Published: Mon, 24 Oct 2016 16:54:27 -0400
Mon, 24 Oct 2016 16:54:27 -0400Chapter 16: A Forest Walk On a "chill and sombre" day, Hester is lurking the forest with Pearl in the hopes that she will run into Reverend Dimmesdale. If you'll remember from last time, Hester is in a real pickle here. After seven years she is good and ready to tell Dimmesdale the truth about Chillingworth, which is that he is her husband and has been plotting the Reverend's slow descent into the pits of hell for almost a decade. She has no idea how Dimmesdale will react. Scenario one: He forgives her immediately and snaps out of his downward spiral, thus reclaiming his position as the number one studmuffin minister of the Northern Hemisphere. Scenario two: He croaks on the spot. In either case, a sneak attack doesn't seem like the best strategy here. There are a handful of reasons this rendez-vous is in the woods, and all of them include extended metaphors. The woods are wild and mysterious, the perfect spot for Mistress Hibbins' Satan-approved debauchery and Hester + Dimmesdale's sexcapades. It's the only place Hester feels she has "the whole wide world to breathe in," so I'm not going out on on limb to say Pearl was probably conceived in these woods. Now contrast this with the town center: rife in the governor's rules and biases, controlled by the patriarchy, dismally lacking in checked privileges. Pearl observes that the sunshine has been avoiding Hester and her scarlet letter, and that it instead chooses to dance around Pearl, an emblem of innocence, with its warmth. I wouldn't read into it too much. As they wait around, Pearl asks Hester to tell her a story about the Black Man, a figure who haunts the forest and forces people to write their names in his book with their own blood. Hawthorne was never one for subtlety. This is a classic 1600s superstition, so Hester doesn't panic that her daughter has the imagination of a serial killer, but does make it clear that she's had enough of this baloney. To shut her up, Hester tells her that the Black Man DID, in fact, place the scarlet letter on her bosom. Pearl is satisfied with the answer, for now. They move past the topic of the devil's agenda, and sit on a luxuriant heap of moss, which, at some epoch of the preceding century, had been a gigantic pine, with its roots and trunk in the darksome shade, and its head aloft in the upper atmosphere. via GIPHY The trees impending over it had flung down great branches, from time to time, which choked up the current, and compelled it to form eddies and black depths at some points; while, in its swifter and livelier passages, there appeared a channel-way of pebbles, and brown, sparkling sand. This writing is objectively beautiful, but so unnecessary to the plot that I am FORCED to conclude that Hawthorne hadn't decided where the storyline would go at this point, so he just wrote a few filler pages of description about the scenery to kill time. Of note is a babbling brook, which I think is supposed to represent Pearl. ^ You and I, trying to process the symbols and metaphors in this book. via GIPHY Hester and Pearl hear someone approaching. In what seems to be a stab at irony but is so unsurprising that it physically pains me to call it that, Pearl mistakes the approaching Dimmesdale for the Black Man. Chapter 17: The Pastor and His Parishioner Dimmesdale hears someone calling his name and thinks it's a ghost. When he realizes it's Hester, he makes sure she not a ghost and then pops a squat on a bed of moss. If you've always wanted to hear what awkward small talk sounds like in the lexicon of the seventeenth-century colonies, you're in for a treat! Hester and Dimmesdale chat about "the gloomy sky, the threatening storm, and, next, the health of each," and I'm guessing they both sweat a lot. Once that's out of the way, Hester spills the beans about Chillingworth. Dimmesdale: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, WOMAN. I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU. NEVER. Hester: Please? Dimmesdale: Okay I forgive you Hester: Remember [...]
Mon, 24 Oct 2016 16:50:05 -0400Dear Auntie SparkNotes, In the past year, my phone was stolen. It was a really nice phone, and my parents were upset, but for my birthday, I got another phone: one of a much older model that didn't work most of the time. Since then, I feel I have been a trooper about it, but it's still been frustrating. The buttons and the camera don't work (which is difficult when I need to take pictures of things for school), and half the time, calls and texts don't go through. I really appreciate the phone, but it's frustrating when I can't get in touch with my parents or other people I need to contact for things without a social context, but rather, "Where are you?" or, "Our project is due on Friday—have you started your portion of the work?" I find it very frustrating, and today, I looked online at the cost of a new phone, and did the math for being able to save enough to get it before next school year. My mom found out what I was planning on and was angry because she thought wasn't being appreciative, although I said I was (very much so) and explained to her the issues, she (and my dad) were still angry with me, and I can't seem to make them understand. They both have good phones that work, but mine has sufficient water damage (from when it belonged to my mom four years ago) that causes a lot of problems. What should I do? First things first, Sparkler: All other issues aside, your frustration is completely reasonable and understandable. A phone is just like a car, or a refrigerator, or any other machine people use to facilitate the day-to-day business of their lives: it has to be reliable to be useful. And if you can't rely on said machine, whatever it is, then not only is it no longer a convenience, it's a liability—one you have to spend so much time and energy trying to accommodate for that you'd arguably be better off just not having one at all. Your phone is like the digital equivalent of Errol the owl from Harry Potter (who was ancient, addled, and generally not charged with delivering critical and/or time-sensitive information for good reason.) But that's why I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that your parents' reaction isn't really about you failing to "appreciate" being saddled with a device that turns every text message into a crapshoot. (Will it go through? Who knows! It's a fabulous mystery!) There's something else going on here—the most obvious possibility being that there's a money issue in play, and that they're feeling raw about the financial circumstances that made a broken, malfunctioning phone their best/only option for replacing your lost one. (Particularly if you seemed insufficiently apologetic about that to begin with. I know your phone was stolen, which is of course not your fault, but if the theft was in any way the result of carelessness on your part, your folks might be understandably peeved that you weren't more responsible.) Of course, that's just a guess. But since you can't seem to make your folks understand that your desire for a working phone isn't intended as a slight, this would be a good time to flip the script and instead ask them to explain their perspective. Approach whichever one of your parents you have a better relationship with, and try an in-your-own-words version of something like this: "It was great of you and dad to replace my stolen phone. I know you didn't have to do that and I appreciate it more than I can say. But I hope you guys can understand why I'd like to ultimately have a phone that works more reliably. The reason I'm trying to save the money myself is that I do recognize all you've already done for me, and I want to take responsibility for it. Can you help me understand why that makes you so upset?" Depending on how reasonable your parents are, this conversation may help them realize on their own that they haven't been treating you fairly—or on the other hand, if there's something you're failing to understand, this will be their opportunity to clue you in. But more importantly, once you've made a good-faith effor[...]
Mon, 24 Oct 2016 14:00:49 -0400There is a world underneath the world of education. Messages embedded in the static of the morning announcements, treasures hiding in the chalkboard dust, and a secret set of rules known only to a few. You may have heard of some of these classroom legends, but others are known only to those on the fringes. Welcome to the Dark Side. 1. If a teacher is more than fifteen minutes late to class, everyone is allowed to leave. 2. If a teacher is more than fifteen minutes late to two successive classes, everyone is allowed to write the remainder of the semester's assignments in emojis. 3. All notes confiscated by teachers become the intellectual property of the school under United States copyright law. (This is what happened with Catcher In The Rye.) 4. If a teacher's bonus test questions are deemed insufficiently difficult, they will be fired (or forced to coach volleyball). 5. EVERYTHING is on your permanent record. Even the thoughts so shameful you would deny having had them. It's all there. 6. The chicken nuggets are made out of every student who ever asked what the chicken nuggets are made out of. 7. If you fill in test bubbles with a number three pencil, your answer sheet will be flagged by the NSA. 8. Under every set of gym bleachers is a tunnel. It is a subject of ongoing debate whether it leads to hell or Hogwarts. 9. All students with perfect attendance get an ice cream party, but the ice cream is fat free and they have to eat EVERY BITE. 10. Algebra does not exist. 11. All band teachers have secret P.O. boxes where they receive envelopes stuffed with cash from flute manufacturers. 13. A small but significant portion of vice principals are graduates of a failed 1980s government program that offered convicted felons the choice of prison or the educational system. 14. It is widely acknowledged among educators that there is no information of value in the second grade curriculum. 15. When enough baking soda volcanoes have been turned in as science projects, it will trigger the eruption of an actual supervolcano, which will end all life on planet Earth. No one knows what the number is, but we are believed to be getting close. 16. Teacher workdays are—never mind; it's better you don't know. 17. If a teacher is more than fifteen minutes late three times in a semester, the school must shut down. It belongs to the crows now.
Mon, 24 Oct 2016 12:00:34 -0400National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner. Maybe you're still waiting for inspiration to strike. Maybe you had an idea, but you're on the hunt for something new. Maybe you (like me) completely forgot the month of November was even happening and now you're scrambling to come up with a suitable prompt. Whatever your reason for scrounging around the netherworld of last-minute plot ideas, we've got you covered. [viralQuiz id=170]
Mon, 24 Oct 2016 10:00:50 -0400
Mon, 24 Oct 2016 09:23:50 -0400Well the weekend sure did happen.
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 16:50:10 -0400Dear Auntie, I have a crush on a girl at my school. I'm sure you've gotten one million emails from other boys with the exact same scenario, so I'll get to the point. When I didn't know much about her, I watched her from a distance and thought she was the most amazing beautiful perfect person in the world ever. As you do with crushes. I've gotten used to talking to her, as I should if I'm going to ask her out etc. But the more time I spend with her, the less I seem to care about her. I mean, I still LOVE her, but not as much as when I first met her. The more I'm exposed to her, the more I feel I'm desensitized to her. In fact, I'm starting to notice some *minor* flaws with her, such as (and I know this sounds really picky) her art style. Is this normal? Should I be concerned, or accept my lack of interest? Whoa, whoa, whooooa there, Sparkler. You mean to tell me that the more you got to know this girl, the more she turned out to be a person? GROSS. And it'll only get worse from here, my friend. Realized that her art style isn't quite to your liking is only the beginning; next thing you know, it'll turn out that she pees and farts and stuff. ... Yeah, okay. I'm kidding. (Well, except about that last bit. I regret to inform you that the girl of your dreams does, in fact, have an excretory system with which she does all the usual human business.) But when you ask if it's normal that you began to notice this girl's flaws as you began to spend more time with her, the answer is that of course it is. Anyone can look amazing and beautiful and perfect from a distance, but relationships happen up close—and the closer you get to someone, the more of their humanity you'll see. And of course that includes the parts that aren't so perfect or polished, but it also includes the things that make the difference between admiring a shiny, pretty surface and falling deeply in love with a whole entire person. Which brings us to this: It's true that not every girl you admire from a distance will click with you once you're up close and personal. But there's also a huge difference between realizing you don't connect with someone once you know her on a deeper level, and being upset and anxious that she has deeper levels at all. So, what should you do? First and foremost, unless you can be okay with the fact that any girl you date is going to be a complex and multifaceted person who does not do absolutely everything exactly the way you'd prefer, you shouldn't be getting involved with anyone. But more importantly, if you find yourself liking this girl less the more you get to know her, then you definitely shouldn't be involved with her. It's kind of a no-brainer that you should enjoy the company of the people you date—and if you enjoy her company so little that the pleasures of knowing her don't even outweigh your distress over a ridiculous, insignificant "flaw" like her art style, then for the love of everything, don't ask her out. On the other hand, if you like her very much but you're worried that it's a bad sign for you to have noticed that she's human… well, don't. The way you felt about this girl when you were infatuated with her from a distance? That was never going to be sustainable once you got close enough to make a connection, and you shouldn't be using it as a point of comparison when it comes to figuring out how you feel about her. You might have been very interested in this girl when you first met her, but you didn't love her; you didn't even know her. And that's the trade-off: You can worship someone from afar, or you can know them intimately, but you cannot do both. There is no way to get close enough to love someone without also getting close enough to see their flaws. What matters is not that you don't notice a girl's flaws, but that you don't mind them, because you're too busy being delighted by all the ways in which she's wonderfu[...]
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 12:00:03 -0400The zombie apocalypse is not for the faint of heart. For every diehard survivalist with a crossbow, there's a guy naively wandering the woods without a weapon. For every seasoned expert who knows what's up, there's someone running blindly into an abandoned building in search of supplies. Do you have what it takes to survive? (Probably not, but let's find out anyway.) [viralQuiz id=165]
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 11:00:50 -0400Last time on Blogging The Odyssey, Odysseus finally finished telling his story. Presumably, this took the better part of twelve hours. Of all the memes currently plaguing our various feeds and dashboards, my favorite would have to be the record scratch/freeze frame one because nothing has ever so perfectly and succinctly exemplified the concept of in media res. We’ve talked about this before, but for the uninitiated, it means that the story begins in the middle of the action, so like: *record scratch* *freeze frame* Yup, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. Wikimedia Commons Or at least that’s what it would’ve looked like if Deadpool had written The Odyssey. For better or for worse, however, it was Homer who put pen to paper (or at least had someone else do it in his stead), and here I am 3,000 years later making jokes at the expense of our fallen heroes, most of whom died of things like "hubris" and "being an idiot." Anyway, this week we’re just CRUISING forward, plot-wise. Book 13: Ithaca At Last Having finished his tale, Odysseus says he must be getting home. The king, undeterred by the way Odysseus singlehandedly wiped out his former crew, graciously offers him a new crew. They set sail. I was settling in for the long haul, but the biggest plot twist of this book thus far is that we are back in Ithaca within barely a paragraph. Odysseus doesn’t yet know this. He’s asleep when the Phaeacians drop him off. They turn around and head back to Phaeacia, but as usual, Poseidon is being a big fussy baby about it. POSEIDON: The mortals will never respect me now! I can’t believe those Phaeacians went behind my back and helped Odysseus even though I never explicitly told them not to! ZEUS: So hit them with an earthquake or something. Whatever warms your heart. "Whatever warms your heart" is an actual quote, which seems like important context given that Poseidon slaughters the Phaeacian crew in front of their friends and family. Ancient Greek culture is big on hospitality, or xenia, so I guess the life lesson of the week is "Always welcome strangers into your home, unless the gods are holding a grudge against them, in which case prepare to die at sea." When Odysseus wakes up, he doesn’t recognize his homeland and curses the Phaeacians for leaving him stranded in this undisclosed location. Apparently he thinks their whole diabolical plan was to deposit him on a beautiful beach, unharmed, surrounded by all his riches. Athena shows up and tells him they’re in Ithaca. She advises him not to reveal his identity to anyone. Probably a smart move. Agamemnon made that mistake, and where is he now? Toiling away in the underworld complaining about his wife is where. Athena says she must now go and tell Odysseus's son, Telemachus, to come home. She says, "The suitors are planning on murdering him, but will they? I don’t know, maybe." Book 14: The Loyal Swineherd Odysseus stays with Eumaeus, a faithful servant who lives on the outskirts of the kingdom and tends to the livestock. Odysseus doesn't reveal himself, however; he pretends to be a lowly beggar. He makes a lot of suspiciously obvious remarks about this King Odysseus fellow he’s heard so much about, like, "Is he handsome? I bet he’s handsome," and "Was he popular with the people? When he was still alive, I mean. No reason, I’m just asking," and "I heard Odysseus had an 8-pack. That Odysseus was shredded." Disney Eumaeus tells him about the whole suitor situation—that the palace has been repurposed into a frat house but the queen, Penelope, has remained faithful. Eumaeus doubts Odysseus is still alive. Presumably, Odysseus looks to the camera and winks. Book 15: The Prince Sets Sail for Home Athena finds Telemachus right where she left him: at [...]
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 10:04:30 -0400Previously in Blogging 1984, Julia and Winston were busted by the Thought Police and a Very Important Motif met its demise on the floor of Mr. Charrington's shop. 1 Winston is in a holding cell at the Ministry of Love. Ordinary prisoners—your Proles—are as rambunctious as ever, quarreling, throwing up, pulling hidden morsels of food out of their clothing, and being all source ... while the political prisoners, or "polits," are given a little less leeway by the guards: source In amongst hankering for a crumpet, Winston—addressed by the telescreen as "6079 Smith W"—learns about labor camps and the ominous-sounding "room one-oh-one" from Prole chatter. (*makes note*) He spends more time thinking about O'Brien than Julia ("He felt no love for her"), and boy is Orwell making it hard for me to ship this couple. Winston can't be sure of what time or day it is, for there are no windows and the lights are always on (*ding ding* "The place where there is no darkness"). He wonders if O'Brien will find a way to slip him a razor blade—or if he could even summon the confetti to use a Mach 3 if he got one (verdict: probably not). Soon enough, who should join Winston in the cell but Ampleforth! Oceania's poet laureate is in the slammer for failing to remove a reference to God from a Kipling poem (reason: nothing else rhymed with "rod"; I've been there). In short order, Ampleforth is marched off to Room 101. Next up is Parsons, of the jockstrap and terrible children, who was tipped off to the patrols for Thought Crime by his daughter for yelling out in his sleep, "Down with Big Brother!" Like Ampleforth, Parsons concedes he is guilty, guilty! After a pre-emptive apology and some stomach gurgles, Parsons "plumped his large posteriors onto the lavatory pan. Winston covered his face with his hands." This is so far the worst thing to happen in the Ministry of Love. Parsons is removed and we get a skeletal man who looks more human than a broom, but less human than C-3PO. He has been reduced to a grisly grey frame, and after a prisoner offers him a nibble of bread, the guards beat him further, then hoist him off to Room 101. "Not room 101!" He cries. [Exeunt Ghost of Room 101s Future] [Diversion to talk for a minute about the cosmic importance of latrines] Not to overthink the woman who almost barfs on Winston, or Parsons and his regrettable donation to the latrine, but the Proles—untouched as they are by philosophical quandaries and undue knowledge—are walking vats of filth; untidy bodies that disgust and repel, literally overflowing with the accoutrements of humanity (lipids, bile, blood). In contrast, the Party prisoners like Skeletor (above), Inner Party members, and Party members who have managed to subdue their animal impulses are sexless, wraithlike, transcendent in their mastery of Doublethink. Somewhere in between these two visions of humanity is the [regrettable] koan from Ernest Becker that "we are gods with anuses." (Sorry.) The point is that humans are nasty, rotting mortals, but our consciousness drives us to seek immortality. In O'Brien's case, this is achieved by subverting the individual against the Party. The Party, he assures us, will live forever. [End latrine diversion] Finally (I mean after several more pages of time ticking by and Winston ruminating on how hungry he is), O'Brien enters. Winston, not quite getting it, exclaims, "They've got you too!" "They got me a long time ago," O'Brien says like a sad, cartoon villain who is dolefully winding dynamite sticks around a rock and then reeling out the fuse. Then he tells Winston that, c'monnnn, he knew all along that this was coming. Come to think of it, there *were* several red flags around O'Brien, the most notable of which was: he spoke insi[...]