Thursday, April 15, 2010

Way Up There

Eight miles into the sky it reaches
Though all inside are firmly on the ground
Some go for fun, some go for business
Some go to be lost and never found

Their stories of travels
Some love to share
Others keep them quiet
Some people just don’t care

Eventually they all come down
The sounds all go away
But they always tell themselves
They’ll lose it again some other day

Monday, March 15, 2010

3rd Quarter ORB Review

Abraham Lincoln, A Man Of Faith and Courage by Joe Wheeler. Howard Books, 2008

Abraham Lincoln, A Man Of Faith and Courage is a biography of our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. The main focus of the author is to show how Lincoln's faith in God and unwillingness to give up influenced his career. Having a somewhat tough childhood with his mother dying young, Lincoln never had a great connection with his father. He was much more close to his adopted mother who encouraged him to continue his education while his father always thought he should just settle down and be a farmer. Lincoln seemed to be unsure of what career he would pursue, choosing many different careers before finally becoming a lawyer. His great speechmaking in the courtroom lead to a career in politics. He was elected president in 1869, becoming the first Republican president, a party which he helped create. During his presidency the Civil War occurred, as well as personal tragedies such as his son Willie dying. After the turbulent war, many were upset about the victory in the North. Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater on April 14th, 1865.

"Personable and moved quickly." -Rebecca Reid

This biography was not quite as detailed as I would have liked it to be. Wheeler is very good at telling stories of Lincoln, but he is very uneven in providing details. For some stories of Lincoln's life he only provides a short paragraph of information. For stories of Lincoln that many people have already heard, he will sometimes devote pages. However, there is some very inspirational material in the book and I would mildly recommend it to someone who is interested in reading about Lincoln.

"The once robust Treasury was looted and left on shambles. The nation's reputation abroad was trashed by operatives of the South so that the Confederacy would be quickly recognized by the great powers." (140)

Looking at the book objectively- if I had not known anything about Lincoln before reading this biography, I would have thought he was a great man after reading this book. However, having a decent background of knowledge about Lincoln, the book felt like a rehash to me with intriguing peaks of information that were extremely interesting. Personally, the book is extremely inspirational. It really motivates the reader to never give up. Lincoln faced many obstacles in his life but never gave up. Once again I would mildly recommend this book, but it is not overly in-depth.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Old Man and The Sea Essay Rough Draft

Determination can lead a person to doing great things. Being determined can make you decide to do something great that you would have never done before in order to reach your goals. However, being overly determined can make you fail to achieve your goal. A person has to recognize the limits on what they can do before they attempt to do something. Santiago's extreme determination to reach his objective of catching the fish leads to his downfall. He did not know the limits to which he could reach. He pushed those limits too far. If he had done a few things differently, he might have been more successful.

Santiago refuses to take a rest during the whole time he is pursuing this huge fish. He becomes sloppy in his ways of trying to catch the fish. "I could just drift, he thought, and sleep and put a bight of line around my toe to wake me. But today is eighty-five days and I should fish the day well" (41). I think the fact that he has not caught a fish for so long has made the old man very determined. He feels that this is his moment to become a legend and save his career. However, while striving for these goals, he forgets that he needs rest and other things to keep himself sharp and well-aware of what he needs to do.

The fisherman's refusal to get help on this fishing trip also contributes to his downfall. He tells the boy, "You ought to go to bed now so that you will be fresh in the morning. I will take the things back to the Terrace" (23). Manolin is sypathetic to the fisherman's plight and is doing all he can to help Santiago be successful on his fishing trip, but Santiago does not want to take him with him. Manolin is not acting childish and there is no reason why Santiago should not be welcoming him to help. However later on during the trip, he wishes he had the boy there to help him. He did not plan out his trip well enough.

Santiago would have been more successful if he had realized that he has grown old and is more limited in his abilities then he was at a younger age. "It was too good to last, he thought. I wish it had been a dream now and that I had never hooked this fish and was alone in bed on the newspaper" (103). He has realized that he has reached his limits. He is now melancholy because he realizes that there is no way he will be able to get this entire fish back to shore completely intact and that his future might be bleak.

"You work now fish. I'll take you at your turn" (89). The fisherman is completely exhausted at this time. He has not slept since he went to sea and he has no one with him to watch the fish while he rests. The pursuit of this enormous fish has been long and has taken its toll on the old man. Santiago is no longer overly urgent in pursuing the fish anymore and is just waiting for it, sitting on the serene sea waiting for the moment.

Santiago mainly fails in bringing the fish because he refuses to recognize that he has limits. He does not seem to realize that he is an older man and cannot do all of the things that he used to be able to do. He refuses Manolin's help and with all of his determination, becomes blind to the fact that he needs to rest to be at his full potential. If he had been more thoughtful and less self-involved he might have achieved success.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quite The Trip

The police officer snuffs out his cigarette in the ashtray. I can tell that he doesn't believe me. I really don't believe it myself. The story of what happened keeps running over and over in my mind.
I was on my way to visit my family in Montana. I couldn't remember the last time he had seen them. In fact I couldn't remember much of anything at all. A recent car accident made me lose some of my memory. The doctors said that I was probably going to gain back my memories in a year or two and that it was only a matter of time before I would be completely back to normal. The problem was that I didn't really have anyone to try to help me gain back all the memories. My parents both died while I was still rather young. I had no siblings and no close relatives. I also kept having frequent blackouts. But I decided to make the trip to see them. It was a long trip from my home in Denver, but I figured it was probably for the best.
The motel clerk was nice. She was pretty too. I subconciously reached to flatten down my incorrigible hair. Her nametag said Rachel. The motel was completely empty and looked like it was in a state of decadence.
"We haven't had a lot of customers lately. Most people don't take this exit off the highway anymore. The owners are thinking of closing up. Anyway....Room 2...enjoy your night!"
"Thanks," was all I had said as I signed my name on the register. Roger Monnern. I paid in advance because I felt I might leave earlier to get a head start on the road. Traffic wasn't usually too big of a problem on these highways and back roads, but I wanted to get out early anyway.
I took a shower and sat on bed. I was tired but couldn't sleep. I felt like an insomniac, even though I was pretty sure that I was not one. I realized that I had not had anything to eat since the morning. I decided to go back to the motel office and see if they had any food to eat. I walked into the office and promptly blacked out.
I woke up in my motel bed. I wasn't sure what happened. At first I was lethargic, but I slowly moved out of bed. It was only 5:48, but I decided to head out to the highway anyway. The office seemed empty, but it didn't matter since I had already paid. The highway was pretty empty as I expected. I turned on the radio and glided down the pavement. I felt carefree, for a while it was laconic. But then all these thoughts began to crowd my mind, which for a while had been graciously vapid.
"Just who am I anyway? I don't know. Why do I have these blackouts? I don't know. What was Roger Monnern like before the accident? Why do I keep having these blackouts all the time? I don't know."
That was the only answer I had. It was terrible feeling like a mystery to myself. I felt like I was an anathema. I knew a lot about the world. I could remember presidents and events in history. But I knew very little of my own history.
I pulled off the highway at about eleven to fill up on gas. The gas attendant had a scowl on his face, he looked as though someone had done something to provoke his anger.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"Our gas supply truck is late. We're almost all out. I hope you don't need gas?"
"I'm afraid I do. My tank's already pretty depleted."
He was able to fill the tank up halfway, which I figured would be enough to get me to a rest stop or another gas station.
I took an exit off the highway. It was getting more crowded and I was getting a headache from the noise and exhaust. It was a nice country road with little farmhouses and juxtaposed against the highway, it was like a little slice of heaven, the paragon of country beauty. And then it happened. I ran out of gas. My swearing was probably audible for miles. That was one thing I really remembered. I walked up to the nearest house for help. It was a large old farmhouse that had probably seen better days. A man probably in his early thirties opened the door.
"My car just ran out of gas outside. Can I call a towing company?" I asked.
"Unfortunately the phone is not working. I'd give you some of my own gas, but we haven't used a car here for years and years..."
"Oh" was all I could manage to utter. I was probably showing a little anger at that point.
"You are welcome to come inside and eat with us. We, my mother and I, were just about to have dinner."
The man whose name I learned was Ted, introduced me to his mother Martha. She was standing at the stove. She was preparing a chicken.
"We haven't had a guest for dinner in ages. I'm afraid this little town....well you can't even really call it a town. There are only six families in the whole area! Well my point is, we don't get much company around these parts. You could say there's a paucity of people."
I didn't eat much. Martha encouraged me too, but the chicken just wasn't appealing. I was hungry but it just didn't satisfy my appetite. Martha tried to add levity to dinner by telling some jokes. Ted was kind of loquacious and tried to ask me more about my life but I had to hedge around his questions. I was definitely aloof. Ted started to look strangely at me. I could tell he had trepidations about me and really didn't trust me too much.
Anyway, we sat around talking for a while. Around eleven Martha decided that it would probably be best for us to go to bed. She put me in a bedroom upstairs. A small room with just one window. It didn't take me long to fall asleep. At about two o'clock I decided I was very hungry. In fact my stomach was screaming for food. I went down to the kitchen and blacked out when I saw Ted standing there.
When I came back to reality I was in the back of a police cruiser. They took me to this local jail. That's pretty much the situation now. A man comes in and gives the officer an official-looking report.
"Well, it's official." he says.
Trust me, I am completely suprised to learn that I, Roger Monnern, am a cannibal.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Second Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

The Teammates by David Halberstam. Hyperion Books, 2003. Genre: Biographical Novel
The Teammates is a novel about the friendship that developed between Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio while they were all members of the Boston Red Sox during the 1940's and 1950's. The thread that holds the book together is the last trip DiMaggio and Pesky made in 2001 to visit Williams before his death. They drove together in a car with a driver, Dick Flavin, and went to Florida to see Williams. The book jumps from past to present telling the stories of each of the four mens' childhoods, their personal lives, and their careers. Halberstam also tells about their lives after their careers, and how they managed to stay friends after all the many years they spent together.
"[A] crystalline gem of a work about old pals, in theory, but really about everything there is." -Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times
The Teammates is a very straight-forward book. Halberstam doesn't try to add any unneeded details that would drag down the pacing. The stories he provides of the four men are all essential to understanding them. Ted Williams is the dominant personality of the book. He always made sure to get his point across to people and when he strongly believed in something, he made sure people knew about it. Bobby Doerr balanced out Williams' personality and was quiet, but very mature. Johnny Pesky was truly devoted to the team, and was like a little brother to Williams. Dom DiMaggio, forever overshadowed by his brother Joe, was an amazing player in his own right, even though most people said he looked nothing like a stereotypical baseball player.
The author vividly makes these real people come alive to the reader on the page. By the end of the book, the reader can understand the diverse personalities of the four men, and how they were able to remain friends for such a long time.
"But the World Series is different. Because the entire nation focuses its attention so intensively, it is the venue where one play in one game, and one play by a player often otherwise uncelebrated, so holds our collective attention that it has its own permanence, and it becomes the defining image of the player." (152)
I have to admit that I'm a fan of baseball, the Red Sox, and the time period in history where most of the book happens. So I probably would be biased by saying that this was one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. I am definitely going to find more books by Halberstam, he is one of the best writers I've read a book by in a while. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of baseball.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Summer Nights With Licorice Pizza

How does one decide what has value? Is it the things that cost more, or is it the things we enjoy the most? What do we value more, what other people and the media tells us is important, or what has the most personal value to us? There are many questions we have to think about everyday in regards to value. How do we know that the brand-name foods are better than the same foods on generic labels? We don't. Advertisements influence how we make buying decisions and what we think is the best. But just because something has a hefty price tag doesn't always mean it is better.

I pull out a huge, quite often dusty jacket from the shelf. I pull out a licorice pizza and put it on the table. Except that it’s not really a pizza, it’s a record, and the table is a turntable, also known as a record player for the uniformed. A few slight clicks and pops as I drop the needle onto the vinyl, and then the music fills the room.

Around January of this year, I was very sick. I ended up going to the hospital and I was diagnosed with diabetes. I had been lethargic and felt terrible all through December and January. When I came home from the hospital, I was a lot more active than I had been before. I decided to go through my attic and see if there was anything interesting in there. While I was there, something caught my eye. It was a small stack of record albums. I have always been kind of living in the past. Most of the movies I watch are from the nineteen-seventies or before. I have huge stack of old junk and some things that are actually worth money in my room. So it was kind of natural that I would eventually start collecting records. This became especially true when I found those albums in my attic. There was a rare east-coast variation of an early Beatles album worth over one-hundred dollars, among others. A week later my mom went out and bought me a player. I think that she bought it for me to make me feel better since I had been sick for so long. Now I’ve been buying records for months and I have a huge collection of albums and singles.

Now maintaining a record collection is not the easiest thing. Records are prone to attract dust, so it is necessary to always be cleaning them. I think it is worth it though, because I love the sound of vinyl. I’ll take my records any day over an MP3. Another reason I love my records is that most of my favorite music is from the 1950’s, the 1960’s and the 1970’s. I’m not totally against modern music like some people are, but I just prefer to listen to older music more. I’ve also got tons of albums and singles that are impossible to find on any other format. Vinyl is also a pretty inexpensive thing to collect, most of the record dealers I know sell albums from anywhere from $1 to $20. A lot of the singles I have in my collection were bought in large groups, and I’ve gotten lots of great deals. Of course, the music is always the most important thing, and I've bought lots of great music over the past months. It helps me relax when I'm doing things like homework or just unwind from a hectic day.

We probably arrived home at about nine at night, we had been shopping. It was just our family, my dad, my mom, my brother, and myself. We put away our purchases and sat out on our deck. Our house is a good distance away from the road, so we have a lot of nice privacy. We have a pool, but it is in our front yard because our backyard has a total width of approximately five feet. The temperature was probably about eighty degrees, and it was probably the most beautiful night of summer.

Of course, it was perfect weather for a late swim. There's some otherworldly beauty in moonlight reflecting off water. It's one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Of course, though it got splashed away as we jumped into the pool. I'm not sure what made that night so great, but I guess it was just having a fun time with people I love.

Relaxing on a summer night with friends or family is great. For me, I had nothing to worry about and not a care in the world. That's a feeling I only get in summer. The rest of the year I'm usually always worried about something. But a summer night? Nothing to do the next day except what I please. There's just something so comfortably lazy about that.

Both my records and a relaxing summer night provide me with an immense feeling of relaxation. This might make me out to seem like a lazy person, but I'm not. These just provides me with relaxation after doing things like homework or just dealing with life in general, which can be extremely stressful. I think I value the things most that allow me to escape from the world for a little while. I think it is important to sometimes take a break and do something that you enjoy. I could not say which of these two I prefer or value more. There both priceless in their own way, even if one does come with a price tag.