Preview: The Jungle

Recently in AP United States History, we were discussing the era of the 1890s when middle-class reformers called Progressives were trying to change society and make it better for those in need. One of these reforms was the regulation of food, specifically meat. Upton Sinclair, a socialist author of the time, saw firsthand how terrible the conditions were and wanted to do something to change them, so he wrote The Jungle. This novel brought to light the horrors of the meat industry and how unhealthy it was for the workers and the consumers. I’m actually a little leary about reading this book because I have heard it is stomach-churning and vomit-inducing, something we should not be proud of as Americans. During the time before this book was published, the general public had no idea that their meat that they consumed was handled in grotesque, horrifying ways. They were oblivious to the fact that rats occupied the same space as their Sunday dinner. Upton Sinclair brought all this to light after the meat-packers union in Chicago went on strike and his editor said he should write about it. Nobody probably had the notion that this would lead to social and ethical reform. The things he witnessed were appalling and downright disgusting. You can read about some of the conditions of these meat-packing plants here, it’s too gross and time-consuming to type out. Sinclair published his book and the public was outraged; this was the food that they trusted workers with, stuff they were putting into their bodies with the illusion that it was good for them and safe as well. This led to major reform with President Teddy Roosevelt. the trustbusting man who reformed the corporate business world. He passed the Pure Food and Drug Act as well as the Meat Inspection Act that led to inspections of work places and the foundation of the FDA, with laws and regulations on the quality of food. Sinclair’s novel changed the way we eat, resulting in a change in the way we live, literally. Stay tuned for my next post of my review of The Jungle. 

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The Alchemist

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just give it all up to travel and find out your purpose in life? That is exactly what Santiago does in The Alchemist. This is a simple story of following your dreams, finding your purpose, and falling in love. How can one fit that into a 167 page book? Well, Paulo Coelho does it. Santiago (referred to as ‘the boy’ through the entire book) is a shepherd in Spain. He has a recurring dream that has led him to believe that he can find treasure if he travels to the pyramids of Egypt. Along the way he meets people that help him discover his path in life, or his Personal Legend. The whole story reminded me of Arabian Nights because of the setting and the word choice, but I think the latter is because it was translating from Portuguese. Some parts of the story which one would think are very important were done subtly, with little grandiosity. For example, in the beginning of the book he is in love with a girl who only visits his town with her father once a year. He plans on visiting her but the day this is supposed to happen, he leaves for Egypt and randomly meets another girl named Fatima and falls in love, completely forgetting the girl he first set his sights on. This made some parts confusing but it was honestly surprisingly stunning. It was fantastical and realistic all at the same time. The book also had it’s far share of good quotes that made the reader feel magical. I don’t understand why I haven’t heard much about this book before. The back cover is overflowing with praises about it’s enchanting story and it’s Wikipedia page boasts that it is one of the  most bestselling book in history. Anyways, in the end the story exposes Santiago and the reader to the greatest and eternal alchemy of all-love. So go ahead and find your Personal Legend and follow the omens of your heart.

Remake?

I just got back from work, so bear with me on the fact that this post is about movies and not books. Should Hollywood continue to remake classic films, especially if they’re based on books (see, now it relates)?  Last year, The Great Gatsby was released. Now this movie is based on a book that already has a film adaptation. I’m not saying that the newest version is lame (because it was AMAZING) but I’m saying that it’s strange that people think we need to do more remakes. Footloose, an 80s classic was recently remade with a little bit of a more modern edge. This was all fine and dandy but hardcore fans may have seen this as just trying to revive something that didn’t need resuscitating in the first place. I just think it’s strange that there is an apparent need to remake movies that already have been made. Like how long are we going to wait until we start remaking the Harry Potter movies? Now that I think of it, you don’t see authors doing that with books.  Why do we remake movies? Is it a marketing gimmick to make fans buy more merchandise then they did when the movie first came out? Or is it to bring back those feelings you get seeing that movie? When and if they do remake the Harry Potter movies, I will probably be as emotional and excited about them as I was when I was young. I’ll be like that parent who freaks out when an 80s song comes on the radio that they remember. Maybe we remake movies because we have no choice to, we’ve run out of originality and creativity, the spark of imagination is gone. When that happens, I don’t know what we will do. Probably remake more movies.

Fading Talents

Lately for some reason, this has been bothering me. I used to be able to do things years ago, and when I try to do them, I just can’t seem to with the same talent that I once had. For instance, take drawing: growing up, I thought for sure that I was going to be an artist. I took a lot of art classes and was always drawing in my free time. People would compliment my works and I felt that they were good and would be able to get me somewhere in life, even though I didn’t know at the time how slim the chances were of a young artist becoming a millionaire overnight. However, a couple of years ago, I got too busy and was focusing more on my studies in general and I didn’t have time for art, something I had once loved so much. Now, when I try to draw something, it is never as good as I could’ve done it years ago. This saddens me to know that I have lost something that I enjoyed so much. Also, I used to play piano. I would spend time practicing, having a natural knack for playing by ear. However, I gave that up in 4th grade for basketball. Now I pursue neither basketball nor piano, and the latter is something I regret. My grandma always wanted me to play piano so I feel obligated to her as well as myself to play. Now, when I see a piano, I don’t even know where to start. Hopefully I can get back to it someday. Why do we lose talents that we seemed to love so much? Maybe we should start focusing on flourishing the talents we love and enjoying them in the process so we don’t end up regretting things in life.

Buying Books

When you enter a Barnes and Noble bookstore, the feeling you get is relaxing and soothing. Surrounded by all those words, ready to sweep you in and fall in love with fictional characters that you will end up laughing and crying over (or both at the same time). Some people love getting Barnes and Noble gift cards and spending them on all kinds of new reading materials. However, there are people like me who are very picky and particular about the books they purchase. For example, I can probably count on maybe two hands the number of books I’ve actually bought myself; the rest were given to me or just for free. I only buy books that I’ve read, and they have to be really good ones, like Gone With the Wind. Most of the books I read are from the library or borrowed from friends, never usually from a bookstore. I like testing out a book to make sure it’s a good fit for me before making a purchase. Honestly, I go into our Barnes and Noble more for the Starbucks than the books because I already know I’m not going to buy any. I think I do this because I want to know if my investment is going to be worthwhile. I would hate to buy a book and end up not liking it, that would be a waste of money. However, sometimes I deviate from my routine, go out on a limb, and buy a book I’ve never read. Recently, I bought Les Miserables and I’m hoping that it’s more than one thousand pages are going to keep me enthralled and entertained during the summer (have you seen Les Mis? If books were made of bricks, you could build a hurricane-proof house with copies of it). Do you purchase books you haven’t read before or do you read and then buy?

High School

Everyone always says it’s the best four years of your life, the ones you’ll never forget, and I for one agree. So bear with me because this is a cliché post on everyone’s favorite thing to hate: high school. Personally, I freaking love high school, I love every aspect of it, even the drama. To me, that makes it so much more like high school. For some reason when I say these things, people think I’m crazy and need serious help. But high school is honestly one of the best things that ever happened to me, like if I would’ve been homechooled I think I would’ve ran away. I love the work and the people and the craziness of it all. Especially in my school, where not a day goes by that something spontaneous happens. However, like all things in life, I’m going to have regrets. I’m going to regret that I wasn’t as involved, that I didn’t join show choir, that I didn’t meet more people. But we have to look past those regrets and remember all the great times we had with the people we did meet. We have to remember that even through the bad times, high school is temporary. Life goes on. But even so, we need to cherish it while we still can because it is truly, I believe, the best freaking four years of anyone’s life, especially if they choose to make it that way. So do what you want, try out for the musical, take another AP class (since you already have five, why not even it out at six?), ask that guy you’ve been fawning over to prom, because when you have your high school reunion, you want to say, “I can’t believe I did all that!” rather than, “I wish I would’ve done more.”

Why Columbus is a Moron and How This Doesn’t Relate at All To Anything

We have all been  taught to believe since childhood that in 1492,  a man got on his boat, traveled across the ocean, and ended up in America. Every year on the second Monday of October, we take time to remember the efforts and discoveries of this man and the fact that we wouldn’t be where we are today if he hadn’t killed all the natives and begun the colonization of the Americas. Oh, you thought that was going to end pleasantly? Columbus is a moron. You can lie to your kids about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy but do not lead them to believe that a man who went to the Bahamas FIVE TIMES thinking it was India discovered the New World. Last year in AP world history, I was enlightened. I learned all about Columbus’s voyage and the havoc it later caused (for example, we wouldn’t have Jersey Shore or Teen Mom 2 if it weren’t for Columbus). I have a few things I would like to say about Columbus: first off, you can’t “discover” a place when people are already living there. The Taíno Indians living in the Bahamas (not America) welcomed Columbus and his men, the hospitable thing to do when someone visits your home, but Columbus wasn’t really interested in niceties. He was mainly looking for a passage to the Asian trading markets. You see, Columbus thought that the Pacific Ocean was much much smaller than it actually is, and that the distance between Asia and Spain was just a short boat ride away. He completely didn’t take into consideration that TWO WHOLE FREAKING CONTINENTS could be in the way of his riches. However, he wasn’t the only stupid one because the royals of Spain funded his expedition. Anyway, after the natives were so kind and generous, Columbus wanted nothing but their gold. He was ravenous for it. You can learn more about the whole story of Columbus and details about the chaos he caused at http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day. He ended up causing many deaths from killings and new diseases that the natives had never been susceptible to. Really the only thing we should remember Columbus by is that we now have Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but we also have a whole lot less native Americans then we did in the 15th century. So when you tell your kids about the “discovery” of America, tell them that people were definitely already there and whatever lies schools are feeding to them about Columbus are false. Heck, tell them the pilgrims on the Mayflower found it or make something up. Just don’t tell them about that murdering moron from Spain did that. Oh and by the way, on the next Columbus Day, wish everyone a happy Bartoleme Day.

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."

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