sterile bubble. Take Nancy Drew – The Secret of the Old Clock is completely irrelevant to The Ghost of Blackwood Hall. There isn't even any change in Nancy's little world. She never makes new friends, breaks up with Ned, goes off to college, goes to school...nothing.
Interestingly, despite the fact that these books are primarily tripe, children seem to love them. It's very strange. I don't understand it. Then and again, I don't really understand why children do anything, including things I did as a child myself. (I think it might have something to do with the fact that they're kind of stupid). Regardless, publishers seem to have latched onto this money-making opportunity with great zeal, so instead of spewing out interesting, insightful books that won't put parents to sleep as they read them to their children night after night, they can publish little cookie cutter stories that kids lap up like kool-aid.
Fine, fine, I'm speculating a little. I don't have any statistics or hard evidence to support this little hunch of mine. I'm sure they're actually fine books for children that get them interesting in reading. For the love of Pete, though, if I ever have to read another Junie B. Jones book I may have a psychological episode. That little girl is the most obnoxious, hyperactive, unintelligent brat with whom I have ever had the misfortune to come into contact. I hope no children ever think that she is a good role model merely because she's in a book because then we will be plagued with a torrent of little demons in child-skin. We will probably all be driven insane before we can find the source of the problem, sort of like in a zombie apocalypse.  

Annotated Bibliography: “Never-Ending Series”

Betancourt, Jeanne. Western Pony. Illus. Vivien Kubbos. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1999. Print. Pony Pals.

Lulu is concerned that her friends and ponies are leaving her in order to fawn over a cute Western boy. The story is resolved when her friends stop acting like groupies and spend time with her again. Though the plot is unimaginative and unexciting, the writing is actually fairly decent for a book about an alliterative pony club. Part of a series of 44 books.

Dadey, Debby, and Marcia Thornton Jones. Santa Claus Doesn't Mop Floors. Illus. John Steven Gurney. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1991. Print. The Bailey School Kids 3.

Several misbehaving third graders with a penchant for maliciously leaving food stuffs in irregular places get their just desserts when Mr. Jolly becomes the school janitor. Amidst speculations that Mr. Jolly is Santa Claus, the children are involuntarily imbued with Christmas spirit regardless of their irreligious family preferences. Part of a series of 80, not including supplementary volumes.

Dixon, Franklin W. The Tower Treasure. 1927. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 2003. Print. The Hardy Boys 1.

Adolescent brothers, Frank and Joe, with no special talents or interests, get roped into an exciting mystery when their friend's car is hijacked. They then get to work with their famous detective father and end up solving the mystery by having eyes that see things (obvious things). The book is filled with the most inane dialogue ever contrived. Part of a series of the original 200, but 330 if one counts The Hardy Boy Case Files spin-off series.

Gelsey, James. Scooby-Doo and the Howling Wolfman. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1999. Print.

Scooby-Doo and the gang visit a traditional Western ranch that is seemingly being terrorized by a legendary wolf-man with a penchant for horse-shoe thievery. Skeptical of such unlikely claims, the gang investigates and finds that the masked marauder is merely the sous-chef with aspirations of beginning a chain restaurant. Part of a multi-book series. Exact number was not available, but as a child I had over 20 of the books, with many more listed on the inside cover. The writing is mediocre and uninspired; basically, the books are just the television series in text form.

Keene, Carolyn. The Ghost of Blackwood Hall. 1948. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1995. Print. Nancy Drew Mystery Stories.

Nancy Drew is part of the epic series by Carolyn Keene, or Mildred Wirt Benson. Nancy meets with a woman who has had jewelry stolen under unusual circumstances, and slowly uncovers the workings of an elaborate scheme that swindled vulnerable women out of their money through fraudulent séances. The writing is unexciting and the dialogue is sickening tripe, but the mystery (plot) is well crafted. Part of a series of 175, not counting the 124 books in the spin-off series The Nancy Drew Files.

Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. New York: Amulet Books, 2007. Print. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 1.

Greg Heffley records his embarrassing, sometimes ludicrous adolescent life in an amalgamation of cartoons and text. The writing is humorous, and the novel well put together. Though there are only 5 books currently in the series, more keep spilling out. I include it as a potential candidate for a “never-ending” series in the future. Despite its current popularity and money-making potential, though, it will still have a step above, say, Nancy Drew, in that it wasn't conceived purely to make capital.

Martin, Ann M. The Ghost at Dawn's House. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1988. Print. The Baby-Sitter's Club 9.
Adolescent girls with interests in baby-sitting meet regularly to form the entrepreneurial Baby- Sitter's Club. In this volume, Dawn (a baby-sitter) discovers a secret passageway in her house and believes it is haunted. Eventually it is discovered that the noises emanating from the passageway are actually caused by a discontented child making it his hideout. The writing is fairly sophisticated, switching from first person to third person to journal entries. Interspersed throughout the narrative are helpful baby-sitting hints. Part of a series of 213.

Moore, Eva. The Truth About Bats. Illus. Ted Enik. New York: Scholastic Inc. , 1999. Print. The Magic School Bus 1.

Mrs. Frizzle's class takes a trip to Yosemite in a flying bus to study bats. As with most television-series spin-off books, the story is essentially the television episode in text form, except much less interesting. Although the Magic School Bus was originally produced as a picture book for children, the book I refer to was the first in a series of spin-off chapter books, based heavily on the children's show. Twenty books are specifically in the young reader chapter book series.

Osborne, Mary Pope. The Knight at Dawn. Illus. Sal Murdocca. New York: Random House, 1993. Print. Magic Tree House 2.

Jack and Annie discover a magic, time-traveling tree house. They visit it in the night and spend some time messing around in the middle ages before returning to the present. The premise is a good one, and the writing is fairly in depth (for example, showing character's emotions versus stating them). However, their adventure seems rather ludicrous and poorly thought-out. (Oh, come on, a bunch of knights putting children in the dungeon for no reason? The medieval era was barbarous, but that's just silly.) Part of a series of 48, but one that appears to have a coherent, over-arching plot.

Park, Barbara. Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake. Illus. Denise Brunkus. New York: Random House, 1995. Print. Junie B. Jones 5.

Junie declares herself the winner of everything and proceeds to lose at everything. Visiting the school carnival, she fails to win anything and sulks. Eventually, she wins a cake at a cake walk, but, in her characteristically poor judgment, selects a fruitcake for a prize. She maintains her optimism about life when she discovers that fruitcake doubles as a high chair. The fact that the book is written from the voice of an unintelligent kindergartener is a fairly brilliant literary device, and one that I find to be incredibly annoying. Part of a heavily merchandised series of 29 books.

Roy, Ron. The Absent Author. Illus. John Steven Gurney. New York: Random House, 1997. Print. A to Z Mysteries.

Dink and his friends have to solve the mystery of why the author he invited for a book signing failed to show. It is finally revealed that the creepy woman that asked to follow them around was actually the author, and had contrived the entire mystery. Actually pretty decent for a second-grade mystery, though it was a little disappointing that I had solved the mystery by the third chapter. What did I expect? Part of a series of slightly more than 26 due to spin-off books and additional volumes.

Stine, R. L. Horrorland. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2009. Print. Goosebumps.

Julie discovers an old camera at a yard sale that an old woman warns her not to take. Regardless, she does, and discovers that whenever she takes a photograph of someone, something horrible happens to them. She also discovers that her rival from school is stalking her, which is honestly way creepier than her evil camera but for some reason doesn't seem to bother her as much. The writing nondescript but decent. Part of a series of 62.

Thaler, Mike. The Science Fair from the Black Lagoon. Illus. Jared Lee. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2004. Print.

Hubie lets his imagination run away with him as he tries to design a science fair project. The book is interspersed with pictures in the margins that only tangentially fit into the narrative, and make for a confusing read. This book (and its relatives) are a continuation of the picture book series intended for younger children. This series of ~10 books is intended for 2nd-3rd graders.

Tripp, Valerie. Felicity's Dancing Shoes. Illus. Dan Andreasen. Middleton: Pleasant Company Publications, 2000. Print. The American Girl's Collection.

Felicity, an unassuming, eighteenth century colonial girl, thinks her sister's dancing shoes are magic and allow her to dance better. In reality, her improvement was merely the result of practice, and she learned a valuable lesson in hard work and not assigning arbitrary, supernatural significance to inanimate objects. Many such books are created as auxiliaries to the main story line of the various American girls, all of whom have their own particular doll and accessories. Fun fact: Did you know that they use the same exact face mold for all the girls, and merely change their hair, eye color, and skin tone? I feel like it's some kind of statement on mass culture.

Warner, Gertrude Chandler. Mystery in the Sand. Illus. David Cunningham. 1971. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1991. Print. The Boxcar Children 16.

The band of self-sufficient children and pre-adults hijack a kindly old man's metal detector and unearth a golden locket. They subsequently discover that the locket belongs to a reclusive woman that lives alone with her friend/house keeper in an old house with a ton of cats.
The children reintroduce the recluses to the joys of human company, with debatable success. The writing is decent, but the dialogue is insipid and all of the main characters are completely indistinguishable from each other. It would probably be easier just to refer to the children by number. The books are part of a series of 125.

[For the record, any formatting errors in the above bibliography is the result of copying and pasting into this blog.]

I Read a Children's Book to a Reluctant Child:
A Planning Debacle with a Slightly Disappointing Result

I had a great plan for this. At first, I was uncertain as to where I would find a child to read my book to. I was a little concerned that my sister was reaching the upper limits of childhood, and I have no other relatives of the appropriate age range. Therefore, I had the brilliant idea of reading to one of the bus children. One of the denizens of that little hell is named Cameron. Cameron is the type of bus-child that is trying to grow up faster than he really should, and it makes him look very stupid. He wears gangster-style flat-brimmed ball caps and leather jackets, which, if you picture on a slightly pudgy eleven year old, looks fairly ridiculous. He also constantly smooths his bangs over one eye, a weird habit. Furthermore, he actually seeks me out upon occasion to try to mess with me. It would be hilarious if I wasn't in always the terrible moods brought on by the demon-infested bus.
For example, a month or two ago, the little devil decided to sit down across from me and ask me a series of pointless, mildly intrusive questions about my life while his friend snickered from a seat over. I answered him monosyllabically with increasing incredulity as he interrogated me about trivialities, like my favorite school subject, or why I knit on the bus. Eventually, when it became apparent to me that he was insincere and merely concerned with his own amusement, I ignored him and went back to reading.
More recently (as in last week), I had the following conversation with him that led me to believe that he'd be the perfect victi- I mean, audience for the book reading.
The scene: I was seated, hunched up in the grey plastic seats in the only comfortable position possible for anyone over four feet. I was unobtrusively reading the packet for mock trial, when I see the sudden presence of brown, glossed hair in my peripheral and hear my name.
“Hey, Maddie.”
I look up, as is the instinctive response. There is Cameron, looking at me attentively.
“Hey, Maddie,” he says. “Is there anything I do for you? Like, something I could go and get you?”
I stare at him for a few seconds, eyes narrowed, puzzling out what his statement intends. I haven't spoken to him in several weeks, and mostly avoid eye contact when possible. Eventually, I respond with a simple, confused, “What?”
He looks legitimately helpful, but I wonder if I see the curve of a smile around his lips. His friends are sitting a seat over, and I recall the previous aforementioned incident involving him. I can't help but doubt his intentions, especially considering the apparent absurdity of his question.
“You know,” he says blandly. “Is there anything I can, like, go and get you? Something I can do?”
I stare at him for another few moments, baffled.
“We're on a bus,” I explain curtly.
Cameron shrugs innocently, as if he were only trying to be helpful. “Oh, okay. Well, whatever. I was just wondering.” He turns back to his friends and their conversation, leaving me blinking at him and wondering what just happened.
After a few moments I turned back to my mock trial packet, shaking my head and dismissing it as the insanity of children.

It occurred to me about a week later that his bizarre, nonsensical offer would provide the perfect opening to take him up on his helpful offer, and read a children's book to him. I could even go about it in a degrading way, such as carefully enunciating simple words, and choosing a book such as Pony Pals. I was pretty excited about this, too; what a lovely, passive-aggressive way to confuse an overtly obnoxious child!
Alas. I had set apart two days for the completion of this interview, and, woe, Cameron was not present on the bus on either of those days. I'm mildly distraught, as this was going to be a hilarious interview. Instead, I am forced to resort to my only available option: reading a book to my little sister. I hope that is an adequate substitute for an evil bus denizen. I apologize for any disappointment inspired by this tragic turn of events.
The book I have chosen to read to her is The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure. It was the only age-appropriate book (besides Nancy Drew) that I had in my bibliography. I hope you can excuse me for only reading her one chapter of the book, as it is a rather lengthy tale and my sister doesn't particularly like to sit still and/or listen to me.
The following is the transcript of her reaction, as best I could record. For notarization of the verity of the event, I have included both her and my mother's signatures, as well as a drawing of her for identification purposes.

Date: January 10th. Year: 2012.

Scene: [Emme has just arrived home from basketball practice, and is bustling about the kitchen. She pours popcorn into a bowl as I skip down the stairs.]

Me: Hey, Emme! How are you today?
Emme: Uh, good.
Me: So, Cameron wasn't on the bus today, and thus I couldn't read the book to him. I guess that leaves you!
Emme: Okay. Could you read while I do my homework?
Me: Uh, yeah. No problem.
[We sit down in front of the fire. She does math work while I begin to read Chapter 18: A Startling Deduction (from the Hardy Boys). A few lines in, I get bored and start making Frank's voice really deep and Joe's voice really high and nasally. It kept me from falling into a boredom induced coma.]
[I sustained two interruptions from the narrative.]
Emme: What is 5 divided by three?
Me: Five thirds. [laughs maniacally for a moment]. Get it? Five thirds is just 5 divided by 3... okay. In decimal it's 1.666666666.
[I continue reading].
Emme: [exclaims in response to Joe Hardy's statement of “Boy, this [sandwich] is good!”]
This is a terrible story!
Me: Yes! Yes it is!
[I finish reading the chapter. Emme shakes her head as I announce the end, and then she proceeds to regale me with a tale of perfectly legitimate mathematical notation not recognized by a frustrating teacher.]

Five minutes later:
Me: Hey, Emme. Pop quiz, tell me what happened in the chapter I read you.
Emme: The people, Frank and … John or something...
Me: Joe.
Emme: Uh, the Hardy boys go to the rail roadtracks because they're on a case for their dad or something, and they talk to the railroad instructor – I don't know what he was –
Me: Railroad director, ticket booth person, whatever.
Emme: Okay, I wasn't sure. So, they're talking to the train station director person and he was all like, whoa, you're the famous Hardy boys people, and uh, okay, hold on a sec...okay. So, and they're all like, oh my gosh that guy, Red Jack or something, he must have hid his treasure in the, wait...
Me: Water tower.
Emme: I was thinking oil tower, but, okay. That was what it was. Anyway, he hid it there 'cause that was the last place people would suspect it.
Me: Good comprehension. You remembered more than I thought you would.
Emme: Heh. I was kind of listening.
Me: Thank you for participating in this interview.
Emme: Heh, okay.

Evidence of Child's Involvement and Legal Accountability Form:

By signing this document I certify that all of the above events are true and accurate to the best of my knowledge. I also agree that the following illustration of Emmeline Perkins is an accurate representation of her and does not in the least resemble a gremlin. Furthermore, I agree to give Madeleine Q. Perkins full publication license and immunity from legal action regarding the above interview and below illustration. In the event that an occurrence (including but not limited to earthquake, flood, combustion (intentional or spontaneous), lightning strike, trampling, consumption, epidemic (including but not limited to cholera, malaria, diphtheria, or fungal infection), or exposure to extreme winds) destroys this waiver and all evidence of its previous existence, or all people who can register the existence of this paper through the process of comprehending electromagnetic radiation, I will testify that I signed this document and will agree to abide by the statements it contains.

Debra J. Perkins: 1/10/12
(maternal unit)

Emmeline M. Perkins: 1/10/12

Here is the drawing of my sister. She is real.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Boxcar Children

Our current independent reading project for English class is an annotated bibliography of children's books. (For those ignorant, an annotated bibliography is a list of citations with helpful little comments injected after each.) To ease us into the process of annotated bibliographing, and to have the project completed in a few weeks, we are completing it with children's picture books, as opposed to weightier volumes.
Of course, because I seem to have poor planning capabilities, I didn't do my project with children's picture books. Instead, I chose a theme that required the use of children's chapter books. Granted, I can read a children's chapter book in 20-40 minutes, but when you must read 15 of them, cite them, and then write an essay on them, the process becomes rather lengthy. 
Furthermore, children's chapter books are some of the dullest literature ever conceived. While lovely for children, with their stunted cognitive processes and lack of critical thinking, they are a dull and frustrating genre to read for anyone over the age of 12 (who has a brain, at any rate). 

For instance, the Boxcar Children. Decent writing, for a children's chapter book, I suppose, but lordy-fricking-lou. The Alden children are some of the least interesting characters ever invented. They have no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever. One could just as easily name them 1, 2, 3, and 4 and have nothing change significantly. Yet, despite their inherent dullness, the Aldens have access to all sorts of exciting adventures.
For instance, in The Mystery in the Sand (the book I read), the Aldens discover a locket on the beach, and determine that it belongs to a reclusive woman that lives in a creepy, castle-like house. As they try to learn more about this woman, they discover that she lives with 10 cats and another woman! (for whom she keeps house. Riiiiight.). The other woman is evidently a cat-obsessed artist and extreme introvert. The two women often take long walks on the beach at midnight, wearing men's clothing. And, this being the late 60's, that actually means something.

Okay, I'm just going to take a wild leap here, but I think this should be obvious to any modern person who reads this book: They are totally lesbians.
I mean really, think about it for a second. Two women, living alone together, with ten cats. Wearing men's clothing.
I mean, really. Not to play off of lesbian stereotypes, except that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm sorry if I'm not being PC. But really, think about it.
Furthermore, (and I am really reading into it here), the fact that they shun society so much could totally be indicative of the fear they have of judgment/ostracism from the not-really-progressive people of the era. Am I right, or what?

Okay, okay, I'm almost definitely wrong. There's no way Gertrude Chandler Warner meant it that way. But I've got to keep myself sane somehow, wading through all these blasted children's books. It's killing me slowly, like a degenerative brain illness. 

The Dresden Dolls

I don't know if these people are my favorite band of all time, but they're astonishingly close. Their songs are quirky and scary and simply brilliant. Lyrics are witty, music is gorgeous, everything is wonderful. Furthermore, they're catchy, sort of like California Girls but in a way that is actually pleasant, as opposed to inspiring you to tear off your ears and shove them into your larynx to stop you from humming that infernal tune.
The songs do seem to include a small bit of insanity, but it's the lovely type of insanity. As opposed to the kind of insanity inspired by California Girls, may Katy Perry have a plague upon her head.
For the record, their music is really nothing like Katy Perry. It's alt. rock.

And not to attempt to detract from the stand-alone radiance that is Amanda Palmer and Brian Vigilone, but you know what is amazing as well? Amanda Palmer happens to be married to Neil Gaiman, the author of Coraline, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, and much else. Every single book of his is stunning. Some of them I like more than others, naturally, but I have yet to be at all disappointed.

The next one contains Neil Gaiman's singing and many very cool costumes. It amuses me greatly.

There will be likely more to come as I listen to more of their music.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Make Weird Cards

You may be able to click on the picture to make it larger. Hang on and let me try after I post it. I've never attempted it before.

UPDATE: Whoa, it turns into a Facebook-like photo viewer! How nice! You can probably see the pictures if you have good eyesight. 

Text: Holy moly guacamole, Batman!
You're eight-fricking-teen!
You're basically an old lady!
Look, I drew a picture of you as Batman!
You can tell it's you because it's a ginger!
I hope you like your card! I thought about it for a really long time!
Then I just put down the first random crap that came to mind.

Love you! Maddie.
Look! Here's a picture of myself as the Joker! You can tell it's me because it looks kind of stupid. :D
You know, for all that he's a raving psychopath and all, the Joker has GREAT taste in suits.
Actually, if I were a superhero/villain, I would want to be able to teleport.
Hey, look at all that empty white pink space. What will I do with it? Umm. Hey, look, the Justice League wishes you merry birthday!

Superman got you a kryptonite cake!
Lex Luthor also got you a kryptonite cake, because secretly he was actually going to give it to Superman for his birthday but realized it was your birthday tomorrow and he hadn't gotten you anything.
Wonder Woman was a little more creative and got you a small, angry cheetah with a bad but unnoticeable rash. She was going to give you a very small lasso of truth to use as a leash, but, well, she forgot.
Sandman gives you a disapproving yet indifferent stare. He's not actually part of the Justice League mythos, but he is D.C. Also, Superman couldn't kick his butt if he tried.
Spiderman actually  got you a pile of book and a treehouse, but he's Marvel, not DC, and got beat up by everyone else.
(Superman says, "Sayonara, sucka!")

The cloud in the middle reads, "Grace, help me. I'm a geek."
Grace is my friend, by the way. You know, the one who receives this card tomorrow.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


This is a little belated, but this is my favorite Christmas song:

It's a reference to the H.P. Lovecraft book A Shadow Over Innsmouth, which I have yet to read but I assume includes fishmen. (For reference, Lovecraft was the 20's science fiction writer who conceptualized Cthulhu, a sort of evil octopus thing.)